Do you know how much sleep you need?

On a recent episode of the Best of Both Worlds podcast, Laura mentioned something about how her sleep is always around the 7 – 7.5 hour mark, on average.

I was slacking on my bedtime a few days last week but interestingly, when I checked my Fitbit stats, I realised I’m almost always around the 7.5 hour mark. And that it’s been that way for the last 2.5 years.

Yes, it takes discipline to actually go to bed because I’m a night owl and my natural tendency is to stay awake later because my brain is most awake then.

Yet, no matter how early I go to bed, I still fall asleep at roughly the same time unless I’m not well, and I wake after about 7.5 – 8 hours. I actually only set an alarm for two days every week. The rest of the time I wake around 7.

 

The trick for me is to stop doing other things to allow for reading time so that I can be sleeping by 11:30.

So my rule is – computer off by 10:30.

After the reading post published the other week, a reader asked why I need all my rules. The thing is I’m an upholder and discipline is my freedom. This might not resonate with any other type but other upholders will definitely understand.

I found I’d be getting to bed at least 30 minutes later when I didn’t enforce my computer rule because I forgot about tidying the desk, doing my bedtime routine, etc.

Do you know how much sleep you need? Do you get enough sleep? 

Most adults don’t get enough sleep and we’re all functioning (or not) at below-par levels of productivity and simply, life enjoyment.

Sleep helps our bodies to work better, helps us with weight loss when we’re trying to lose weight, helps us have clear, functioning minds and of course, helps us rest and recharge from day to day.

Gretchen Rubin has written and spoken on the podcast about bedtimes. She said something interesting in that once you set a bedtime (we now know mine is 11:30), if you ignore that bedtime, then you’re consciously choosing to do what you were doing instead of going to bed.

This week’s coaching challenge for you:

– What is your usual wake-up time?
– Work back at least 7 hours. That is the time you have to be asleep by.
– How long do you need before falling asleep? Subtract the amount of hours.
– Also subtract time for your bedtime routine – face, teeth, reading, etc.
– For the next week, set an alarm or reminder in your phone or computer that says “go to bed”.
– Keep track of your productivity the following day as you start getting enough sleep.

My little groceries experiment

Pictures taken before Easter, hence hot cross buns 🙂

I wrote last month about how I wanted to analyse our grocery spend as we hadn’t done this for at least four years.

Interestingly, my husband was far less concerned about the spend than I was and it turned out that his instincts were correct.

  1. We are well within what we budget for food which, I’m learning from these posts on the blog and on Instagram, is far below what many similar-sized families spend.
  2. We shop at Pick and Pay every week and about once every 2 – 3 weeks we do a Checkers run to top up on small fruits (for the kids’ lunchboxes) and buy chicken (I know, but there’s a certain chicken my local P&P doesn’t stock so we just go get that at Checkers).
  3. I still feel like we buy too many snacks (chips, nuts, chocolates, biltong) but as my husband reminded me, it’s really our only vice as we don’t drink alcohol or smoke or eat out a lot, and… we still keep well within the budget. Fair enough.
  4. Some things I found shocking from actually looking at the receipts is the price of cottage cheese (R30 a tub; 4 years ago R18,99), tissue refills (80 sheets for R15; 200 sheets for R22) and cereals (R40 a box!). A reminder to me that just because one option was better at one time doesn’t mean it’s still the better option – we will now be buying the full box of tissues.
  5. I used to shop the pantry and eat from the freezer in a fairly disciplined way but it slipped a bit over the years. Now I inventory the freezer before making my menu plan for the week and most meals are designed around using up bits of food so it won’t go to waste.  If you’re not intentional, you can keep buying without actually using the food already in your house.

I don’t purport to know your situation but if you’re looking for 3 quick takeaways, here you go:

Make a realistic menu plan. Don’t plan to cook 7 days if you’ve only cooked 3 meals a week for the last year. Maybe set a goal to cook those same 3 meals, but a double batch. And obviously don’t buy more food than you actually are going to cook. Maybe you’re being a fantasy cook?

