How I read 120 books last year

At our last book club meeting of the year, I mentioned that I’d probably reach about 120 books and the question came:

How on earth do you manage to read so many books?

It’s not rocket science but I thought I’d put it here just to remind myself too.

I set a goal (of 72) for the year

I’m a big goal setter and I honestly believe that without goals life is a lot less exciting 🙂

My reading goal means I need to read 6 books a month, that’s one every week but another two built in somewhere else. Just knowing that I have to get through a book a week means that I have a focus.

Have a good list of books to read

I admit, I took this one too far. At one point I had about 40-odd fiction and 20-odd non-fiction waiting for me.

But… you read a lot when you have a lot to read. If you have only 3 books you want to read, you’re going to drag out those 3 books.

It’s Pareto Principle in action – work expands to fill the time available for it.

I actually proved this in December – I could have read more than 8 but I knew I only needed to get to 8, so I slowed down when I got to 6 books for the month, and spaced out those last 2.

Use Audible or Overdrive for audio books

If you haven’t yet listened to an audible book, leave a note in the comments and I’ll send you my favourite one of all time 🙂

I easily get through one audible book a month, some months two. Truth be told I could get through about 4 audible books if I didn’t listen to as many podcasts as I do. One of my goals is to listen to just one more audible book every month.

For those that say they have a short commute, I have a 6-minute commute to my gym and my dance class, and I use those short distances to listen to essay-type books like Present over Perfect.

Use the library

You are much more likely to try books if there’s a low risk involved, in other words, you don’t have to pay for them. There are some books I dithered over, but when I saw they were available at the library, I had no hesitation in trying them. Granted, I did try books that weren’t for me, but I also found about 3 new-to-me authors, all at the library.

I use my physical library (I’ve been going to this one for 16 years; the librarians knew me waddling in while pregnant, and now they know my kids too) and last year I discovered Overdrive. Overdrive alone helped me read 23 of my 120 books. 

Use all those 5 and 10-minute blocks of time

If D and the kids are upstairs doing bedtime reading and I’m cleaning the kitchen/ packing my lunch, I listen to a book.

If I’m waiting in a queue or at the dentist, I pull out my phone, and read on the Kindle app. Non-fiction works best for these tiny blocks of time for me.

You know that if we all stopped scrolling Facebook or Instagram, we’d instantly be reading a book a week. Just saying.

Read books you really, really want to read

I abandoned 5 books in 2017. This is huge for me 🙂

However, you can read a book you really want to read in half the time of struggling to read something. This is different from books that are a hard read because they’re challenging your thinking (which is good for you!) vs books that are awful that you’re forcing yourself to read.

Also, in this same vein, don’t feel bad about the type of books you read. Granted, romance is not my thing, but if you want to read romance novels and nothing else, you go ahead 🙂

If you’re an Upholder, put “read” on your daily and weekly to-do lists

I started reading dramatically more books when I started adding a simple item – read a book – to my weekend to-do list. It became a fun task for me and was easy to then sit down and relax in the middle of the day, even while there was work to be done.

Surround yourself with readers

I haven’t ever had a problem reading a lot but I know for a lot of the ladies in the book club, just all of us talking about books and our Whatsapp group has pushed/ prodded/ encouraged all of them to read more.

Listen to readerly podcasts like What Should I read Next? and sign up to Modern Mrs Darcy’s blog where they discuss bookish things – it’s sure to keep your reading list full.

Bonus – I asked my husband if he had any tips for my readers and he rattled off 5 tips so quickly before the kids interrupted us that I think I need to do another blog post, just with his tips 🙂

(he is also an upholder but he leans to obliger so it may be more interesting to some of you :))

Now, did you reach your reading goal for 2017?

What did you do that made it happen?

Ask yourself these questions before you set your goals

I realise that many of you have already set goals, some have no intention of setting goals and still others think it’s already too late.

It’s never too late to start, and it’s definitely never too late to review your goals and tweak them to fit you perfectly.

Whenever I sit down and start working on my goals for the year (or period ahead), I follow this exact same process.

Before I even think about what I want to accomplish, I ask myself 5 questions that I’d like you to ask yourself too:

  1. What is my theme or word for the year?

Do you want more order, creativity, security, peace, stability, etc. in your life? I like to start with a one-word theme and build my goals around that word. For example, one year my word was simplify; the next year it was consolidate. This year my word is fun. See? 

