{planning} The joy of quarterly planning

I’ve been an annual planner for the last 25 years. Until last year and the lockdown. I felt quite despondent and hopeless until Gretchen Rubin suggested making a 19 for Covid-19 list. After I made my first one for 3 months and saw how well it worked for lockdown, I just kept making a new list every 3 months.

Annual planning

  1. You do the planning properly once and then you just implement.
  2. Because you have the long-term view, you tend to take seasonal fluctuations into account, e.g. you might want to take 2 – 3 holidays a year – one in autumn, one in spring and one at Christmas.
  3. It will take longer as you consider the entire 12 months.

Quarterly planning

  1. Because you’re only planning for 3 months, it’s often easier to do because the planning is for a shorter time.
  2. If you no longer want to do something or if something is not working, you can change your goals and planning for the next quarter. Yes, you can do this for annual planning but we often don’t. The mere fact that the planning is only for 3 months changes your mindset about sticking to something you’re not enjoying.
  3. Useful in these pandemic times where things change quickly (lockdown levels) and where we might need a change.

My quarterly planning process

Last year, I just wrote down 19 – 20 things willy-nilly the first time I did my quarterly planning, but the next two times, I wrote down goals in the main 7 areas of my life.

The more structured approach worked well for me so that is how I will continue to do things this year. Do the same if you like a bit of structure or just go wild and write down some things. I do suggest at least having one or two goals in each of the work, home and personal/ relationships category.

I make a mindmap on a page in my bullet journal, put branches for the various areas – family, friends, health and fitness, house/ finances, work (day job) and OrganisingQueen (night job – ha!) and play/ fun (my word of the year). Any of my planning (even for this blog post!) starts with a mindmap.

Hint – I like a branch for my word of the year so that I put concrete goals to make my word alive for me.

Do you think you’ll give quarterly planning a try? What are your categories?

PS I talked more about quarterly and seasonal goals here.

{mindset} Let’s talk about Five Nice Things, or even just one

I’m probably the last person ever to have a gratitude practice. Even the phrase “gratitude practice” sounds twee to me. I’m a grateful person – very much so – but I’m just not the type to write out a gratitude list every evening.

I saw on A Cup of Jo (do you read her blog?) that someone called it “five nice things” and the more casual name feels exactly right for me.

Today’s nice things are: a lovely rainy day, I got to take a walk in my garden and play with my camera, I made lunch for the kids (cheese quesadilla and an apple cut in 4) and they loved it, Dion bought us sushi and I had a good session of writing.

You don’t have to write down 5 things every day; make it feel right for you.

Even if you just notice kind things around you and little moments of delight, and are thankful for them, you’re on the right track.

I went to gym the other night. Those who have booked for classes are allowed to bypass the queue to get into the gym but there was such a long queue outside that I had a moment where I thought someone’s going to say something (gym people are very serious people!) if I jump the queue. Well, a staff member with a clipboard appeared as if by magic, checked my name on the list and told me to go straight in (“straight through the turnstiles”, she instructed). I was so grateful!

One more – I’d planned to run three errands during lunch one day in two opposite directions. Someone was coming out to give me a quote so I had to be back at the house in 30 minutes. I knew I couldn’t do both directions so I opted to do just the one. Well, lo and behold, the one store had what I needed (they hadn’t had it a few days earlier) at a better price so I didn’t need to run errand 3. I was delighted! I love crossing things off a list 😊 Small, nice things that make me happy.

Will you join me and notice a few nice things every day?

When you start noticing and being thankful for lovely things, the strangest thing happens – even more lovely things happen to you.

I made a printable for you – the five nice things list – it’s undated and you can start using it today. You haven’t “failed” if you forget a day but it does help to print it out and keep it visible. When it’s full, print another page and keep going. And a reminder to sign up for my newsletter here – thank you for helping me grow my list.

{Four Tendencies} How two upholders broke the rules and what this means for you

It’s no secret that I’m an upholder. What many people don’t know except the 200 that have been through the Four Tendencies workshops with me is that Dion is also an upholder.

He leans toward obliger and I lean toward questioner.

This generally means we understand each other well but there are still some points of contention as he will sometimes meet outer expectations over inner and I, of course, meet inner expectations first.

Our kids had one week’s holiday from school. I tried to book a beach holiday for this particular week and the agency we use told me that ALL the holiday units were booked. All of them.

That started me thinking. Our kids are at school only 3 times a week so could we not go on holiday the week schools went back instead? That’s what ended up happening after I convinced Dion that 1) we all needed a holiday 2) the kids are bright and will catch up and 3) low season rates.

