5 steps to a tidy study

I seem to have “tidy study” on my to-do list every week so I decided to go back to basics and share those basics with you too.

Here are the 5 steps I’m following to my organised home office:

1. Have a plan and make the rules clear to all those who use it
Do not allow anything in there that doesn’t belong. Decide what the space is used for and only keep items relating to that purpose there.

My kids can use the table in the study but they need to take their stuff out afterwards.

2. Divide the space into zones
There may be a children’s desk for homework and school projects, a reading corner, the filing area and a computer desk. It is easier to keep the study organised and neat when you know where everything should go, e.g. books should only be in the reading corner and not on every desk.

No-one but me uses my actual computer desk because the crafting area is my big, green table.

3. Store items where they are used
If two people use the study, then have a wastepaper basket at each desk. And have two sets of staplers, scissors, etc. This will prevent your stuff going “missing” from your area. Have a punch and file tabs wherever you do your filing, if you like to file.

4. Batch routine tasks
Keep all items that you need to file together so that you file 5 pieces of paper at once. Make all your telephone calls at the same time. Write out all greeting cards and wrap gifts for a month at a time. Your friends and family will feel loved and cared for, and you will feel accomplished!

5. Tidy your study every day
Take just 5 minutes and do a quick tidy-up of the desk when you’re finished working every day. Throw trash away, make neat piles of paper if they’re in-progress (label with post-it notes), put pens and pencils back in the holder and take cups and glasses to the kitchen.

This is where I slack because I often forget to leave 5 minutes to tidy up on the evenings I’m on my computer.

When you keep things under control on a daily basis, it is easy to maintain the order of an organised space.

Do you have a routine to keep your office space neat and tidy? Or does it not matter to you?

My house also has a to-do list

For about 18 months before we moved out of our old house, we finally did all those things on our list that we needed and wanted to do.

I had a to-do list I was working off of, and when we found the current house, I had about 12 small things left on the old list (from about 60).

So then I decided we will no longer leave things and only fix when we’re selling.

Be realistic with time and money

This is not your fantasy life; it’s your real life. You still have to work and rest and do other stuff on the weekends, so do pace yourself.

Things in the house cost money, even if it’s to buy new pillows or a tablecloth, it all costs money. You have to realise you need to keep money for paying off the bond, emergencies, holidays and doing your house to-do list.

Balance big and small things

I’ve shared before about a small change we made in our bathroom. I’m so glad we made this change otherwise I would have been unhappy for years because we can’t afford a bathroom remodel.

You can go even smaller – a new duvet cover or pillow cases do wonders too.

This might not work for you if you’re a maximiser; this is someone who has to have the perfect solution and will happily wait til that can be done.

It’s not about being discontented

I feel like you can be content with where you are in life, but still make a few changes to be happier. The Nester’s blog is a great place to read more about this concept.

A few small changes that have made me super happy in the past – my yellow desk, yellow cushions, a new side plate, my navy blue kitchen, etc.

How do I plan my house to-do list?

I make a gigantic list. I used the 100 things to do page from my shining planner but my master to-do list (it’s in the pack when you sign up to my list) works just as well.

I walk through the house, room by room, and write down everything that I want to change in the next year or two.

I have quick things like get a plant for the landing, and big things like redo kitchen floors, on the list.

And then because I’m looking at this list regularly, about once a month, I have those things in mind so if I see the perfect rug for a child’s bedroom, I can get it.

That’s it really.

Does your house have a to-do list too?

If you’ve never made a master list for your house, why don’t you do that this weekend?

I want to tell you 7 things about reading

Reading is one of my favourite things to do or talk about. When you couple this with my passion, time management, I especially love it when people tell me they don’t have time to read, or enough time to read, and so on.

So not true, guys. I’m not buying it 🙂

You see, I think we all underestimate the amount of time we waste, and more importantly, how much time we have that we fritter away. Someone I follow, Laura Vanderkam, decided to stop scrolling the internet and read instead. She read 14 books in a month. She found 1.5 hours a day and more on the weekend, totalling 13.5 hours a week, without working or parenting less.

Why you and I are not reading more books

How I find time for reading

Another way to find time for reading – this one is probably unpopular

Then, the new thing is people tell me things like they don’t think audio books will work for them without even trying. I know audio is not for everyone.

Like how video is not for me. But I have watched a few Youtube videos, vlogs and such, tried it first and now I can give you reasons why (slow download speed/ impatience/ I like to be doing something and with video I have to actually sit there and watch, for example :))

Back to audio books.

If you have a short commute, remember all those 15 minutes add up. If you have a 15-minute commute, you can easily finish one audio book a month. That’s 600 minutes a month just to and from work.

