My new bullet journal – a grid notebook

I’m on my third bullet journal for the year, my sixth overall.

For this year, I’ve had a lined one, a dot grid one and then I was undecided between another lined one (a pretty purple one) or a grid notebook.

I decided to go with the grid notebook because I wanted to try all the versions of notebook (last year I used lined paper for two of them and then a blank notebook) paper so I could see what worked best…for me.

And the verdict?

I’m loving this grid notebook.

  1. It’s a Fabriano A5 grid notebook – made in Italy. South Africans, I bought it at Exclusives for R23. Yes, you read that correctly. They come in gorgeous, bright colours for such a great price.
  2. They had a spiral bound version about twice the thickness (and double the price – I think R48?), but since this one is travelling in my handbag on a daily basis, I didn’t want the spirals to get messed up, and I definitely want to finish using it by the end of December.
  3. I’m using my Staedtler triplus fineliners and the only Schneider Topliner I own because the paper is a nice firm 80g/sm that can hold these fineliners.
  4. I think a combination of the pen plus the grid makes my handwriting look neater.
  5. Also, I love making little blocks of exactly one grid next to my to-do list items.

There is possibly only one thing that could be better, and that is to have a non-scuffable cover. I’ve wrapped it in plastic to protect it.

What should you consider in a bullet journal?

size – I love an A5 size, but I’ve seen people use smaller and bigger notebooks

thickness – I like to change mine all the time so I love the 80-page notebooks because they last about 3 months. If you want one for the entire year, go bigger

paper – choose your paper depending on the size of your handwriting, and whether you naturally write in a straight line or not. Is that even an issue for you? It is for me? (I have since discovered I’m not a fan of light dot grid notebooks; I may be convinced if there are ones with a darker dot that I can try)

pens – on the more Kraft-type paper (the slightly brown paper), a gel pen works beautifully because it “sinks” into the paper. On a whiter type of paper, like this one, I find the staedter fineliners work beautifully. Of course you can use any pen on any paper (there are no rules!) but I know that I prefer a certain look to my handwriting with a certain pen on a certain paper 🙂

Tell me how you decided on your bullet journal

PS If you’re South African, pick up one next time you’re at Exclusives and let me know which colour you chose 🙂

7 ways to use project life cards aside from project life journalling

If you don’t have project life cards, you could quite easily cut cardstock to size (4 X 6) and use these same tips.

1.Labelling craft kits

I have, occasionally, put together some beading kits and once, an easy craft for kids. I bought wooden letters and packs of buttons from a craft store, added a jar of craft glue, and gifted that to some of my kids’ friends.

The project life card is the perfect size for a label on the one side, and one or two sentences on the reverse.

2. Gift tags

They are particularly lovely to use as gift tags on presents.

3. Conversation notes

This might confirm that either I’m super weird or very intentional. Let’s go with the latter, okay?

I sometimes use PL cards to keep notes of things I want to remember to chat to friends about so when we meet for tea/ lunch, I have a visual prompt.

I’ve also twice had meetings with teachers and I use a project life card to write down my thoughts so I don’t get sidetracked in the meeting. I hope I look organised and invested in the meeting 🙂

4. Speech preparation

My kids have started to do little speeches at school.

They’re allowed to use a card with keywords, so they use a Project Life card.

5. Scriptures/ affirmations

One of my kids was quite fearful about going to bed for a month or two, so Dion wrote out a scripture to be kept next to the bed.

If I want to be reminded about something, like “I can only do what I can do; I can’t control other people’s work”, then I write these not-so-little things on a PL card.

6. Labelling shelves

I change things in my house all the time. Not furniture, but the way things are organised. For instance, when the kids were at pre-school, we had a lot more space dedicated to casual clothes, because that’s all they wore.

These days we have a shelf each for school clothes because of the uniforms. And they only wear casual clothes for 3.5 hours every afternoon, and on weekends.

PL cards are easy to use, change labels and just stick on the shelf with Prestik.

7 . Love notes

Kendra just piped up from the lounge that we also use them to write love messages for each other 🙂

How do you use Project Life cards for non-Project Life purposes?

PS I really like this lady’s idea for a running list!

