Word of the year – quarterly review

I find it very useful to review my word of the year at least quarterly to make sure the word is still serving me and that I’m still using it as a guidance point in my life.

If you haven’t read my post where I announced my word and why I chose it, here is that post.

So how am I doing after 3 months?

workshops

Well, I picked this word because I needed to be bold in order to start running regular workshops again. Interestingly, it wasn’t the workshop delivery I was concerned about because teaching is my sweet spot, especially when paired with personality frameworks and how we are all created unique and special.

It was the marketing. The whole “will people get tired of me talking about the same old thing?” and unfollow (perhaps and yes). But I got to a point with my very first workshop this year where the workshop was not full, and yet I knew I’d asked and reached out to everyone I could. I’d done my bit and that was enough. And there was a peace about it.

Interestingly, that very same Monday morning, one of the people I’d reached out to said she couldn’t come although she’d love to, but would I please put together a proposal for her team at work. I did, and that led to my second workshop, this time a corporate one.

The boldness was working. And here I am, 10 days before my third workshop, but feeling more and more bold every time I talk about it.

I know and have personally seen 18 people leave changed in their work, in their understanding of themselves, in their relationships, in their level of freedom to be exactly themselves. It’s so great to see. I need to post more of the testimonials I’ve received but here are the first two testimonials that were sent to me.

work

Bold has also seen me speak up more about difficult things. Sometimes there really is no point to raising something but if I’m honest with myself, that is not really me. So, I’ve had two hard conversations and no, nothing will change, but I do feel better and more authentically me for having spoken up.

personal

In some of my personal relationships too, I have been bolder about what I want, and don’t want, reaching out even though it’s vulnerable to say things honestly….and the world has not fallen apart.

In summary, I’m about 4 out of 10 on the boldness scale of where I want to be, but I am realising that it’s a muscle that has gone unused and I need to awaken and strengthen it through regular exercise.

How are you settling into your word of the year? Is it working for you? Do you need to revive it again? Do you need to change it? Let’s talk in the comments.

Which do you need more? Inner or outer calm?

I’ve written on the blog before about how, for me, outer order leads to inner calm.

To quickly give you a few examples, I feel like I can relax when my house is ordered and everything is in its place.

I feel like I can settle down and do good work when my desk is in order and there’s not a lot of stuff laying around.

I heard something on one of my favourite podcasts, Personality Hacker, a few months ago that I want to run by you.

I’m an ESTJ on Myers-Briggs. That J means I like order, structure, things in their place.

What they said was that for Js, outer order equals inner calm. That means a J’s environment must be sorted and orderly for their brains to feel calm.

Completely true for me.

And for Ps, their thinking needs to be orderly and sorted for them to feel calm.

They don’t need their environment to be completely orderly to feel calm.

Wow – such a different take on the process.

Does this resonate for you?

Not?

Nevertheless, most people do say that they feel better if their environment is orderly.

Where do you need to create some order in your home? Is it in your bedroom, living area, kitchen, kids’ room?

Which small steps can you take over the next week to create more order in your life?

What’s the best way to sort your stuff?


Is it best to sort by colour? By category? By frequency of use? By function?

The short answer is that I can’t tell you the best way to sort your stuff.

I can tell you that you should sort so that it is easy to find and manage your things when you need them.

Let’s talk through some examples:

Colour vs Function

Bookshelves – if you can’t remember what colour your book is, there is no point in organising by colour. But if you remember what your book looks like and would be able to retrieve it quickly, this is a good way for you.

Clothes – if you reach for a specific colour pair of pants or shirt, then perhaps store your clothes by colour. However, if you make decisions based on what you want to wear, like a dress vs pants and a shirt, for example, then consider storing your clothes by type, with all pants, dresses, or tops together.


Category vs Frequency of use

Makeup – when you’re doing your makeup in the morning, do you like all your lipsticks together, or do you like your daily makeup together (lipstick, eye-shadow and blush) and the rest in one section? If you have no problems retrieving a specific lipstick, then perhaps store by category. Otherwise, store your daily makeup together and your special occasion makeup together.

Bowls in the kitchen – do you prefer that all your bowls are stored together, or do you prefer to keep often-used ones in one location that is easier to reach, and special occasion bowls on higher, difficult-to-reach shelves?