Watch your food wastage. Be realistic about what you will, and not just intend, to use. I caught myself doing exactly this the other week when I thought about all the lovely winter veggies I wanted to buy. When I looked at the actual menu plan, we only needed two veggies and not four like I wanted to buy. I literally count the potatoes and buy exactly what we need (6 medium potatoes or 4 large potatoes). This goes without saying but shop with a list, on a full stomach.

Plan for easy nights. My goal is that we eat a cooked meal only 4 of the 7 nights. Fridays are eggs/ soup/ toasted sandwiches. One night is leftovers from everything before…. and the last night is usually beef burgers or fish fingers on a roll with lettuce/ tomato, and oven chips. Mondays are my longest days so that is always a freezer meal defrosted. When you only plan to buy what you realistically will cook and eat, you’ll automatically save money.

How has your grocery spending been in April? Is there a specific category (cleaning materials is usually a hot topic, or school lunches…) you’d like me to go into more detail on?

If you’d like individual help on managing your finances better, please contact me. Due to the personal nature of each person’s finances, I can’t hold a workshop where these things are discussed but I do individual or couples’ financial coaching.

In April I realised how I prefer to consume my books

Let’s get all the book stats out of the way because there’s something I want to discuss with you.

I had a good reading month in terms of number of books read, but only a few really good ones.

Books read in April

Books read: 10

Non-fiction/ fiction: 3/7

Physical/ Kindle/ Audible *: 4/4/2

*there’s a little story about the one Audible book

I listened to most of Chasing Slow on Audible but I really wasn’t enjoying it at all and I realized that the author might be coming across more whiny due to the narration. So I switched to the Kindle version (I bought the Kindle version on sale first and added $2,99 for the Audible narration) and I actually enjoyed the last 30% much more.

As at end April, I’d read 38 books for the year. My challenge is 80 books.

The little teashop of lost and found – Trisha Ashley

Now let’s talk about how I prefer to read my books.

I have a general rule where I read non-fiction Monday – Thursday, and then I read fiction Friday to Sunday. This is purely for practical purposes so that I actually get enough sleep for work. I have zero discipline when it comes to putting down a book so this is my Upholder way of making sure my life works for me.

So this month, I read two fiction books outside of my rules, in other words, during the week.

The reason is also very interesting to me – I didn’t have any non-fiction books that were calling to me on my physical bookshelf, and I didn’t feel like reading on the Kindle either. Remember one of the reasons I read a lot is that I always have a lot of good books to read. This is why I said in this Instagram post I probably need to declutter this bookshelf because if I don’t feel like reading them, perhaps they should go to someone else.

This is the story of a happy marriage – Ann Patchett

I then picked up fiction because I wanted to read those, but because I can only read a bit before bed every night, it took me probably 5- 6 days to finish a book I usually finish in 2 – 3 days.

And, here’s the thing, when I take that long to read a work of fiction, I just don’t feel like I can immerse myself fully in the story and fully enjoy it.

I don’t mind taking weeks to finish non-fiction because I like thinking through what I’m learning, but I want to dive into fiction and be done with it.

Isn’t that interesting?!

Does whether you read a book over a shorter time affect your enjoyment of that book? Do you have book rules for yourself? (I do realise this is a very “upholder” thing to do) 

So that’s what I learned this month:

  • I need to stick to my rules for the week
  • I need to declutter that bookshelf and have compelling non-fiction (it’s one of my 18 in 2018 goals actually)
  • I need to dive into fiction first thing on a Friday night to be sure I finish by Sunday afternoon 🙂

Did you learn anything new about your reading life this month?

5 things I learned in April

Yes, this post is late, but it’s always still worthwhile to reflect back on the month.

  • My new practice of taking some time on a Friday afternoon to write a ta-da list for the week ending and a goals for the next week is seriously changing my life. I feel accomplished and like I can completely shut off my mind from work until Monday morning knowing that I start focussed on Monday morning again.
  • It is not a coincidence that my most productive week in months was one where I worked from home 3 days. Clearly the office is good for my social life but not so good to be productive.

