My birthday month review

August is my birthday month and so I thought I’d share just some of my thoughts.

A reminder that I happen to use this review format around my birthday. You can do the same or if it doesn’t matter to you, then pic a random date and do an annual review, like now.

The end of the year is not a good time for me because kids are doing exams, then schools are closing, Christmas, holidays, etc. I do my annual review in November but I like the time around my birthday to do a more personal review.

Here’s the free printable birthday review PDF I made for us to use.

I didn’t want to use the same questions here, and I saw Jessica Honegger (founder of Noonday) talk about this method, so let’s try a start, stop, keep. list.

Start

  • Monthly one-on-one dates with the kids. These were going so well for 11 years and then… Covid. I need to bring these back again before it becomes even more difficult.
  • Dates with Dion. We left the kids alone for an hour and 10 minutes the other day and… nothing happened. It’s a start to the old life 🙂

Stop

Working so hard and work smarter. I’ve already started putting a few new things into practice like being very good with daily focussed time

Keep

Reading – I’m reading at least 10 books a month on a consistent basis and have found a really good rhythm of audio, physical and ebooks that works well for me

Friends – I connect with one friend a week, on average, and I have one book club a month for fiction, and another book club every 6 – 8 weeks for non-fiction

Exercise – Zumba and Barre classes are going well. And due to Covid restrictions, if I miss out on a live class, I now know I have the option of an online workout. E.g. the other weekend the wind was howling outside (atypical Jhb weather) and we all slept through so I missed my Zumba class, but then I did an online workout.

Holidays – we tried one new place in this crazy year and it was a delight for my senses, especially during autumn, the most beautiful season 🙂

Play – remembering my word of the year and saying yes to different things to keep it front of mind.

Some other birthday review posts:

My annual review in 2016

My annual birthday review in 2018

I made a birthday list in 2020

Do you do a birthday review?

What do you want to start, stop and keep in this next journey around the sun?

How to have healthy sleep

It’s no secret that I love my sleep.

I both enjoy sleep and I sleep well. Some of it is personality, I think, but I do think I have some very good sleep habits too.

Whenever I put up my sleep stats on Instagram, I always get so many direct messages from people who say things like, “oh that must be nice” and “how do you sleep so much?”.

Well, I sleep a lot because I’ve realised that when I’m tired I won’t be as productive as I will be when I’m rested. Because when I’m up after a good night’s sleep, I’m a machine 🙂

Sleep also has many other benefits like being good for your mental health, stress relief, immune system, heart, good for managing weight. In addition, and this is a big benefit, it’s good for your memory, and helps you focus and concentrate. I also heard Lisa Genova on a podcast say that deep sleep helps clear out brain waste which prevents Alzheimer’s.

Here are a few of my tips:

  1. Set a sleep goal. My goal is 7 hours 30 every night. I upgraded my Fitbit recently and while my Fitbit now gives me a sleep score, my sleep score is always better when I sleep more than 7h30.
  2. Sleep when you’re tired. Realise that when you’re tired, the very best thing you can do no matter how much work there is still to get done, is to actually sleep.
  3. Move your body. I sleep my best sleep on the days I have a good workout. It’s boring to say this but our mothers were onto something when they told us to go outside and play.
  4. Stop caffeine at lunch. This is not a problem for me, but I know many people who do not have good sleep habits when they have coffee after lunch. Dr Rangan Chatterjee, in his book, The 4 Pillar Plan, talks about how, at bedtime, about 25% of caffeine is still in our system. If you don’t sleep well, stop your coffee at 12 and see if it makes a difference.
  5. Avoid your phone before bed. Everyone gives me a hard time about this one but hey, if you want to sleep better, avoid your phone for a good 1 – 2 hours before bed. You can charge your phone at an outlet across the room. I charge mine next to my bed but it’s on the floor, face down, almost slipped under the bed. I also don’t look at Whatsapp after my phone goes dark (shortly after my work day ends). There is a downside to it but I’d rather have a few more messages in the morning than have restless or disrupted sleep.
  • How is your sleep on a scale of 1 – 10?
  • Do you have good sleep hygiene?
  • Do you spend time on your phone before bed?

If you want to work on these tips, all you have to do is start working on one at a time, track your sleep, and see how it is affected.

How to do a quick and effective half-year review

It might be that I’m such a big fan of reflecting and reviewing precisely because it doesn’t come naturally to me.

I recognise the process as valuable though which is why I take the time to do a half-year review every year.

Your review is only a 20 – 30 minute process but it will make you feel that you closed off the first half of the year and can focus afresh on the 6 months ahead.