In writing this blog post, I realised I almost always store by frequency of use and with my clothes and books, by colour.

Please share some examples of how you prefer to sort and store your stuff.

How to be a happier person at work


Penelope Trunk once wrote on her career blog that if you want to be happier at work, have a shorter commute.

I read somewhere that the average commute in Johannesburg is around 45 minutes. Mine usually 40 – 45 minutes long.

That feels about right although I hear many stories of commutes being much longer too.

A few weeks ago I was driving to work and I realised that I was actually happier at work due to making my commute a pleasant part of my day instead of something to dread due to these five things I’ve put into place:

1. Choose the times you travel

I realise that not every job is flexible. I, myself, worked in a terribly inflexible job for just over a year. However, if you don’t ask, you definitely won’t get anywhere so see if you have flexible work times available so that you can travel to and from work at a more convenient time, traffic-wise, for you.

2. Use your commute for audio books

I recommend that you don’t only listen to music or talk radio. Even if you only listen to an audio book in the mornings or afternoons, you can get through most books in two weeks (about 7.5 hours). My rhythm is to listen to a book in the mornings and a podcast in the afternoons, except for Fridays which are reserved for listening to the Happier Podcast ๐Ÿ™‚

3. Stop for special pleasures

I’m not someone who would ever swing through a drive-thru for a coffee (or tea) but I do stop for photos. I leave an extra 10 – 15 minutes especially so that I have time to pull over and take pictures of autumn leaves, winter branches or the jacarandas. When I do stop, I’m always glad I took the time to metaphorically smell the roses.

4. Be intentional about your route

I love that we have clear seasons in Johannesburg and I choose the route I drive based on how pretty it is. I figure what’s 5 minutes here or there if I’m having fun?! So I choose beautiful leafy suburbs to drive through  or routes that have great autumn leaves or jacaranda trees. Sound crazy? Maybe, but I’m happier when I do.

5. Create buffer time

As I mentioned in 3 and at the start of the blog, my commute is about 40 minutes but I aim to leave an hour just in case there’s an accident or bad traffic. I had to train myself to think this way because my natural bend is to do things until the last possible minute; now I tell myself I can listen to my book or podcast ๐Ÿ™‚ I can’t tell you how nice it is to arrive at places, finish listening to a segment if I need, or calmly pack up my work things instead of rushing into the building to a meeting.

Do you have any tips for a happier commute?

How long is your commute?

PS I’m always surprised when I ask people and they say, “it’s 15 minutes but in the traffic it’s an hour” because when are you actually going to work when it’s 15 minutes? 4 am in the morning?!)

{living intentionally} Intentional friendship update, one year later


At our last book club lunch last year, one of the members said, “we all just want to connect with another human being”. So true.

For years I almost didn’t want to admit to myself that I actually wanted to have friendships because it seemed like no-one else was talking this way and it felt…too vulnerable.

But I’ve gotten over that and now I freely admit that I want, and need, good friendships.

I also used to bemoan the fact that the organising/ logistics to get together seemed to lie with me, but I’m also over that, due to two things:

  1. D told me I need only do what I’m comfortable doing. This might seem like an obvious thing to some of you but I’m an enneagram 1 (we feel like it’s our job in the world to fix anything that is broken) and an upholder (friendship is important to me therefore I need to put systems in my life to support that) so it has always felt like I was responsible for everything.
  2. I actually largely prefer to organise things because I feel in control of things more ๐Ÿ˜‰

Last year I wrote about what I was doing to create intentional friendships in my life as an upholder, and how each of the other Four Tendencies types would do this too. You can read that post here.

To comment from an upholder perspective again, we work best with the strategies of scheduling, monitoring, clarity and pairing.

Clarity – I am clear on my comfort levels and how much I want to try to pursue/ “open the door” before calling it quits and letting things just flow. I’m also clear about what a life-giving friendship means to me.

Scheduling – this strategy has worked so beautifully over the last year. Our book club meets on the last Saturday of every month, and I have 5 standing friend dates every month. Of course this doesn’t work with everyone every month but it sort of evens out so that I have good 1:1 connection time with about 5 – 6 friends, because I also have some other friends who I have again scheduled once every 2 – 3 months. I realise this sounds terribly unspontaneous, but as Gretchen Rubin says, “something that can happen anytime often happens at no time”. Here’s where I “go with the flow”ย  – I let cancellations and such happen, and somehow at the end of the month, I find I’ve still had my 5 – 6 friend connections. It’s weird and wonderful all at the same time.