However, there is also cooking time, cleaning time, editing photo time, scrapbooking time, walking time, gardening time.

I would love you to tell me you listened to a book and then decided it’s not for you. But please try! You can easily add 1 – 2 books to your “read list” every month in this super-simple way.

You may like this post on how I use audio to work for me. One major trick is to find a narrator you like.

Here’s where I shared my love for the Kindle at the 3-year mark. I just passed the 6-year mark two days ago!

When it’s worth it to buy a book

Bonus – free books with Overdrive

How do you prefer to read your books?

Have you tried an audio book yet?

When life throws you curveballs

A reader recently sent me a question asking what my suggestions were for her and for other readers who get thrown from their usual routines by life’s curveballs.

I think this is a great question because she’s right – we all have things that throw us off track:

  • busy time periods at work (month-end/ year-end/ closing out a project/ going live with other projects, etc.)
  • busy periods in our kids’ lives (concert week, recitals or plays)
  • any illness (usually means kids or parents not sleeping)
  • going on holiday (lovely to be away but re-entry can be tough)
  • any out-of-the-ordinary happening that messes with your routine

I’ll share with you my top 3 ways to get back on track:

  1. Lower my expectations

That seems counter-intuitive but it makes complete sense for any of us control freaks.

I know after returning from a holiday that it’s going to take about a week for things to return to our normal. There’s no sense in getting stressed every day because there are piles of undone laundry, no food in the fridge and kids who can’t wake up for school because they’re too tired.

This one step is the biggest creator of peace of mind in the home.

  1. Get back to my basics as quickly as possible

For me, that’s making a menu plan and making sure we have enough fruit and vegetables in the house. I can almost always cobble meals together from the freezer or pantry; it’s when there aren’t enough apples or carrots that I start to twitch. Food is important to me and the family, so this is one of my priorities.

In essence, start putting your routines in order. When we get back from a holiday, I start unpacking immediately because I can’t stand things laying around on the floors and I’ve trained the kids to do the same. They’ve unpacked their own suitcases for the last 3 years.

  1. How can I restore order in the quickest, painless way?

I could take one day, generally the Sunday afterwards, and do laundry non-stop, and while that would be quick, it is not painless for me! I choose to do a daily load until we’re caught up instead as we generally only do the laundry about 3 – 4 times a week. It ends up being just a day or two longer, but knowing that there’s a plan in place helps a lot to keep me at peace!

If doing laundry isn’t painful for you, you might as well get it done quickly.

I read a blog once where the mom used to go to a laundromat, use 6 machines and just get all the laundry done if they had a curveball or two thrown at them. She said she’d take a book, relax for two hours and leave with everything up to date. That actually sounds splendid.

To summarise, I’d give myself two weeks to get back to my routines. Decide what is most important to you, and start doing that thing immediately (as you saw above, unpacking and food for me!).

Then build on those initial steps until your routine – and peace of mind – is restored once again.

What are your basics?

Do you have a strategy for life’s curveballs?

When you over-complicate things…

I do some planning every weekend:

1) my weekend to-do list

This gets written on a Friday after work and has a combination of events, things to organise, things to do in the house and relaxing things.

This is my sweet spot combination of getting out (for my extraverted sensing self), staying home and being productive and actually relaxing.

2) my weekly planning

This planning gets done on a Sunday afternoon or evening.

I have my Outlook calendar open, my work calendar, my shining planner and my bullet journal.

I’ll make sure I haven’t forgotten about anything coming up, and transfer things I need to action to my weekly planner.

For two weekends, I felt a heaviness, a feeling of not “sparking joy” around my weekly planning.

I questioned myself as to why and this is what I came up with:

  • I’m making my weekly planning process far more complicated than it needs to be.
  • It used to take me 5 – 10 minutes and was now closer to 30 minutes (granted, some of that time was for photo-taking for Instagram!)

So I’m going back to my old ways.

A quick check of the electronic calendars, jot those things down, read through my to-dos, and then get on with the business of actually living 🙂

Have you felt dread recently about doing things that are usually part of your routine?
Where have you been over-complicating things in your life?

How I get it “all” done

When people hear that I work full-time, am married, have twins and coach time management part-time, they often ask me how I get it all done.

First I laugh and then I realise that it’s a serious question.

The short answer is that I don’t.

Yes, I do a lot but the bigger question is what I don’t get done.

Let me explain and also help you to get it “all” done:

  1. Get very clear on your life’s purpose

I have a life mission typed out and I know my definition of success in life.