Oh right, this is the laptop that was stolen. My notebook and diary were also in my laptop bag 🙁

  • I learned that I’ve been out of the loop with grocery shopping so long that I no longer know what things actually cost but we have some good habits. A whole post coming up on the grocery spend insights next week 🙂
  • God is ever faithful. There was an intruder in the house this month and while 5 small items were stolen (the biggest being my work laptop), we were all protected and kept entirely safe. It’s still work to retrain your brain to live fearlessly though. The week after this happened I didn’t post anything – too busy dealing with life!

I consciously took this photo of beautiful trees against the sky outside the police station to remind myself that God is still a good God.

  • On this note, it is a huge pain dealing with insurance companies, so much so that my goal this month is to sort this stuff out as quickly as possible so I can live free again.

and a bonus…

I also learned that our holiday was planned (months ago) for exactly the right time. We needed to get away as a family and enjoy being together in an absolutely gorgeous part of the country.

How was your April? What did you learn?

Why you should have an essentials-only budget

  Now and again, I like to do a little financial experiment, which I call an essentials-only budget.

Usually I have a zero-based budget which means that every R is accounted for, whether to an actual expense like groceries or to a savings account.

Because of this zero-based budget, there is never any money left over at the end of the month and, in fact, I also have a little quirk where if there is some spending money left, I transfer it out of my account to my savings account so that there’s no “old money” left before payday.

Now let’s talk about an essentials-only budget.

If, for some reason, you or your spouse/ partner lost your job, your budget would look very different. Some expenses would fall away and you’d get back to basics, or essentials.

This is the essentials-only budget.

When I took a sabbatical from work four years ago, I worked off my EO budget. I stopped adding to my savings account because I was drawing down from my savings instead. I wasn’t tithing because I had no income except for a tiny bit from my online courses and interest on my savings accounts.

Our petrol usage reduced, groceries stayed about the same but because I had a closer eye on things, we weren’t buying a lot of junk, and I also reduced my personal care & clothes spending. The house and both cars were paid off, but we still had expenses like gym, insurance, school fees, and so on.

In short, my essentials budget ended up being about 35% of my actual budget.

So why would you want to do a budget like this while you’re employed?

  • It gives you a clear and accurate idea of what you actually need to bring in to live on
  • It also shows you how much you could do without
  • It gives you peace of mind – I’ve done this exercise every couple of years for about 10 years, and each time the amount is far less than I anticipate
  • If you’re planning an emergency fund (I highly recommend it, and it’s the reason I took the sabbatical in the first place because I had money saved), you have an actual amount of savings to work towards. The financial experts recommend 3 – 6 months; I recommend about 2 months longer than a recruitment agent thinks it would take for you to be placed 🙂

I recently did my essentials-only budget and this time, it’s 51% of my actual budget. That’s mostly due to the new house!

It’s still a very useful exercise to do, if nothing else but to set your mind at ease.

Over to you.

Do you budget? Do you do zero-based budgeting? Have you ever done an essentials-only budget?

Where are your yellow flags showing up?

One Sunday morning a few years ago I was enjoying a mug of tea while reading blogs.

I happened upon a friend’s blog where she mentioned her hard drive crashed and she lost everything. Fortunately for her, her husband backs up weekly.

Right there and then (I didn’t even finish reading her post!), I got up, fetched my external hard drive and backed up my computer.

You see, my computer had been running a bit slow and that, for me, is a yellow flag.

The next thing that would happen is that programmes would stop responding and one day I’d find a blue screen or something similarly scary.

I’d be kicking myself then because when my computer completely stops working, that’s my red flag.

We all have yellow flags in our lives.

They’re usually about much bigger things than just a computer (although that’s big in my life – the thought of losing all my lovely photos makes me feel physically sick).

Things like our health, our relationships, our work, our finances.

Let’s talk about health.