Monitoring – I still keep my friend spreadsheet and diligently update it at the end of every month, and then add friends to next month’s goals to keep it all ticking over. Try it, even if you don’t use an actual spreadsheet. You could have a list in your bullet journal with a date next to each friend’s name.

Pairing – I really only use pairing in a couple of instances. When I see clients in Pretoria, I always contact a Pretoria friend to see if she’s available to have lunch after my meeting. And I have a client in a part of Joburg whose offices are near another friend’s workplace. I always just reach out and ask if she’s available. What’s the worse that can happen? They’re busy but at least you’ve asked and they know you’ve reached out.

If you’d like to understand better how to harness your tendency with regards to your friendships, please join me for my next workshop, coach with me or take Gretchen’s deep dive course?

How are your friendships going? Are you happy with them?

The thing that delighted me most last year was this: I met a friend for lunch and she said, “let’s eat quickly. I know you like to walk and take pictures so I’ve planned a walk for us.” Well, that was just magnificent!

{reading} How I track my reading and January books read


So let’s talk about book tracking.

This is a big deal in the bookstagram world, and if you know me at all, you know I love tracking anything and everything. I learned since reading The Four Tendencies that upholders do well with monitoring, which is really what tracking is for me.

I first started tracking my reading straight after my last matric exam. For those outside of South Africa, it’s your last school year. That day was on 18 November and on that very day after my Biology exam, I went to the library, took out all the books I could and started tracking from that day nearly 27 years ago.

At some point once I’d started working, I started keeping an Excel sheet.

Fast forward to when I discovered Goodreads, and little by little but only back to 1998, I entered most of that notebook into Goodreads.

Well, how do I currently track my reading?

I track in 3 ways:

Goodreads (if Goodreads ever goes away, I don’t know what I’d do)

I use Goodreads for recording books I’ve read and to check when I’m at the library or bookshop whether I’ve read a certain book before borrowing or buying it. After thousands of books read, I can’t keep it all straight in my head ๐Ÿ™‚

There’s an app which I use for on-the-go tracking, but I write reviews at my laptop as I need a proper keyboard.

Excel spreadsheet

I track my monthly goals on an excel spreadsheet. In the past I’ve done an exercise at the end of the year to see how many fiction vs non-fiction reads I had, and other such interesting stats, which took me hours. Hours of pleasure, but hours nonetheless. Then I got clever. So since 2017, as part of my monthly goals, I also track the numbers of non-fiction vs fiction, physical/ kindle/ audible books and so on. It’s so much easier to enter the totals in less than a minute every month and my Excel sheet is set up to total, and do % of goal, etc. so I have the annual totals quickly too.

Bullet journal

This year I started writing down the month’s books in a special notebook I call my book bullet journal. I also have notes at the back of books I want our book club to read, books I want to read on Audible, books I need to borrow through Overdrive, and so on.

It’s really lovely to have a beautiful, fun notebook, and to physically write down books I’m reading again, especially since I haven’t done so for about 15 years, if not longer.

How do you track your reading?

And as for the books I read in January…

I finished 10 books – 5 of them during the first week while I was on holiday ๐Ÿ™‚

My final tally is 8 fiction; 2 non-fiction with 5 physical books, 1 audible and 4 Kindle versions.

Favourite reads of this month: The Friend – Dorothy Koomson (my first 5* read of the year!) and The Sunshine Sisters – Jane Green

What were your favourite reads in January?

{time} Your ideal weekend

On a Monday a couple of weeks ago, a colleague at work asked me how my weekend was, as you do, and I said, “it was a really great weekend”.

“Oh,” they said, “tell me more”.

And then I realised that nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

I’d had a friend date on the Friday afternoon, hosted my kids’ book club, gone to Zumba and church, did some pottering around the house and read a book.

Kind-of standard things for me, but a really great weekend I realised because it had MY three ideal elements in the correct ratios.

  1. People/ out and about stuff
  2. Productivity
  3. Relaxation

It got me thinking that having a great weekend is completely within my control because I can control all of those components.