We booked flights and accommodation and told nobody about our plans. Honestly, I was scared of having to explain why we were breaking the rules.

When I told a friend that I was planning to ask the teachers for the homework, she told me that I was crazy. “When you’re breaking the rules, you don’t ask for permission; you just do it”. She’s a questioner.

In the end, I just felt better doing things my way so I wrote emails to each class teacher and to the school, not asking for permission but stating the facts and sending an assurance that we would ensure the kids caught up on all their work.

That whole day I was twitchy inside (gosh, being an upholder is hard work!) until the kids came home. Both teachers replied and said a version of, “no problem; we’ve sent some work home”. 

And so we went on holiday, the kids did some homework (Kendra did a total of probably two hours over the week while Connor came home and did everything required that very day) and went back to school as if they’d been there all along.

Are you shocked? I would be. If you’d told me a year ago that I would take my kids out of school to go on holiday, I would never have believed you. And yet, this is one of the best decisions of the year.

I want to point out a few things about the Tendencies:

  1. It’s very useful to know why you behave the way you do (pandemic stress and the realisation that breaking a rule safely now and again is okay)
  2. It’s important to manage any stress/ anxiety in a way that works for your Tendency (writing to the teachers, ensuring the kids did their homework)
  3. I could absolutely not do this kind of thing regularly (this is year 6 of their schooling and the first time they have missed even one day of school) – upholders can seem rigid and inflexible as a result. This is true and absolutely fine with me 😉
  4. I asked the kids several times if they were worried about being away from school and missing work, and both my Questioner and Rebel said the same thing, “definitely not, Mummy. We’re on holiday!” My little rebel even said, “just relax, it’s all fine” 😉

I no longer offer Four Tendencies workshops but I do offer 1:1 Four Tendencies coaching which I’m starting to love even more. Read more about the Four Tendencies framework and how it will benefit you here. I have a special handbook to help you prepare beforehand, which means we then use your actual coaching time to talk and work through your particular challenges and goals. The ideal Four Tendencies private coaching session is 75 minutes long for $75, but if you have a smaller budget, I go right down to $50 for 50 minutes. Email me to book your place.

If you feel twitchy inside about anything (pandemic, kids going back to school, you going back to work, any relationship issues, etc.), consider these questions:

  1. what is my tendency? take the quiz here
  2. why do I feel this way as an upholder/ obliger/ questioner/ rebel?
  3. with my tendency in mind, what can I do to ease my level of stress/ anxiety?
  4. (if it’s a repeating event), what will I do differently next time so I have a better result?

{goals} my word of the year for 2021 – play

At the risk of stating the extreme obvious, 2020 was not an easy year for many of us.

As I was contemplating a word for 2021, nothing came to mind. Literally nothing.

I got busy tidying, decluttering and sorting papers as I do at the end of every year, and I found a printable from a course I did – one of those word cloud things.

A word jumped out at me – PLAYFUL.

And immediately I knew my word of the year was PLAY.

I’m not a naturally playful person and I feel that this word will help me not only have fun again but also be more playful in spirit. I considered having fun as my word again but I like to choose new words every year, at least for now.

Why play?

  • I love that it’s a verb which means I need to take action to make it happen.
  • I want to do some fun projects – I’ve already identified Superhero Photo, a course I did 9 years ago. I found all the emails the other day and they brought me such joy that I can’t wait to play along again. I’m an upholder so I will happily and successfully complete a project like this all on my own. And bonus – I get to play with my big camera again.
  • I also noticed that when I participate in Instagram challenges purely focussed on creativity and the actual photos instead of what the grid is supposed to look like or not, and your engagement levels, etc. (none of which I pay attention to but that inner critic is always reminding me of the shoulds), I’m so happy. I take pleasure in posting a picture of the day. If it ties in remotely to what’s happening in my life, I might write a sentence or two otherwise, just posting is so freeing.
  • I want to design and write a new workshop on personalities which definitely feels like play to me.
  • I’d also like everything to feel more like play than work – so to infuse a sense of play into things. How can I make this more playful? more fun? E.g. reading never feels like work but I do sometimes think, “hmm, I need to read a few more non-fiction books” and this year, I want everything to feel more playful.

So how am I going to keep this top of mind?

I make a folder on my computer every year called Marcia’s favourites. A few weeks ago I spent a few hours while listening to a book scrolling through about 5 years of my favourite photos. Some are favourites because the landscape or scenery is breathtaking. But many are favourites because of everyday delights, like the way the light reflected off something, or a beautiful flower or item found in an unexpected place, etc.