  1. What are the top 3 – 5 goals you want to accomplish?

I’ve coached people on goal-setting for more than 20 years and there are some things people always come up with: go on a marriage retreat, start my own business, get pregnant, find a new job, grow spiritually, and of course, the two things on almost everyone’s people’s lists: lose weight and get organised.

 

  1. Are your top 3 – 5 goals aligned with your theme?

Sometimes you’ll feel uneasy on the inside when you’re trying to accomplish goals for the wrong reasons, or just at the wrong time of your life. Listen to your intuition so that your goals align with your theme and life stage.

When my twins were babies, I started signing up for business growth teleseminars but without any real excitement inside until I realised that my newborn babies were my primary focus for the next year and that’s why I didn’t really care that much about business growth.

If you have a big goal in your work life, perhaps training for Comrades is not the best thing to do too. If you have a big family goal, that’s also going to take a lot of time so consider that goal in the grand scheme of your life. 

  1. How will you get there?

Having a strong, clear vision is a big, important first step to your goals. When I coach on goals, I always ask the person to first think about what their big, juicy vision is. Tip – everything is a big, juicy goal when it’s the right goal for you.

Then we start working on the how. And remember, your big, juicy vision is not the same as mine. Once a friend told me that their big, juicy vision was just to survive a month with their sanity intact.

So how will you get there? Find someone who has the gift of being able to distill a vision into tangible action steps. This way you’ll get to your goal quickly and with no wasted effort.

Part of my giftings and skills is being able to craft clear action steps for people. Contact me and let’s set up your one-hour goals session.

  1. Who or what is in your support network?

I can never over-emphasise the importance of having someone in your corner, cheering you on to your goals.

Do you have a friend, pastor, mentor, colleague, coach, etc. who can do that for you? Notice I didn’t say family member because I’ve found over the years that family members are a little too close to the action and often can’t be objective in helping and guiding you.

Of course you can do it on your own… if you’re willing to take a longer time and you have the patience to make lots more mistakes along the way. Or if you’re an upholder on Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies framework.

Now that you’ve read the 5 questions, I have one last challenge for you:

Write out your goals and stick them up somewhere!

Yay – it’s annual review time!

The week between Christmas and New Year is, hands down, my favourite time of the year.

That’s because it’s the time I prepare my diary for the next year but, most of all, it’s because I finalise my year-end review and goal-setting for the next year.

Of course, you can do an annual review whenever you feel like it.

I do a review when it’s my birthday in August, and at the end of the year. The birthday one is more about my feelings and other such introspective things, while the end-of-the-year one is about all the other areas of my life.

A colleague of mine paid me the biggest compliment recently (she doesn’t even know it!) when she told me that of everyone she knows, I’m the only one she’s ever met who is this intentional about my goals.

It’s because I firmly believe that if you drift through life, there will be tons of things left undone simply because of lack of intention.

I don’t want that to be me.

I want to hear, “well done, good and faithful servant” and know that I’ve fulfilled my purpose in life.

Anyway, back to the process…

Some of the year-end thinking can be done as you go about your life (in the shower, while driving, etc.) but there comes a point when you actually need to sit down with a gorgeous pen and notebook, or with your laptop, and make the time to write things down.

There’s tremendous power in creating a sacred space for your thoughts, dreams, intentions and goals.

It’s also the perfect time to start the New Year with a clean slate – isn’t that appealing?

I book out a half day every year for exactly this purpose. If that’s not enough time (these things sometimes take a lot longer than you plan), I’ll take another half day.

For my birthday review, two hours is usually enough time for me to do the process justice.

Some of the things I’ll be thinking and writing about are:

  • my biggest accomplishments this year
  • things I definitely don’t want to repeat
  • the things I need to let go of – commitments, relationships, emotions
  • my word/ theme for next year
  • what my definition of success for the New Year will look like
  • and finally, the actual goal-setting

and so on

What about you? Have you created your sacred space yet for goal-setting?

PS remember to grab your free Let’s Do This workbook. I’ve also put a goals mindmap page and a lovely things to do list for all possible types of people out there – those who like their intentions more free-flowing and those who don’t want to think of it as goals.

Readers’ favourite Organising Queen posts for 2017

This is a big post with lots of reading, guys. I love posts like this on other blogs and I usually stretch them out with numerous mugs of tea throughout the day 🙂

Let’s get to it – the favourite posts per month. And fun fact, each picture was taken in that specific month of the year, so enjoy Johannesburg (and Ballito, for July) through my lens 🙂

January

Word of the year recap and this year’s word

A bullet journal/ diary hybrid

What I learned in January

February

5 favourite posts about stationery

What I want more of this year

The annual filing that wasn’t 🙂

March

Free digital and audio books with Overdrive

How to write a friendship manifesto

Soul care vs self-care

April

My year of happy – April project goals

If it’s not serving you, let it go

 7 things about reading

May

Let’s talk about hygge (1)

My house has a to-do list

Your silent to-do list

June

Mental nourishment in the form of unplugging

What I learned in May

What’s in my handbag?