I’d been feeling a bit blah lately and when Dion and I unpacked my feelings, I realised I hadn’t had enough people time. As an extrovert, I’m energised by spending time with people.

My happy number is about 5 – 6 friend dates every month. Book club happens automatically and my friend dates are set up on a schedule, but when they get cancelled, I’m not upset (life happens) but I feel it later in this low energy state. What I need to do is then possibly reach out and just connect with a friend by phone.

We were at book club recently when one of our introvert members explained to two of us extroverts that it’s nothing personal but they just don’t feel the need to spend time with people. I must say, I was a bit surprised but I had an aha moment about friendship right there and then.

Over to you.

What does your ideal weekend look like? And are you an introvert or an extrovert? How does this play out in your weekend plans?

{money and organising} Let’s talk about food spend and 3 tips to reduce wastage

I read an interesting statistic in Laura Vanderkam’s book, “All the money in the world”.ย 

The average household spends 7.6% of its budget on food consumed at home and 5.3% on food eaten out.

(of course, I do realise that this is an American book and that currencies and food prices are all different, but it’s still fascinating to me)

This kind of thing makes me super curious so I went looking at our budget.

We obviously don’t spend all the money we make, so I’m looking at our groceries and eating out line items as a percentage of total expenses.

Ours are much, much higher for groceries and much, much lower for eating out ๐Ÿ™‚

This tells me one thing at least – that we cook a lot more at home than the average family (this I do know). It’s true – I have been known to say that I can cook something quicker than it would take me to buy something prepared (or get a takeaway) at the shops.

I’m curious – do you know what you spend on groceries and eating out every month? Is your % spend also higher than the quoted %?

There’s no right or wrong way to approach this food spend area but I would encourage as I always do to not imagine you will use more food than you actually do. Especially as we’re in South Africa, I just can’t stand the thought of food wastage with so many people starving on our literal doorsteps.

If you spend a significant of money on groceries but you actually use all of the stuff you’re buying, then good going for you.

I personally am uncomfortable with spending what is a house payment on food.

3 tips to reduce food wastage

  1. If you grow fruit and vegetables in your garden, and you know you can’t get through all of them, share with your work colleagues. A classmate of Kendra’s has been bringing her lemons which I think is so generous and thoughtful of him.
  2. If you don’t want to menu plan, at least plan the fruits and vegetables (and make actual pen on paper notes somewhere in your kitchen) so you know how long it takes for your family to use up a 1.5 kg bag of apples, or a small bag of bananas, or a small head of cauliflower. It’s very tempting when you’re in the store to see all the beautiful colours and think you’re going to cook 6 different vegetables before they go bad. You won’t. Err on the side of buying less and perhaps keep a bag of frozen peas in the freezer.
  3. Plan for a leftovers night every week. A pasta is always good to use up bits of cheese and a few odd vegetables. One of my skills is gathering up odds and ends from the fridge and using them all up in a stirfry or pasta, or on a pizza ๐Ÿ™‚

Do you find it easier to cook something at home or pop by Woolworths/ Pick and Pay to get a convenience meal? What do you do to reduce food wastage?

More posts on groceries (and some good comments)

Let’s talk about groceries and spending

Feedback on my groceries experiment

Your favourite posts of 2018

This is one of my favourite posts to do every year. I love having the statistics; I just dread the process of drudging through and compiling it all ๐Ÿ™‚

Some fun facts:

Over the last 365 days, we’ve had nearly 900 000 visits from 150 000 people.

Jan

Word of the year recap and my 2018 word

Organising Queen’s best books of 2017

How I read 120 books last yearย  (this post is my most popular post of the entire year – yes, I’m shocked)

Feb

3 ways to Konmari your digital life

What I want less of this year

On being moderate with fitness

March

What went well in February?

The book that changed how I view nature

Quarterly recap of my word of the year

April

Let’s talk about groceries and spending

How is your phone changing you?

What freedom means to me

May

You have more than enough time

Groceries experiment – feedback

What I’m bullet journaling these days

At this point in the year, I decided to do a little experiment. You see, I took the Deep Dive into the Four Tendencies course and the concept of Upholder Tightening really hit home.