I then copied the photos that felt playful to me into a new folder called play, and I’ve made a collage which I printed and put in front of me on the wall in front of my desk to remind me daily of my word.

In previous years, I have had jewellery made like a ring or a necklace. Some of these items have been passed on, like the TRUST necklace that I passed onto a friend going through a divorce. I might still do this because I love wearing a reminder and it prompts conversation which is always nice.

I also recommend making an image with your word and saving it as your lock screen on your phone so you see it hundreds of times every day.

What is your word for 2021? How will you remind yourself of your word to keep it top of mind?

Can you believe this is year 13 of choosing a word?! Here is a full list of all my words over the years:

  • 2009 – simplify
  • 2010 – consolidate
  • 2011 – courage
  • 2012 – create
  • 2013 – trust
  • 2014 – shine
  • 2015 – enough
  • 2016 – joy
  • 2017 – give
  • 2018 – fun
  • 2019 – bold
  • 2020 – light
  • 2021 – play

{mindset} Back to working at the office

This post was first published on 18 November 2020 but I forgot to tell anyone that it was here so I’m republishing. South Africa has been moved back down to level 3 from 28 Dec 2020 as our Covid-19 numbers worsened dramatically with the second wave.

In South Africa we’re now on level 1 (we have been for a while) and some companies who were working from home are now returning to the office.

Mine is one of them. We are back two days a week which seems like a lovely easy way to return to the before way of life.

However, I’ve been amazed at how many decisions I have to make on the days I work at the office or in preparation for working at the office. Nothing is straightforward as it was before – I take my own water bottle, don’t drink tea or coffee there, and I take all my own food.

We are hotdesking so I also take my own sanitiser for my desk because, let’s face it, I never trust other people to clean things properly.

In an effort to minimise the number of things I have to carry around and therefore sanitise, I no longer use a separate laptop bag. I had a laptop replaced in July and the new one is smaller so I use a laptop sleeve, a pencil bag for my mouse, headphones and charger, and this all fits in my handbag. I therefore carry my handbag and another tote with lunch bag, water bottle and sanitiser. And, of course, a comfortable mask.

Pros of working at the office

  1. Aircon in summer
  2. I listen to an audiobook there and back (that’s about 3 hours of listening every week)
  3. My car gets a good run (I had the battery run flat about 6 times during lockdown because I live too close to where I shop and they told me 5 km of driving every week is not enough to keep a battery going)
  4. There is a lovely clear boundary for the end of my workday as we have to be out of the building by 5pm.

Cons of working at the office

  1. Anxiety about anyone coming near me (see trust issues above! Also, I’m an upholder and so many people don’t follow the rules)
  2. Much lower productivity at the office (this was never perfect pre-Covid but it’s exacerbated with all the handwashing, mask-wearing, and so on)

Settling into a good work from office routine was one of my goals for November because we also moved offices, so there are slightly new routes to figure out as well as all the Covid-19 safety protocols to navigate.

Are you back in the office yet? Have you found your groove? How long did it take you to settle in?

If you’re feeling ambivalent about going to work at the office, maybe make a pros and cons list or definitely save some treats just for the office (special coffees, biscuits, etc.)

{time} How to apply the one-minute rule

It’s so interesting to see time management principles start to “click” for my 11-year-old twins. Of course, I’ve been talking like this for years and years, but as with all children, they employ the principle of selective hearing, so they choose what they want to hear.

One of the principles I’ve been using and talking about a lot during the (now) nearly 8 months of lockdown is the one-minute rule.

It’s quite simple – if something will take you a minute or less time, do it there and then instead of holding it over til later.

In the kitchen…pack things away, spray down and wipe the counter tops, unpack groceries immediately instead of coming back to it later

When you get home from school, unpack your bag and put your lunchbox and water bottle in the kitchen when you arrive.

If you have to sign something for school or respond to an RSVP, if it’s something you can quickly answer, do it there and then in one minute instead of having to look for the email/ text/ whatsapp later, and then respond. Here’s the one-minute rule for emails at work.

When you go upstairs with something, walk 5 steps further to put it away in your bedroom instead of dumping it in the pyjama lounge. This one ties in nicely with “don’t put it down; put it away“.

You might wonder if all these minutes adding up could not be done at another time. Of course they could assuming your motivation levels are high.