What do you need?

  1. 20 – 30 minutes
  2. A drink of your choice – hot or cold
  3. Notebook/ bullet journal
  4. Pen

You could type into a computer or your phone but I recommend doing it with a pen and paper so that your brain slows down enough to process as you think through the questions.

Here are some questions to ask yourself. Use all, or just use the first 5 questions:

  1. What went well, and why?
  2. What could be better? How?
  3. What have you learned about yourself?
  4. What energised you? How can you bring more of this into your life?
  5. If you chose a word of the year, has it been guiding/ inspiring/ clarifying for you? How are you living out your word of the year? Do you need to change your word? Here’s your permission slip if you want to do that.
  6. Looking at your goals, have you made good progress and are you on track?
  7. Are there any goals you need to let go of? Let them go and be kind to yourself.
  8. Do you know why those goals were no longer motivating you?
  9. Looking forward… what are the 3 main things you want to focus on for the next 3 – 6 months?
  10. Do you have the necessary support? I would love to help you.

Reset and refresh sessions

  • I will send you a prep pack once I receive your payment which you work though and return to me 48 hours before your session so I can spend some time beforehand preparing.
  • We meet on Skype or Zoom, whichever option you prefer.
  • We will discuss what you want to keep in your life going forward and more importantly, what you want to let go of.
  • We might set new goals and develop action plans, or tweak existing goals to suit where you are right now.
  • My goal is that you leave the session encouraged, inspired and that you have clarity on the way forward.
  • The sessions are 60 minutes long and your investment in yourself is $75/ R1000 (previous clients get a discount!)
  • I encourage you to book another session in 6 months, but only if you think it will be helpful.
Contact me now to schedule your session. I work with clients all over the world so we will find a time that will work for your time zone.

Meal tip Monday – let’s talk hosting styles

I know that a lot of people just don’t ever have people over because they think they have to be a good cook or baker.

Wrong – you don’t.

I think it’s more important to know what your hosting style is and embrace it.

this friend loves the hosting but buys all the food

If you’re only comfortable buying food, then embrace it. I have hosted people by cooking and by not cooking. Recently I hosted book club and I really intended to cook and bake (from scratch!) but I was SO BUSY with work I knew I just couldn’t add anymore stress to my life.

So I bought crustry bread, a rotisserie chicken, salad and an apple pie which we had with custard. It was delicious and not at all stressful.

I’ve also hosted book club at someone else’s house who had a bigger garden (for physically distancing purposes) and ordered pizzas to be delivered to my friend’s house. I also ordered online shopping of dessert, salad and drinks and that was that. No stress.

this friend loves to bake, and baked both the Swiss roll and shortbread

If I really want to see people socially but we’re not very good friends yet, I invite people for tea and cake. I usually serve tea/ coffee and muffins, or I buy a pie from my local grocer. At Christmastime, casual gatherings are tea and Christmas fruit mince pies. So easy but still says, “I value your company and friendship and want to see you.”

However, if you like to cook and bake, then you embrace that too. Use the fact that you’re hosting to try a new recipe you’ve wanted, or invite people over as the impetus to try something new, kind of like inviting people over to spur you onto clean the house 🙂

By the way, if you don’t like to have people in your house, invite people over to a park. This is not my style because I don’t like the sun or the outdoors, but I know many who consider this method their favourite type of hosting.

What is your hosting style?

In South Africa, at the time of writing this post, only about half a million people are fully vaccinated. We are still meant to be meeting only outside, in well-ventilated spaces with physical distancing in place.

{Mindset} Establish your personal policies, or decide once

A few months ago on the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast (episode 296 – 21 October 2020), one of the topics was about establishing a personal policy. I loved this podcast episode because it was a reminder to me that

  • I have personal policies
  • I’m happier when I heed them
  • We all have some things we do that make sense to us

It reminded me of the Lazy Genius, Kendra Adachi’s book, The Lazy Genius Way, which I read and loved last year.

One of her principles is to Decide Once.

Decide once is setting a personal policy.

In Lazy Genius language, I decided once that I don’t attend baby showers so it’s an easy decision when I receive an invite to politely decline the invite.

About a month ago, Kendra put up a post inviting people to post how they decide once. The 1744 comments are GOLD. A couple that I love are:

one lady does all phone calls on Thursday mornings only. Genius – you don’t have to have phone dread because you know you’ll take care of things on Thursdays.

another lady changes her contact lenses every time she gets her monthlies so she doesn’t have to remember.

some people have the same gift they give to teachers or for new baby gifts.

The reason I like personal policies is because I love boundaries.