How my whole planning system fits together

This year I have three diaries/ notebooks going. I know what you’re thinking and I agree, three is probably too many but I’ll explain the intricacies below.

Shining Planner

Moleskine weekly diary planner

Bullet journal

  1. Shining Planner

I use the shining planner to review the month that’s just passed, and to set goals for the month ahead. It has a really thorough review and intention-based process. I use one of the pages not as it’s intended because I just do a list of all my goals for the month on that page.

I also love these prompts at the start of every week:

  • this week I want to receive…
  • I want to give myself the gift of…
  • I want to feel …
  • I am grateful for …

And your top 3 priorities  – personal and work – for the week.

For the rest of the week, I put in anything that has a scheduled time but that’s it.

—>>> Goals for the month, setting intentions for the week and top 3 work and personal for the week. These top 3’s are usually taken from my goals for the month, or something urgent that’s come up, like a geyser thing we had a few weeks ago.

This planner stays on my desk at home because it’s too bulky to carry around with me.

2. Moleskine weekly diary planner

This is my preferred diary format – a weekly horizontal down the left and on the right, lined paper for my lists.

(do you know how few diaries have a horizontal weekly layout? I’ve seen only 3 – this one, my beloved Legami and another spotted on the fly – I should do an instastory from Exclusive Books!)

I write those same scheduled things from the Shining Planner down the left side of this diary (standard things I would write out for the month, like Tues 6pm Barre, 7pm Spanish). If the nanny’s off work, I would note that down here, or if I’m working from home, I also note that down here. In other words, all appointments with others or with myself (upholder!)

The right side is for my personal and blog goals. Beth and I chat every Thursday night and set goals for the week ahead. So on a Thursday night of one week (say, 5 October) I write things down on the next week’s page (week starting Monday 9th October). Meanwhile, I still complete (mostly!) the current list for the rest of this week. If this is confusing, sorry about that. It makes complete sense to me because I’m just “pausing” the current week for 30 minutes to think about next week, without actually starting next week until it arrives. Make sense?

I usually put no more than 4 – 5 personal and 3 blog goals for the week ahead. These are all from my monthly goals. Sometimes they’re carried forward from previous weeks – it’s all okay.

If other things crop up, I can easily add it to either of the lists (I leave space) without feeling overwhelmed. Other non-goal things I add are usually appointment-making things.

3. Bullet journal

The only real planning that goes on here is my weekend to-do list and the daily to-do list I write when I work from home. That’s really it.

If you read this post, you’ll see I mention the goals review and goal-setting here too. This is just for a quick brainstorm, key points, etc. to jog my memory.

My weekend lists are my favourite things ever – I like a combination of out and about (I’m an extrovert), productivity (either in the house or on computer) and true relaxing (reading/ photos, etc).

The items on my weekend list are sometimes carried over from the Moleskine (finish a book, or finish editing photos, for instance) but are mostly new things. I never put house stuff on my weekly list because I work full-time and the only time I get to potter and organise is on the weekend, unless it’s to do a quick 10-minute organising project.

Then the whole thing repeats every week, and at the end of the month, on Goals Night, I do my monthly review and goal-setting.

And that’s it!

All that said, I’m already excited for next year because I decided I’m not ordering the shining planner so I’ll only have my diary (it’s looking like a Moleskine for now) and my bullet journal.

Has this helped anyone? Please let me know.

How does your planning system fit together?

Bullet journal 101 – most useful pages

If you haven’t seen the last post on bullet journal, have a read here to find out all the pages I use for planning.

Today, we’re going to discuss three of the most useful pages for me:

When I last
This is a page I picked up from browsing the #bulletjournal hashtag on Instagram. I took a screenshot immediately and kept it on my phone for a few months before trying it.

Basically, it’s to remind you of things you need to keep track of, but that don’t happen daily, weekly or even monthly.
I track when I colour my hair (I should do that monthly, but I do it when I can’t stand it anymore) and when I have my Brazilian Blowwaves done. I also started tracking Connor’s haircuts.

Any ideas you have for this page? Or ideas for me to use this page more?

This is not my reading goals page but just my monthly reading list 🙂

Reading goals

This is one of my favourite pages in my bullet journal.