I also know my values. A quick secret – one of those values is not to have the laundry perfectly done (I don’t ever do ironing!), but it is to take action and just get the clothes clean.

Are you clear on your life purpose?

  1. Make friends with “good enough”

It’s better to have something done than to have it perfect.

If you’re cringing at that sentence, know that I used to be you. That was until I realized that trying to get the last 20% of any project perfect usually takes more time than the previous 80%.

E.g. If we were to make a picture collage, it would take just a few minutes to select photos and group them in a collage. The playing around to get the best configuration with the best background and font, and so on takes 3 – 5 times longer than just creating the initial collage.  If you organize a space, decluttering and arranging the zones takes less time than all the faffing afterwards to make it “Pinterest-perfect”.

There is a time and place for prettying something up – maybe for your children’s birthday party but for general sending out of occasional photos to family or just tidying your desk, that level of extreme detail is not necessary.

Do you know when 80% is enough in your life, or are you still stuck on being perfect?

  1. Make a To Not Do list

We all know there are 24 hours in a day and there is not enough time to do everything.

It’s far more important these days to know which things to leave on the To Not Do list.

  • In my business, I do only things that need my “essence” and delegate the rest to my virtual assistant.
  • In my personal life, it’s important for me to cook from scratch but it’s not important for me to peel and chop all the vegetables myself.

Can you see the difference?

  1. Decide where you want to use your time and don’t feel guilty about it

Be intentional about your time usage. If reading is your thing like it is with me, then don’t feel guilty about cuddling up with a book and a mug of tea every day for an hour after supper.

If you scroll Instagram to unwind, then be conscious that you’re doing that and own it. Admit that you want to scroll Instagram for an hour every evening, and enjoy it.

Don’t feel guilty about the time but know why you’re doing it.

Of course I do procrastinate sometimes by too much time on blogs or Instagram but since I generally get things done, occasionally if I slip up, I don’t beat myself up about it.

How about you?

Where do you want to be spending your time and why? Are you intentional about it?

  1. Take consistent action

Unfortunately getting things done is not going to just happen unless you take consistent action.

Whether it’s moving forward with a big leap or lots of little leaps, I try to take some action every day.

I’m fairly good at constantly reviewing where I am in relation to my goals weekly and monthly.

Do you take enough regular action?

To end off, let me leave you with one of my favourite quotes:

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone.  The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.

-Lin Yutang 

 

I’m curious.

What’s on your to not do list? (we all have one)

Where in your life have you let go of perfectionism?

My happiness project for March

Here’s my happiness project for February if you want to have a look.

So this month, March, my intentional calendar says this:

What’s working for you well so far in 2017? How can you replicate this in other areas of your life?

Well, a few things immediately came to mind:

  1. If I schedule “fun things” like book club and podcast club, they actually happen 🙂
  2. I’m reading a ton and that’s because I’m consciously leaving my phone to charge in another room, and of course, I always have a book ready to go on my phone too. My environment is set up for success in this area.
  3. When I batch things, the doing and thinking goes very well. This works mostly for kitchen things like cooking and making lunches.

So are there places in my life I can replicate these ideas?

My focus areas for March

Scheduling

  • Schedule all dates with Dion and the kids for the rest of this year.
  • Schedule weekly planning in my diary
  • Schedule quarterly dates with my university friends
  • Schedule quarterly dates with the supper club

Environment

  • Be very strict about no phone in the bedroom every night, not just most nights
  • Computer off at 10:30 Sun – Thurs

Batching

  • Write blogs on only one night every week without listening to podcasts so I fully focus
  • Do photos on another night

And that’s enough for March – I’ll report back in four weeks time.

What’s working well for you so far in 2017?

Can you replicate that in other areas of your life?

What I learned in February

I love doing these monthly round-up posts.

The only snag is I feel like I’m talking to myself and just to one other person 🙂 So this month, can I ask you to just write a little comment and tell me ONE thing that stood out about your month – good, bad, ugly, whatever. It’s so good to share.

This month has been interesting in that it’s the first month of My Year of Happy.

My focus was on relationships and increasing connection, and here’s how that went:

  1. after getting lazy about Valentine’s presents and such, I actually bought one for D, arranged notes and chocolates for the kids, and for their teachers (when does the teacher thing stop?)
  2. D and I also set a small goal for the rest of the year – to do one thing each month for us. This month it was to properly talk every day, even if just for 5 minutes. And it’s been great not talking only about logistics 🙂
  3. I’ve had dates with both kids, and D and I went to see West Side Story.
  4. I’ve made time for friends. This one is interesting because I always do, but I think I’ve found the perfect comfort number for socials per week (2!), whether in-person or phone dates.
  5. I sent out three birthday cards (it’s a big birthday month), a get well soon card and temporary tattoos to my niece and nephew.
  6. I think the biggest change for me was this – because I was conscious about my month’s intention to connect more fully, the minute someone popped into my mind, I phoned/ whatsapped/ smsd/ made the lunch date/ tea instead of saying “I’ll do it later”. And I’m so glad I did because life is short!