July

Getting motivated, Four Tendencies style

Creatives can’t get organised. Myth or truth?

Half-year review of my word of the year (give)

August

Your amazing habits

Do you suffer from perfectionism?

Lovely things to do this year

September

My 5 favourite posts about the goal-setting process (this is actually the most popular post of the year!)

How I do menu planning, and what I cook for my freezer

Why you should menu plan

October

Choosing your 2018 diary

How my whole planning system fits together

Good news – you get to choose

November

Technology and your tendency – work

Technology and your tendency – personal

Switching up what’s not working for you

Did you agree with these posts? Was there a favourite post that you want to highlight? Let me know. All of this influences some of the editorial content for next year.

Lower your Christmas expectations

My family made a Christmas fun list sometime during November.

One of the things on the list (added by me) was to make Christmas cards. In years past we made them and it was a lovely pleasant activity.

Well. It appears those days are past.

We had one session of utter craziness that left none of us feeling peace and goodwill towards men, so I went to the shops and bought Christmas cards for my own sanity and peace of mind.

They had no problems writing in ready-made Christmas cards so that is what we did this year.

I had to lower my expectations, you see, or make the cards all by myself.

Of course that made me think about Christmas on the whole, and how, when we see all the Instagram and Facebook perfection of families crafting, baking, wrapping and decorating, we can start feeling resentful about our own real lives.

I’m here to relieve you from the expectations and help you to lower the bar.

christmas-best-009

Here’s how I’m lowering the bar this Christmas:

  1. I’m focusing on the things that make Christmas special for us and leaving behind everything else.
  2. We will go to church on Christmas morning to make sure that Jesus is our focus.
  3. I’ve long said that the way to have a happy holiday or event day (Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, Mother’s Day, etc.) is to stay completely off social media. I do like to post a picture in the morning but if I miss it, I’ll post one that night and that will be it.
  4. I’m only giving presents to a few people that I will be seeing. I remember years past when I’d buy/ make presents for so many friends and frantically try and see everyone. No thanks – that sounds like a headache rather than joy to me this year. I may change next year but we’ll see.
  5. Speaking of presents, I know what I want for my To Marcia From Marcia gift, but I can’t be bothered to go get it while the shops are crazy busy.
  6. The longer you think about things, the more you stress (in a lot of cases) so I’m not even thinking about food until I finish work on Thursday 🙂 Someone told me Woolworths is already running out of food and I said, “well, then we’ll make do somewhere else.
  7. It’s nice to have a Christmas fun list but treat it like a suggestion, not a must-do list. E.g. we have an item to have Christmas-themed doughnuts from Krispy Kreme. Well, it turns out no-one actually likes those doughnuts – they all want just the plain glazed ones 🙂 But… everyone wants to do far more baking than I feel able. So I’ve told them we will do two easy things and each child will bake with me once.

christmas-best-007

Last but not least, don’t feel pressured to feel emotions you don’t feel. If you’re not feeling utter joy, that’s okay. If you’re not feeling peace and goodwill towards your fellow man, that’s also okay. I have a feeling Jesus wasn’t all happy and smiley all the time too, so you’re in good company.

Decide what you want to feel this Christmas and focus on those desired feelings. And remember to communicate your needs to your family. There’s no rule that says you need to be around people for hours and hours on end.

Some of you are aghast at what I’m saying but it doesn’t mean you love your people any less if you want to escape and do something by yourself for a bit.

I once asked my friend Beth about an extended family holiday weekend they have every year. She wisely told me they realise they’re mostly introverts so no one feels bad to just go off and do their own thing for an hour or two throughout the day. Isn’t that insight great?

That’s what I want to leave you with today – know what you need, create the time for it and you’re sure to have a great Christmas day.

Does your inside always match whats going on around social media?

Where do you need to lower your Christmas expectations?

PS some clever gift ideas in case you’re stuck

{Annual review} What went well in 2017?

If you’ve had a rough year, you may be tempted to just scroll on by but hang in there – there are things in your life that went well this year.

I know this because even in my worst years, there were things that were good about it, and so it will be for you too.

Step one of any annual review process for me is to note down what went well about the year.