I wrote out these goals at the start of the year when I thought of how I wanted my reading life to look this year.
I’m happy with the amount of reading I do but I wanted to get intentional about a few other things – books to re-read, how many Audible books, etc.

So I look at my list at the end of each month and I see how I’m doing. And then, of course, I make adjustments for the month ahead.

If you’re a reader, I highly recommend a reading goals list.

What were/ are some of your reading goals for this year?

Favourite author lists and the books I already have

This page started as an action from my reading goals page. And then I accidentally bought a physical copy of a book I have on my Kindle, and the page morphed into one where I tick off the books I own, and I highlight them once I’ve read them.

I’ve now trained myself to not buy books until I’ve checked my pages just in case I own a copy.

It’s so useful. If you have a bad memory for books that kind-of sound the same, make yourself a list of your favourite authors and the books you need to read from your physical or virtual bookshelves.

How do you keep track of the books you need to read from your favourite authors? Goodreads? Page in your bullet journal? Notes in your phone?

Which are some of your most useful pages in your bullet journal?

What I learned in August

August is a big month for me because it’s my birthday month and I always have friends over for a birthday lunch.

So here’s what I learned this month:

I’m really much, much happier in the cold weather

Johannesburg had spring happen 6 weeks earlier than it was supposed to. I was not a happy camper but the last two weeks it’s cooled down again. Yay to not being deprived of a “proper” winter.

I always feel I need to qualify my #marcialoveswinter statements with a few facts. In summer, any temperatures above 28 degrees Celsius means I get heat headaches unless I literally do not venture outside at all and drink 2 L of water. This is never possible (work/ gym/ church) so we have ourselves a little problem.

I’m getting all my organising done while it’s a bit cooler because I remember last year and how nothing got done because of the heat.

It pays to review your beginning of year lists

As part of my birthday review earlier this month, I read through my Shining Life workbook to see what I put down in those books at the start of the year 🙂

I sat with my bullet journal and wrote a new list of things I needed to make progress on. I have 9 things on my list, most of which I’d totally forgot about.

I love Barre180 class

One of those items was to try a Barre180 class and I made it to one last week, which I loved. I enjoyed the class so much so that I’ve extended my gym membership so that I can continue to go to that class.

On birthday parties

I need to possibly rethink this birthday party thing. Or just have two get togethers. So many people couldn’t come to the real lunch that my month was really busy catching up 🙂 I realise this is a good problem to have but possibly not for an upholder, as I now feel internal pressure to still connect with all the friends.

Have you taken the quiz yet to find out your tendency? I’ve really found such value in knowing my tendency that I can’t recommend knowing yours highly enough.

Over to you.

What have you learned this month? Big or small, I’d love to hear them all.

3 things I do that help my productivity

I adored reading this blog post from Ramit Sethi. It’s one of my favourite blog posts of all time.

One of the main things that were insightful for me is that fundamentals are first, second is psychology and third are the details. Most people focus on the details when they actually need to start focussing on fundamentals.

Fundamentals are things like sleeping enough, psychology is being able to say no or set good boundaries, and the details are what type of notebook or app or calendaring system I use to plan my life.

In that post he actually says that we need to focus on those details only 10% of the time and I had an aha moment or two.

Because seeing the % split like that puts things in perspective, and also I’ve been subconsciously focussing on a lot of it already.

I thought it would be fun to share 1 thing in each of those areas that I do, and then you can share your things too.

Fundamentals

What I do: I sleep an average of 7 hrs 30 a night. You all know I diligently track my sleep because when I stop measuring, it all goes off track.

In this category we also have environment, soul care and exercise, in addition to managing your stress.

Psychology

What I do: I have very good boundaries and I know when to say yes and no.

Also in this category is knowing if you’re a time optimist or realist, and unplugging from social media when it starts being detrimental for you.

Those top two areas aren’t very exciting but they’re so very necessary.

Details

Well, you know I’m doing a hybrid this year of my bullet journal and my shining year planner. And then I added a gorgeous purple moleskine. My favourite pens are both Pentel energel and Pilot G2. Lately my absolute, super favourite pen is my metallic violet Pilot G2, which you have seen in almost all my instagram posts the last month or two 🙂

Over to you!

What do you think about the triad of productivity?