That’s the trick. Usually when the task first occurs to us, we are already in motion and it will be no trouble at all to do one extra minute. When we postpone the action, our motivation and energy levels may very well have flagged. This is definitely the case for one of my twins who needs a reminder that one minute now is like five minutes later.

Where are you currently using the one-minute rule in your life?

{goals} It’s time to reflect and reset for 2021

In November 2018 I tried a new thing. I wanted to create a habit of writing every day and I thought I’d kick off my end-of-year reflections as part of that writing project. It worked really, really well. In just 15 minutes a day, I did my entire reflection of the year.

The best part of it all was that it was well before my usual time for reflection, the week after Christmas. This meant that I was calm, peaceful and in the right frame of mind to enjoy my holidays and look forward to the new year.

I loved that so much I repeated it last year with similar success.

I’m doing the same thing this year with my 2020 reflection. I’m also offering a bunch of people the same process via 1:1 coaching sessions and I would love you to join me for one of those sessions.

During our time together, we’re going to reflect on the year that’s (nearly) passed, get real about our season of life, explore our values and core desired feelings, and then when we’re connected to our purpose, we’re going to set some very loose goals for the next 3 months. I’m also going to teach you exactly what to do when you face obstacles (like Covid did with all of us this year) and how to still set yourself up for success.

Here are the details:

  • $60/ R800 for a 75-minute session
  • Decide if you prefer a weekday or weekend session and email me.
  • I’ll send you all available session times for a week or two, a Paypal invoice, Gmail invitation and the handbook.
  • You’ll send me your prep at least a day beforehand (so I can prepare) and we’ll meet to discuss and have an amazing session.

If you start your reflection early, you can relax and enjoy your Christmas/ New Year celebrations, knowing that you’re already set for 2021. This is the part I’m most looking forward to – the having it done and being able to relax and enjoy the festive season, no matter what that looks like.

My goal for this time together is that each person leaves our session with gratitude, clarity and hope for the year ahead.

Email me and I’ll book your place.

PS don’t forget to book your 75-minute 1:1 coaching session with me for only $60. I’ll send you a handbook, give you some prep to complete beforehand and we’ll talk through each of the sessions as they apply during your session.

{organise} Quiet your house and your life

Many of you know that one of my teeny-tiny habits is that I tidy or clean something in the kitchen while I wait for the kettle to boil. You can do a lot in 2 – 3 three-minute stints daily.

One day I looked up at the mugs and things felt too busy. I then did what The Nester recommends and I quieted the space by removing all the mugs from the shelves. I had rainbow mugs up here for much of the year because they made me happy. I then swopped out the bright colours for the more muted tones above. They still spark joy but they spark quieter joy.

You know how this goes – when you start one thing, you start thinking about the rest of your life. I felt so calm with the mug shelf that I noticed my calendar felt too full.

It’s understandable that things have started to feel a lot busier for me due to the opening up from the intense lockdown to our current level 1 lockdown in South Africa.

I started going back to Spanish in September and went back to the gym last week. We’ve also been told that we’ll be required to come work at the office twice a week from November. From a schedule with no leaving the house to leaving five times a week is a big change.

It all feels a bit sudden while at the same time getting out is also welcome. I realised that I need to close all my open loops so that I don’t enter this busy season collapsing every night when I get back home from overwhelm. This is why I wrote this post talking about first doing something about your physical space and then considering what’s hampering your mental space too.

Which of your physical spaces do you need to quiet? And your mental space?

{goals} 2020: let’s talk about the last quarter

This year’s felt like the newborn stage for me – in parts it’s flown and yet I have many times had to take it day by day to stay sane.

I see many sentiments like “let this year just end” and “can we please just get on with next year?”, and I get that. We all want to escape a year absolutely none of us expected and move on with our lives.

A lot of us are also exhausted from working too hard, or worrying too much, or having too many bills and not enough money, or a combination of all of the above.

So I think it’s time that I had a reframe. I’d love if you’d join me too. I’ll share one thought for each question to give you an idea. Write out the prompts in longhand, use the notes app in your phone or maybe talk it through with a friend.

  1. What do I want for this last quarter of the year?

I want to continue with my reading streak (I reached my goal on the weekend), I want to eat better again so I can get to a certain number (nowhere near my actual physical goal, just a mental goal) and I want to start slowly integrating back into the “new normal” of getting out and about.

2. Is there anything I want to start doing?

I had these two things on my original 20 in 2020 list and I can do them so I should. I have started just one session of Emily P Freeman’s Discern and Decide course (it was a pre-order bonus when her book, The Next Right Thing, released last year) and I want to finish that. I also want to read The Path Between Us, an enneagram book on relationships by Suzanne Stabile, that I also bought last year.