This year, I wanted to get going and build some momentum before working through my Let’s Do This workbook, which is free if you’ve signed up to my list. If you haven’t yet signed up, go here and I’ll send it out again on Friday, and then I’ll take off all the old freebies and put up this guide for the whole of next year (remember there’s no rule about when to start working on your goals!).

I get my best momentum with thinking things when I start mindmapping. So I wrote in my bullet journal “what went well” and made some spokes for God, family, fitness, fun, friends, house and word of the year. And then I let myself loose and under each spoke, I wrote whatever was on my mind.

Try that and let me know if it works to get you loose with your thinking because sometimes the getting started is the hardest part.

That’s my tip for you 🙂

A post shared by Marcia Francois (@marcia0608) on

As for my 2017, what went well?

  1. I’m hearing God better this year than I did last year. I started journalling and am really enjoying that process too.

2. The kids had great years at school and loved their teachers, we had two lovely family holidays and because they’re a bit older, we’ve been having more family lunches out because they can now behave 🙂 Dion and I have also had date afternoons most months. This month we went to see Bryan Adams so we’re ending on a high!

3. This has been a great year of reading – I will probably end up with about 120 books for the year, and it’s definitely the most non-fiction I’ve ever read in one year (I’m trying to finish on 40 so that it’s nice and neat :)). This alone deserves its own post but do leave a comment if you want to know something specific. These days, I get more questions about reading than I do about anything else

4. I also had a great year of sleep. I track my sleep to keep myself on track (strategy of monitoring works great for Upholders) and I will end the year over my goal of 7 hours 30 per night. It still amazes me that one has to actually be in bed much longer to get real and good sleep of 7:30.

5. I finally started a barre class and will probably end the year with about 60 walks. I’ve tried something the last two months on increasing my steps but let me work on it for another month and I’ll share next year. It’s really working for me though and if you’re not one of those 10 000 steps a day people, it may work for you too. I’ve just started back at Weigh-Less to lose some weight (I do have an actual number but I’m not putting it on the internet).

6. This year I started a book club with a friend and it has been so much fun for me. I still mostly read books no-one else reads but at least once a month, there’s something I can talk about with friends.

7. Speaking of friends, I haven’t had the best friend year but things that have worked really well is scheduling recurring meet-ups/ phone calls (again, the strategy of scheduling works great for upholders), my internal rule of always saying yes to out of town/ country friends, and I’m realising as I write this – this should probably be a post too 🙂

Now tell me, what went well for you in 2017?

Please feel free to leave me questions in the comments.

The quick and dirty monthly review

Monthly reviews are one of my life rhythms that I didn’t think I needed, but I love doing so much.

They force me to slow down and reflect on what’s been, instead of just racing ahead to the next thing.

I’m the type of person that’s always looking forward and while that’s mostly good, at times, I know I need to stop and enjoy what I’ve accomplished first before moving forward.

My monthly review helps me do that.

Over the years I’ve refined my process, and I ask myself 6 questions that you can find on a free printable here.

Suzanne Moore interviewed me on her podcast and we spoke extensively about that monthly review form and my process. Listen in here on itunes or stitcher.

Some months I make my process even longer (when it’s been a particularly busy or eventful or stressful month and I need to unravel it) and sometimes I do the quick and dirty version.

The quick and dirty monthly review process

1.In my bullet journal, I write down 4 questions:

  • what went well this month?
  • what could have gone better?
  • what did I learn?
  • what do I need to let go of?

2. Then I go make a cup of tea or do something totally different (pack lunch bag/ set out clothes, etc.) This gives my brain time to start thinking about the month.

3. I then return to my bullet journal and answer those questions. Because I’ve given myself a chance to have a quick think, the writing it all out is easy when I return.

bonus questions

  • how did I live out my word of the year?
  • do I have any in-progress projects to be carried over?

 


Tell me. Do you do a monthly review? If not, I’d like to challenge you to do one this month and see how you enjoy the process (or not!). Let me know what happens 🙂

Switching up what’s not working for you

I’ve had a goal on my list since the beginning of the year, and that was to increase the amount of exercise I get in a week, in particular, to strengthen my core.

This was not happening despite wishing it were so. Imagine that.

Then my usual Zumba instructor had an operation and she was off for 6 Saturdays. One of those Saturdays we had a visiting lady do a Pound class.

A post shared by Marcia Francois (@marcia0608) on

That pound class opened my mind to new possibilities and reminded me that I had a fitness goal I’d made exactly 0% progress in.