I like people boundaries and I like things boundaries.

Some people boundaries:

  • I don’t attend baby showers. I buy a gift but I hate all the ladies playing silly games (at least that’s how it goes around here).
  • During Covid, I will only meet up with people outside. All book clubs are outside or on Zoom, and when people have come over, we’re outside too.
  • My kids can only have playdates on Friday afternoons. It’s a set time for them so they don’t have to ask continually “can X come over?” They know Friday is the day and arrange their schedules accordingly.

Some things boundaries:

  • If something doesn’t fit in the space, it’s time to declutter until the things fit comfortably again.
  • I decided once what I wanted to save every month, set up an automatic payment and I don’t have to think about it again. When my salary increases, I increase the payment a bit, but that’s the extent of my thinking about money.
  • I have a standard bring-along to a meal if we are invited over to friends. I say, “I’ll bring a chicken” and I bring a rotisserie chicken from a nearby bakery. I also get them to cut it up for me so it’s easy to just arrange on a platter.

Over to you:

Can you name some of your personal policies?

If you honestly don’t have any, where could you incorporate a couple to make your life run more smoothly?

{time} 3 different ways to think about time

Time is so precious. We’ve also all been at different points of the time continuum during the pandemic. Some of us have felt like we have plenty of time to indulge in hobbies; others (me!) are working all the hours just to keep up.

This is not an article on how to create more time but it is meant to provide some food for thought on how you currently are spending your time:

1. What are your top time priorities?

Yes, the answer to this question changes from life stage to life stage and most definitely during the pandemic. My top three priorities have been my own and my family’s health (both physical and mental), managing my work responsibilities and retaining a semblance of myself with things that are fun for me. Included are eating, sleeping, managing stress, and exercising well. I don’t sleep well if I worry too much about work and I’m not in a great space mentally if I don’t also do fun things for me, so they all tie together.

Can you identify your top time priorities?

If we’re not intentional about our time and how we spend it, I promise you others will fill it up with their priorities. Interestingly, these two things are almost never the same. See full caption from Instagram here.


2. Is your time spent in alignment with those priorities?

If you look over your week or month, does your time spent look like you’re prioritising the correct things? It’s okay if it doesn’t currently align, but at least you now have the awareness.

How will you know that things are not aligned? You can’t find anything in your schedule that aligns with your priorities. Maybe you do find your priorities on your schedule but there’s not enough time allocated, e.g. exercise or hobbies or fun? What are you dreaming about at night? That’s also a signal you’re not dealing with things during your waking hours.

Where do you feel out of alignment?


3. Which time statement do you find yourself saying to yourself or others? Consider these two sentence pairs.

a) I have to
…. feels like you have no choice while I get to…. feels like you have made the choice to do it. The second statement is more empowering.

Example: I have to make the kids’ lunches (sounds like a chore) vs I get to make the kids’ lunches (feels to me like an act of service/ love). Another very relevant one during Covid: I have to work late (you have no choice in the matter)  vs I get to work late (I have the luxury of no commute so I can put in an extra hour or two occasionally).

b) I don’t have time feels disempowering while it’s not a priority for me right now feels like a carefully-considered time choice.

I get how the second statement can feel awkward sometimes but it’s kinder than not being honest with yourself and others. Brene Brown says “clear is kind” and it feels very kind to me to say honestly if something isn’t a priority in your life at this time.

How has your thinking changed?

{goals} My quarterly goals update

Gosh, we’re one week out from the end of March which means it’s time to review our quarterly goals and set some new ones.

First , a review in case you missed it earlier on the blog:

Quarterly planning
Monthly planning

What went well for me this quarter?

  1. Exercise – regularly doing Zumba twice weekly and my Barre class started up again mid-Feb
  2. My #read21in2021 is going so well. I just set the timer, pick up my non-fiction book and read. I’ve finished nearly 8 books already this quarter (my goal was 6)
  3. House projects – the bathroom reno, fumigator has been, window cleaners are booked for Monday (this is one of those things that people don’t mention when you buy a house on a hill) and we’ve ordered a canvas for our stairwell. 

What could be improved?

  1. I’m still working on setting better boundaries around work
  2. Need to book next holiday so we have something to look forward to
  3. Friend stuff – I can’t build connections via text or whatsapp. I’m phone burnt out 😮 and need to speak on a real phone or look people in the eyes and not via a screen.

How are your quarterly goals looking?

Why don’t you join me and set aside some time in the next week to jot down some goals for the next quarter?

{work with Marcia} Book your time makeover session now

If one of your goals for 2021 is to get your time sorted, give yourself the gift of a time makeover session.