3. How do I want to feel at the end of the year?

Like I survived this period with grace, determination and my sanity intact. If my relationships are as good as they were or better, I’ll consider that a bonus.

4. Are there any projects I’ve started that I can finish well?

Yes, I want to run two sessions of a new workshop I’m yet to name but will help us all end this year well (whatever well looks like for you) and prepare for next year. It’s going to be the equivalent of a large part of my end-of-the-year coaching sessions but so much cheaper.

5. Is there anything I need to finalise or end for my own emotional and mental comfort?

Well, had I written this blog last week, I’d have talked about ballet. I did it though – I’ve been dithering and yet I knew I was not comfortable going back anytime soon (in fact this revelation came to me while doing session 1 of Discern and Decide). So I wrote the owner an email last week and formally resigned. I can always go back but at least she’s not left wondering about me.

Bonus – if it feels right for you and you want to make a list of 3 for the next three months, go ahead. I wrote more about quarterly goals here.

And remember, it can be as small as drinking 2 L of water a day or reading for just 20 minutes a day. It doesn’t have to be “write a book” 🙂

Who of you are joining me for the workshop on 21 November? Book your place now. It’ll be $29/ R450 but there’s be a discount for the early birds until 7 November!

If you prefer to work through these things privately in a 1:1 session, I’m offering the same content in a 75-minute coaching session for just $50. This will be for a limited time only until mid-December.

PS this is post number 2000 on this blog! Wow! 😮

{goals} Monthly, weekly, daily goals – how they all fit together

I was looking through the blog’s archives for this post I’m about to write and honestly, I can’t even imagine why I haven’t written it yet!

SheilaJo, a recent participant on both of my workshops, asked me: how do you fit your monthly, weekly and daily goals all together?

Monthly goals

My monthly goals process is split up into three sections. I usually do all three sections over two evenings, the first evening being Goals Night and the second evening simply because I get carried away and it gets too late.

Here are the three sections:

  1. Monthly goals review – this is the big picture thinking about how the month went. Since I naturally want to dive into the detail, reflecting on the big questions first helps me to be a healthier version of myself.
  2. Tracking on my goals spreadsheet – I use roughly the same spreadsheet year after year (I think this is year 6) and I track the number of goals set and achieved, average sleep, steps, number of workouts, which friends I’ve seen, books I’ve read and their breakdown, etc. I also then check my Books Read Notebook and update anything I’ve missed. See this notebook in the 2019 or 2020 highlights on my bookstagram account.
  3. Setting goals for the month ahead – this is the fun part because the month stretches ahead, full of possibility 🙂 I set clear, actionable goals in the categories of Family, Fun, Finances, Fitness, Friends, Four Tendencies/ Five Love Languages.

Weekly goals

My weekly goals happen in two stages.

  • On a Thursday night, Beth and I set goals with one another for the week ahead. I write these goals down in the Priorities section on my weekly plan (picture below).
  • I incorporate some of those goals into my weekend to-do list. When I do my weekly planning on a Sunday for the week ahead, I will then schedule the other items that still need to get done, and write them down on the actual day in my diary. This would also be the point at which I’d check on details, like if a friend and I had a “to be confirmed” plan, that’s when I’d send a quick message to make sure we’re still meeting, etc.

Daily goals

I don’t really do daily goals but I do have the scheduled appointments like Zumba, friend dates, coaching appointments, etc.

Based on how full my diary looks, I then will plan to do the other bits and pieces around my scheduled tasks. For example, I might do some photo editing (no thinking needed) on a night I do Zumba, but I’d probably only schedule the newsletter for another night and do nothing else (it’s a thinking task and has multiple pieces to its completion).

And of course, my biggest tip is this – I never put too much on one day. Spread out your goals over the week so you don’t get overwhelmed. That’s why God made a week with 7 days.

In terms of time, I spend about two hours a month (but I should time myself next week) on my monthly goals, Beth and I chat for 30 minutes (but probably 10 of those minutes are actual weekly goalsetting), and then I spend 20 minutes on my weekly planning, and less than a minute a day looking at my daily list and updating here and there.

That’s 120 + 30 + 30 + 30 + 30 = 240 mins a month which is about 8 minutes a day, a highly profitable use of my time because it yields hours of non-wastage 🙂

Do you do monthly/ weekly/ daily goals planning? How much time do you spend?

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