What are the things you do in each of those three areas? Very curious minds would love to know!

Do you suffer from perfectionism?

If you’ve ever been for a job interview, you’ve probably been asked the most awful interview question, “what is your biggest weakness?”

At that point you probably want to position yourself in the best possible light so you frantically scramble and try to think of a weakness that’s not too bad.

I’ll confess that years ago when I used to go for job interviews I used to answer that biggest weakness was that I was a perfectionist.

It is a weakness and yet it’s a weakness that is seen as a strength by a lot of people because it shows great attention to detail and quality orientation.

Nowadays though, I would bite my tongue before admitting that trait.

These days, I could safely say I’m a recovering perfectionist but it’s definitely not something I’m in the least bit proud of. It’s something I worked very hard on for a few years and when I see it rearing its head, I reign it back and tell myself the truth.

Perfectionism robs me of living a full and happy life.

Do you think of yourself as a perfectionist?

I love this quote by Julia Cameron: “perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough – that we should try again.”

How do you know if you’re a perfectionist?

You may be a perfectionist if…

  1. you think you’re the only person who can do something exactly right
  2. you don’t even bother to do something unless you can do it 100% perfectly
  3. you never ask for help because that’s a sign of weakness
  4. you’d rather not try than do something badly or failing at it
  5. you tend to notice others’ mistakes before noticing their strengths
  6. other people have called you a control freak

If you’re constantly striving for the elusive perfection, you’re never going to be happy to just be.

Your relationships will suffer and so will your productivity.

Perfectionism has also been related to illnesses such as eating disorders, anxiety, depression and a host of relationship and emotional problems.

As I said, I used to be a fully-fledged perfectionist until I wised up.

I had to learn to let go a little, lower my impossible standards and change my language.

When my twins were born, I realised very quickly that I could either have everything done to my exacting standards and never sleep, or I could relax those standards a bit so that things could still get done, even if not exactly how I would have liked, and actually have a bit of a life.

I also started telling myself, “80% is good enough” and it is. Most things in life are not a matter of life and death and we all need to realize it. I knew this from my years of delegating work to staff but it escaped my home life a bit.

That realization was freedom to me.

Are you aware that if it takes you double the time to “perfect” something when the first half was good enough already? I’ve just spent about 40 minutes writing this article. If I wanted to get it “perfect”, it would take another 40 minutes and nobody would even notice the minor differences.

That trend applies to most things in life and it’s just not worth it.

Are you a perfectionist? Is it something you’re proud of or have you already started seeing the limitations in your life?

PS Gretchen Rubin did a podcast recently on perfectionism which I LOVED. You can listen to it here (it’s episode 126 if you don’t use itunes)

Lovely things to do this year

I have some routines I like to do around my birthday every year which I thought I’d talk about and link to, so that you can be reminded to do them too, if you’re so inclined.

If your birthday’s at a completely different time of year, put a link to this post in your calendar, a week or so before or after your birthday.

If you’re reading on a mobile device like an iphone, tap the square with an arrow pointing up, copy and paste the link into your calendar.

Here’s my annual birthday routine:

1. Organise a celebration. I believe that every year on this earth is a blessing so I like to celebrate my birthday every year.

2. Do a birthday review. This year I changed one or two questions but the main 4 questions are the same as my monthly review: what worked well, what didn’t work well, what did I learn, what do I need to let go of?

As a reader mentioned in the comments last year, it is a brave thing to do, to face up to things may not have consciously considered, but it’s always good to take an honest assessment of things. If you need some hand holding as you do this work, please book a coaching session with me.

3. Make a list of lovely things to do this year. This is purely a fun list 🙂

I put things on this list like books I’ve always wanted to read, restaurants to try, fun things to do like take a photowalk with a friend to take photos of the jacarandas, things I want to do with Dion or the kids, and recipes I’ve wanted to try.

So far on my list I have to (finally) buy new frames because I’ve had my current frames for about 3 – 4 years (lenses have changed, but I kept the frames).

I also have some fun books I want to read, and I think I finally need to read the Total Money Makeover. I also want to listen to Andre Agassi’s Open.

Keep checking my Instagram because I’ll be sure to post my list when it’s done.