Yellow flags are constant feelings of being stressed, headaches, pain, anxiety, etc.

They are indicators that we need to deal with something in our lives.

I was recently in a job that was very stressful for me. I knew I was feeling stress but a yellow flag for me was when my doctor picked up something in my bloodwork indicating the stress.

I tried to manage the stress as best as I could but when nothing had changed for me physiologically 6 months later, I knew I had to make a drastic change, so I left.

As a friend said to me, “you can always get another job – you’re smart and talented – but you can’t always get your health back”. Too true.

If you ignore these yellow flags, they could lead to a red flag where you’re forced to stop and take note of things, like a serious disease, an operation, and so on.

So have a think.

If you’re honest with yourself, are there any yellow flags in your life you need to deal with?

1. Constant feelings of stress and overwhelm?
2. An odd noise in your car
3. A relationship that needs tending
4. Finances that need to be looked at
5. Boundaries that need to be discussed

Can you identify any yellow flags in your life? How can you take a step or two to deal with it?

The best book I read in March that’s still freaking me out

From Goodreads, in reverse order

March was a good reading month for me.

I finished reading 9 books, although my children told me that The Break by Marian Keyes was so long, it should count as two books 🙂

The breakdown was 6 fiction and 3 non-fiction.

My physical/ kindle/ audio ratio was 2/5/2.

But now, let me tell you about the best book I read last month.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova was a book club read, and in fact, it was on our list from last year, and I kept moving it forward on our list. I’m so, so glad we kept this book on because I loved it.

My standard practice is to read the book club read on the weekend before book club. I usually start on Friday night, and read Saturday and Sunday.

This time I knew it was difficult subject matter so I kept postponing my reading (!). I was cleaning, organizing, faffing, doing everything else possible but finally on Saturday night, I buckled down and started reading because I knew I needed to get on with it.

And I couldn’t put it down. It was utterly compelling, so authentic and real and just beautiful writing.

The reason I’m still freaking out about it? Because what do you have if you don’t have your mind… or words to communicate? Oh man!

I loved the narrative style because we could see the progression of her disease in her writing – it was all done so well.

I want to encourage everyone to read this book if you haven’t yet. Even if you’ve watched the movie (which I will now do!)  with my favourite Alec Baldwin (!) and Julianne Moore, do read the book. The writing is just beautiful. It is such a heartwarming story.

I also highly recommend this for a book club read. We had such a fantastic discussion – I loved it!

I actually gave it 4.5* because of how I didn’t really want to read it and the reading was hard in parts, but since Goodreads makes you have whole numbers, 5 it is, since it was much better than “just a 4”.

One of my favourite parts of book club is how we all rigorously debate our ratings.

This photo was taken on the Sunday night, when I was well hooked!

Have you read this book? What did you think?

What was the best book you read in March?

PS here is my book club post on Instagram

March recap and in-progress projects

Wow, this month was something else.

I haven’t been as overwhelmed with work in a long, long time as I have been this month.

Picture this – working on a Friday and telling yourself, I’m now up to date with last Monday’s work (almost two weeks behind). Basically that kind of thing times ten. As you know, I’m an ESTJ, enneagram 1, and an upholder, so you now know this being behind business doesn’t sit well with me at all.

I’m not out of the woodwork yet – who knows when that will happen? – but I set myself 5 mini work goals and I achieved those, so I’m feeling satisfied with some progress at least.

I’m planning to do exactly the same every month so that even though things are crazy, I can still feel somewhat accomplished. I’m also sleeping well and exercising to take care of my body, and of course, doing all my tricks.

exhausted and depleted!

On the whole, if I look at my entire life, not just work, it was still a good month, but it didn’t feel that way, largely because we spend so much time at work.

There were many life-giving things though – books read (more on this next week), house projects, connections with friends and family, and lots of fun. And at the risk of being superficial, I got my hair done and coloured this month, so that is awesome, if expensive!

Have you downloaded the monthly review sheet from my site yet? It has 6 questions and an “on a scale of 1 – 10, this month was a ____” to help you review your month.