Blogging twice a week was me being in the same spiral without considering if it was still what I wanted to do or if it was good for me.

I didn’t make any big announcement; I just quietly went from a Mon and Thurs posting schedule to Wednesdays. To date, not one person has said anything about this.

Because of the reduction in posts, these are the favourite post of the month from June.

June

What are your nos with books?

July

Are you a time pessimist?

Aug

My annual birthday review

Sept

Lovely limitations (if you’ve heard The Nester on podcasts lately, she has mentioned it a few times too)

Oct

On setting reading goals

November

Introducing my 2019 diary

Decemberย 

What I learned by writing every day in November

Were there any posts that surprised you? (there were for me – the book ones!) I’m also always surprised that the ones I like writing the most are not the most popular ones, but that’s par for the course.

Which was your favourite? What is your favourite type of post to read?

{living intentionally} 3 ways to experience the “selfish” joy of giving this year

I picked up the phrase “the selfish joy of giving” from reading Laura Vanderkam’s “All the money in the world” book a few months ago.

It immediately resonated with me. I have often said that I sign up for Santa Shoebox because there is nothing better than shopping for other kids because I don’t have to find a place for all that stuff.

Jokes aside, it’s so true. There is something that warms my own heart even more than the recipients’ hearts when I fill a Santa Shoebox.

She also mentioned some research thatย people are more happy from philanthropic endeavours than from spending on themselves.

This was my favourite chapter in the entire book and has stuck with me since.

I also want to highlight 3 ways for each of us to experience this selfish joy of giving the entire year, not just around Christmas.

  1. shopping for individual families rather than giving money
  • She mentions that this is probably not as effective a way to use the money, but it is always a popular way to give. I completely resonated with this. Years ago at my church, there was an appeal to buy a gift for a certain amount of money, wrap it and bring it in. We always enthusiastically participated. Then it changed to just donate the money and suddenly we stopped. It just wasn’t as fun anymore. People (me!) want to feel warm and fuzzy inside while they give.
  • 2. lots of little gifts of a small amount of money
  • She suggests that if you have the mindset of looking for ways to make the world better for $5 – $20 (for South Africans, I just thought R20 – R100), it’ll be a lot of fun for you. One year I put on my list to pay for the person’s stuff behind me. It was so fun and let’s be honest – I didn’t even miss the money (just think of it as tossing a few extra things in your basket at the till, only healthier!)
  • 3. something larger that you won’t feel
  • This is the most exciting part for me. I have visions of paying for science/ maths camps for 5 kids a year. I have a bias because I studied science. If you know of any in the Joburg area, tell me!
  • But how about starting small and sponsoring a prize for the 3 kids who read the most books in the foundation phase at school? I’m going to do this next year – I just need to chat to the principal and the librarian to get the okays, and really, it’s a couple of thousand rands for me but will make me (and the kids) so happy. When I mentioned this idea to my kids, they were really upset that they’ll not be eligible ๐Ÿ™‚
  • I’ve also thought about sponsoring a Bible college year for one person. These gifts, while larger, will not break my bank of Marcia (I know how to save and manage my money), but it might be just the thing to truly influence another person’s life, and I really want to be part of something bigger than just me.


Some other ideas I’ve heard from friends:

  1. One friend stopped doing Santa Shoebox and decided to buy something (I can’t remember if it was nappies or formula) on a monthly basis for a whole year. She’s not trying to solely fund the children’s home but she knows that every tin of Nan counts or Pampers. Whatever it was.
  2. Another friend buys hot dog rolls and sausages, prepares them and then drives around her suburb and surrounds handing out food to the beggars on the corner.
  3. Another friend makes cupcakes for all the old people at her nearest old aged home.
  4. I used to read a blog where the blogger ran amazon ads and used all that money (it’s really not a lot) to buy diapers for kids. What a great idea!

I support two World Vision kids from the Eastern Cape (I’m from the EC) but this kind of practical thing sounds like a lot of fun that I can do in addition to my monthly subscription. In fact, 2018 marks 20 years of me supporting a World Vision child.

If you’re looking for something meaningful to do, why don’t you purpose now to set aside a certain amount of money every month this year, and make a practical difference. And if you can’t give financially, there is always your time.

Can you think of some easy ideas to experience the joy of selfish giving?



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