I have a friend who schedules a massage on her birthday, another who always takes a day’s leave to “think about her life” and still another who books all her appointments like gynae, eyes, mammogram in her birthday month. Fun, thoughtful and practical.

Please tell me about your birthday rituals and if you’re not signed up to my list yet, please do so if you want the free “lovely things to do this year” printable. My next newsletter goes out on Tuesday 15th.

Have you done your annual birthday review yet?

What I learned in July

This has been a full month of birthdays, holidays, and catching up at work.

It’s been fun to start and play with a new bullet journal

I’m using dot grid this time and it’s fun! Like blank, but more structured. My 3rd bullet journal last year was blank so this is the third type I’m trying out.

Speaking of bullet journals, are you signed up to my list? My newsletter’s going out later today and there’s a fun bullet journal survey in there.

If you’re on instagram and you use a bullet journal, please take a pic and tag me @organisingqueen so I can come see yours.

You can go to the beach and relax even without beach weather

Like last year, we mostly had cold, wintry weather at the beach. Last year, we spent 10 days there and had 2 proper beach days, while this year, we spent 7 days and had 1.5 beach days.

We watched Wimbledon, read books, played games, went for walks (11 in the 7 days!) and had fun connecting as a family. Of course we also had no internet 🙂

We need to rethink the party situation

My twins are very different – I have an extrovert and an introvert. They wanted different types of parties this year and it was so interesting watching this all unfold, knowing that one of the parties would not have suited me at all, but was “perfect” for her.

That said, I felt “on” the whole weekend and was knackered at the end. I told myself it’s just once a year, which it is, but I’m wondering how to still have the separate parties but make it easier on the family (mostly me!) all round. I’m considering having them on two different weekends, but we’ll see. I took only 1 picture of the first party so maybe having a friend or parent around to help? Dion wasn’t allowed as it was a girls only party!!!

Any suggestions would be very welcome!

And one last fun thing, dipping bowls make great change bowls or ring holders 🙂

What did you learn during July?

Getting motivated, Four Tendencies style

Our theme for this month is refresh and what better way to make yourself feel great than to refresh some parts of your home or office environment, if that’s where you need it. Maybe it’s your schedule where you feel too busy or overwhelmed?

Flylady says, “you can do anything for 15 minutes”. I love this mantra and I repeat it to myself to get me moving with any task I find myself procrastinating.

You have to decide and take a little bit of action before anything will click into place. There is, unfortunately, no magic formula for organising success.

However, there are a few things that will help to get you going, according to your tendency.

If you’re not sure which of the Four Tendencies you are, you may want to take the quiz here.

If you’re an Obliger, make yourself accountable to people with a deadline, and you’ll get your task done. Make a coffee date with a friend, but only once you’ve done an hour’s organising.

If you’re a Questioner, make sure you have a good reason for what you want to get done. If you’re not clear on this, you’re going to battle with the execution thereof.

If you’re a Rebel, perhaps you’d like to remind yourself of your identity? You’re a strong, successful, accomplished person and you deserve to live in an environment that suits such a person.

If you’re an Upholder, you don’t have a problem getting motivated to start. You need to learn to relax. Put “relax” on your to-do list and reward yourself with relaxing activities for each item or two you get done.

Ideas for a mini refresh in the home

1. Top of bedside table
2. Bathroom vanity
3. Handbag
4. Make-up bag
5. Command Central (the place where papers multiply)

Ideas for a mini refresh in the office

1. Top drawer of desk
2. Do your filing.
3. Schedule payment dates for bills in your phone, bullet journal or planner.
4. Organise your desk.
5. Unsubscribe from newsletters (not mine!) for 10 minutes

Ideas for a mini refresh with your time

1. Block off a half day on the weekend to stay home and do nothing
2. Plan meals for a week (this saves you hours over the week)
3. Schedule a recurring phone date with a friend. It will save you the mental energy of having to decide when you will talk again.
4. Cancel a non-important meeting or move it to a time when it suits you better
5. Put an alarm on your phone to Go Sleep!

Whatever you manage to do, give yourself a pat on the back for a time of refreshing!

Where will you do a refresh in your home, office or time?

What’s your tendency?

(I’m an upholder)

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