Use our time together to get ideas and motivation to…

  • break out of overwhelm
  • calm down and get clear on your priorities
  • put an action plan in place to get things back under control
  • practical tips to be more productive (if that’s what you want)
  • challenge your mindset… gently but firmly
  • if you run a business, to maximise your time so you don’t need to work crazy hours

Book a 30- or 60-minute session, whichever best suits your budget. I’ll send you the prep pack and we’ll get your session scheduled.

Read testimonials here and contact me when you’d like to get your session booked.

{time} What sparks joy with your time?

It’s important to me to regularly take stock so that I remain intentional about the choices I make around how to spend my time.

In Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (you can read about the physical aspects of tidying by clicking the button on the sidebar —–>>), she says that once your physical space is tidied, you start thinking through bigger issues in your life.

I found this true for me too as in 2014 I completed my tidying journey and after it was done, I started a new job and in 2015 I had a really transformative personal year, the year of enough.

Once you complete your physical spaces, you’ve trained your mind so you start thinking about each part of your life and whether it still sparks joy.

Today I’d like to talk more about sparking joy with your time.

At Work

Think about the various parts of your workday/ week/ month/ quarter/ year. Which parts spark joy and which don’t?

I remember when I first did this exercise and noted down that there was a part of my job that I hated. When I drilled down and asked why, it was because of the type of client and the type of work I was doing for that client. Now the client wasn’t going anywhere and neither was I, so I had a conversation with this client where we brainstormed how we could change things for the better. Another meeting or two and while things weren’t sparking joy, there was no longer the extreme dread and boredom.

Now let’s talk about sparking joy.

Which parts of your work spark joy? Sometimes we don’t get to do these parts as often as we’d like but if we have the awareness, we can start to create time to do more of what brings us joy.

I identified that for me, I need to feel like I’m contributing by being creative with products, solutions, etc. but not by myself, in collaboration with my clients. A good day will have at least one such interaction so I try and arrange my week so I have multiple days of collaborating with clients because those sessions energise me most.

Over to you.

What sparks joy for you at work? What drains you at work? How can you add more of the first and reduce the second?

In your personal life

What sparks joy with your personal time?

I’ve heard from so many people during the pandemic that they will not be automatically signing up their kids to so many activities once life returns to normal. It turns out that rushing from one activity to the next on the weekend does not spark joy.

Does it spark joy for you to spend time with family? Or connecting with friends? Does it spark joy for you to be in service to others, like serving at a soup kitchen or volunteering at an orphanage?

And what about time by yourself? Does it spark joy for you to do hobbies when you’re by yourself, to journal, to spend time in nature, to clean or organise, or to exercise?

I’ve shared many times that the perfect ratio of personal time for me is out and about (by myself doing Zumba, spending time with friends or family, or running a few errands), getting stuff done (cooking, organising, cleaning or pottering) and relaxing (reading, playing with my photos and very rarely, watching a show for an hour). When my time is too full of one section, I feel frustrated but the perfect weekend is a blend of all three.

What sparks joy for you with your personal time? I’d love to hear in the comments!

{time} keep your weekends different

Are you still working from home?

A friend said the other day that her house has become the place she works, the place she relaxes, the place she goes to have restaurant food, and also the place she has holidays.

It’s so true for most of us which is why I like to feel that my weekends have a sense of being different to the weekdays.

During the week, I work a full day and then usually go to Zumba one weeknight evening. I also went to Barre last night for the first time since 10 March 2020. That class is now regular so I’ll continue to go. Other than that, I cook, read and write/ coach at night.

On a Friday night, I pack away my work notebook and laptop completely (charger cables and mouse too!) so that my bright yellow desk is ready for FUN things like playing with photos.

My weekends are very unstructured – I like to have a weekend to-do list with just a few anchor events (kids’ swimming and Zumba!) and lots of space for my own things.

I usually have some things to do around the house, some things in the study and some things to relax. You can read a more detailed account of my weekend planning here.

Why is this different? I have a very structured weekday routine so to have almost nothing planned on the weekend is bliss. I organise my holidays the same way!

I would also rather work late one or two nights than to pull out that laptop on a weekend. It feels more restorative to me to have zero work on the weekend so my head is clear.

Let’s talk about you.

What do your weekdays feel like? Can you build more of the opposite into your weekend so it feels different?

Maybe you work all alone during the week and on the weekend you want to connect with friends and family?

Try playing intentionally with your routines to make these pandemic times feel a little more normal.

How would you like your weekends to feel? Which elements would make them more ideal?

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