You can write one word answers or a whole paragraph – it’s completely up to you.

You don’t even have to use the printable if you want; simply copy the questions into your bullet journal.

I honestly find it to be one of the most helpful tools I’ve ever created, and I want you to enjoy using it too. I’m focusing on a different question each month in these blog posts although I do the full review privately.

One of the questions on the printable is Do I have any in-progress projects?

This month my in-progress projects are:

  1. tons of work things (there is literally not one client who is completely up to date with everything). To that end, my mantra is “I let go of the need to be completely up to date, and to process all client requests according to my self-imposed, currently hugely unrealistic deadlines”)
  2. insurance claim for a leak in my house due to heavy storms a week ago
  3. getting us all into a new nanny schedule (we’ve reduced her hours)
  4. sell table, etc.
  5. weeding in garden!

I am thrilled that all the upstairs painting is done. The rooms spark joy every time I walk into them. This feeling is what I need to focus on when I think of the mess of painting!

What are your in-progress projects? House? Life? Personal?

Quarterly recap of my word of the year – FUN

these flowers look so fun to me

Since we’ve now finished three months of the year, I thought it would be fun (no pun intended!) to do a little recap of my word of the year.

Here’s where I wrote about why I chose the word “fun”.

Some fun things that have happened so far this year:

  • I participated in Gentle January on Instagram. This was such a great ease into the year after all the rah rah rah on the internet in December.
  • We went on a family holiday to the Drakensberg.
  • We had three book club meets that were SUPER fun. Interestingly, two of the books were not favourites read but the discussion around them and hearing from intelligent, funny women was what made it so much fun.
  • I loved listening to the audible version of The Happiness Project. So much fun!
  • I’m listening to more of the That Sounds Fun podcast. I particularly enjoyed her January rhythms series.

  • I participated in a Zumbathon a few weekends ago and I tried a new dance class which was great, but doesn’t work for my schedule. I would only be able to go to 20 minutes before I’d have to leave. Maybe I should just go for the 20 mins?
  • We’ve been watching The Amazing Race as a family every Wednesday for the last 4 weeks. This is huge, mainly for me, because I don’t watch any TV. None. As my husband jokes, I watch one movie a year and if I really break loose, two!
  • I’ve read 27 books thus far and should finish on about 29/ 30 as there’s a week of March left.
  • I got the painting done! That has been a lot of fun for me. I love taking risks in the house. Thank you, Nester.
  • And last but not least, I’ve had 19 socials and seen 34 friends in the 3 months (book club is the reason for the large second number).

What was your word for the year? How has that worked out for you this quarter?

these nests also look whimsical and fun to me

What went well in February?

Hello friends

I want to tell you something kind-of interesting.

lots of reading

 

I have 6 questions on my monthly review sheet and my intention is to use a different question as an example every month to show you how I use them.

Last month I answered the question “what energised me this month?” and this month I scheduled in just the blog draft title “what went well this month”?

Do you know? I haven’t had the best month. In fact, it’s been one of the more terrible ones in a long, long time.

Probably why I haven’t really felt like writing this post about what went well, because not much did.

Still, let’s see. There’s a reason I need to focus on what went well, so let’s do it 🙂

magnificent walk

What went well this month?

  1. I had 8 friend dates. That’s a lot, even for me, because two from January got pushed back. That was truly the highlight of my month.
  2. We had a wonderful book club last week – great discussion, lovely people, challenging and energizing.
  3. I took two wonderful walks (the goal was four) but at least they were picturesque and gorgeous!
  4. I walked more than 5000 steps 79% of the month.
  5. I read 8 books. I will tell you more about this next week because there were some lessons in there for me, and perhaps for you too?

That’s it.

Book club!

Of course I could probably make a list of 10 things that did not go well, and I have acknowledged some of the more important ones in my bullet journal, but I’m very glad to see a clean slate today now that it’s a new month.

Tell me what went well for you this month.

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