Another gym in my neighbourhood opened earlier this year, still in the same network. So I checked their classes and phoned them to see if I could try out a Barre180 class.

I tried the class, loved it and have been going ever since.

But that’s not the end of the story.

You see, I’ve been in a habit where we, as a family, go to the gym together every Saturday morning for years and years. I love the time together, that we’re prioritising fitness and health, and I still (two months in) miss going to gym with them. It’s complicated, but basically, there is no kids’ programme at the new gym and in order for me to go with them on a Sat and still go to my new one during the week would cost me a lot of money, which I just can’t justify.

I’m trying not to focus on the missing part too much, and I’m going for more walks with the kids 🙂

And the best thing is… two of my jackets can now close and my flexibility has increased such that I can easily touch the floor again. Yay.

Over to you.

Think back to the goals you wrote down at the start of the year. Are there any you’re completely stuck on? Do you need to shake things up?

Do you need a goals re-set? There’s still time to make inroads into a couple of your goals. If you need a goals brainstorm and strategy session, email me and let’s set that up on Skype or Facetime.

3 kinds of lists for your bullet journal

Do you know what I’m really excited about these days? It’s how bullet journalling has made it cool and trendy to write things down 🙂

When you write things down, it frees your mind for more big picture thinking and you don’t have to worry too much about the details because they’re written down so they’re not disappearing anywhere.

Here are 3 types of lists you could use to help manage your time effectively. You can make the lists in your bullet journal or download them from my website.

Master to-do list

1. Master list
This is a place for a “brain dump”, a place for ideas you might want to pursue in the future or possible projects you need to tackle.

You can work off one master list for months, like I do with my business or blogging ideas.

I also have a master list of things to do in the house. I write up a new list every year and I work on that list the entire year.

To-do list

2. To-do list
This list can be monthly, weekly or daily. I post a weekend to-do list to Instagram every weekend.

The difference between this list and the master list is that this one has a time deadline attached to it.

I have a monthly to-do list, which is really my monthly goals list. I keep this one with broad goals like go to the gym 8 – 12 times, a weekly to-do list with about 3-5 business tasks to get done and then my daily to-do list which spreads out those 5 tasks so that I have only 1 or so to do daily.

Sometimes 1 task is very big and takes a couple of days so I’ll leave a couple of smaller ones to do all on one day.

I want to caution you to only put a maximum of 6 items on your daily to-do list so you don’t become overwhelmed!

My checklist to live my best life

3. Checklist
This is a place with a list of items which you check/ tick off.

This list is ideal for anything you need to do regularly, like the order in which you do your photo backups, a list of weekly business tasks, travel checklist, shopping list, etc.

My favourite checklist used to be my “newsletter” checklist which walked me through a process of ensuring I repurposed every bit of the content I create. These days, the one above is my favourite checklist 🙂

Once you start using the correct list for the task at hand, you’ll be flying!

You can download a variety of lists in the free pack on my website.

Do you prefer to print out your lists or to write them into your bullet journal?

We all have 15 minutes

One of the biggest organising myths is that you need a big chunk of time to organise anything.

That’s simply not true.

I actually don’t know many people who happen to have hours and hours free for the purpose of organising.

The thing is, with anything in life that is important to you, you have to make time. I wrote a whole book about this concept – get it here.

One of the ways you make time is by using up all the little bits of time throughout your day.

Even if you think you have no time, I guarantee there are bits here and there.

If you start looking for those treasured moments, you’ll realise you can get a lot more done.

I remember when my kids were just newborns I thought I’d never have time to myself again.

Then I realised that I had 5 minutes here, another 10 minutes there and so on.

I could read one article in a magazine in those 5 minutes and maybe even churn out a blog post in the 10-minute stretch.

All that time adds up if you’re ready to take advantage of it.

It’s the same with organising.

You may not have an hour to organise a chest of drawers but if you find 15 minutes a day for 4 days, you do have that hour.

A change of perspective = opportunities

Flylady says, “you can do anything for 15 minutes”.

Here are a few quick ideas:

• Straighten your cutlery and/or utensils drawer
• Edit and delete photos (one of my ongoing projects to use a “spare” 15 minutes) from your phone
• Declutter a pile of paper
• Tidy your handbag or wallet
• Organise your spices
• Declutter your recipe folder

See? There are indeed 15-minute slivers of time all around us if only we’ll just look for them.

Make a list of 10 or more quick organising projects you can do in 15 minutes and get started today.

Are you an all or nothing person? Do you tend to look for the big chunk of time versus the little bits?

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