Other things I learned:

  1. I love the cooler weather and really am happier and more productive when the weather’s not as hot. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I love grey skies (#marcialoveswinter and #marcialovesautumn).
  2. Book club is a good thing. I started a book club and we had our first meeting on the first Saturday of Feb to discuss Big, Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.
  3. I discovered that we can access free ebooks and audio books through our libraries’ Overdrive app. Here’s a  post I wrote about Overdrive for South Africans.
  4. Podcast club – like book club, but for podcasts. I started a God Centered Mom Podcast Club with a friend. At the moment it’s just the two of us but it’s so easy. We agree which episode to listen to and chat every second Thursday evening for an hour on the telephone. If you live near a like-minded friend, you could meet at each others’ houses for tea but alas, she’s in Cape Town.
  5. My head is much clearer when important things are either done or scheduled. I had some financial things to finalise, all my medical stuff to do and I scheduled a dental procedure for next week (which I’m not thinking about at all :))

Did you have a focus for this month?

What is ONE thing you loved/ hated/ learned this month?

The great nail polish post

Just to satisfy my own curiosity, I did a little nail polish experiment last year.

It was very interesting so I’d like to share the results with you today.

I tracked each time I changed my nail polish colour.

I already have a spreadsheet for all my photos so I just added another sheet for the nail polish. Number, brand, name, date and days across the top. I put a formula in the days column to calculate how long I left a specific colour on. No, it didn’t take long at all. Probably 5 seconds each time I changed my nail polish and two minutes to set up.

This was all in the name of Konmari.

In the book, she often does this thing to show people their hoarding tendencies. Like if you had 300 ziploc bags and you said you need them all because you use one every week to take your Friday doughnut to the office, even if you took one every single week, it would take you nearly 6 years to use up that stash, which is kind-of crazy.

So me with the nail polish.

I put on nail polish 85 different times, once every 4.29 days.

That sounds about right because most time I feel like a change every 4 – 5 days.

I used 16 brands and my top 3 were Essence (40 times), Rimmel (12 times) and Yardley (6 times).

The top right purple-grey is Serendipity

I used 48 colours, only 24 colours were used two or more times, and my top 3 colours were You and me (Essence), Serendipity (Essence) and Mint Tropics (Sinful). I feel like the navy blues need a special mention because I have two colours, very close in colour, both used 3 times (Yardley’s Urban navy and Anchor blue). Technically they take second place together.

These were the ones that made the cut. And already, I’ve decluttered 3.

So how has this information been useful to me?

  • First of all, I know which brands I like so if I’m ever torn between two colours and one of them is Essence, I’d go with Essence.
  • I probably only need about 20 bottles, knowing that I will buy a few throughout the year, but also that I toss out some and have my seasonal favourites. There’s also a bright red I wear only twice a year, both times for my Spanish exams.
  • If I don’t love a colour, I should probably just get rid of it, because it’s going to happen anyway next time I take stock 🙂 #sparkjoy

What is the craziest thing you track?

What, if anything, did you find most interesting?

PS The nail polish situation this time last year, and how to make your nail polish last and not chip

Memory-keeping: the system that works for me

Since this month is a month I want to focus on relationships, I thought I’d write one post to show you all about my memory-keeping, and at least I can then link to this one instead of the 5 or so on the blog 🙂

Cutouts

  1. I take tons of photos on both my camera and iphone, and use photos from both devices for my albums. I’m still partial to my big camera (Canon) but life is much easier with my iphone 6 since the quality of the photos is so magnificent. As they say, the best camera is the one you have with you. And I add, keep your big camera out so you’re more likely to use it.
  2. I do a 52-week photo project of the kids. This is my third year.
  3. I then choose 4 pics per child per month, and 4 pics overall. Because I take so many photos, I purposefully choose images for that are not from our 52 project pics. One day soon, I’ll just print the 52 photos for our album but that day has not arrived yet. These limitations have given me a lot of freedom.
  4. Then I do project life. Here’s how I used to do it and here’s how I now do it.
  5. The key to successful memory-keeping is being realistic about time and money.
  6. And here’s where I talk more about money because all of this stuff costs money so the key is to think about what will work for you.

How do you preserve your family’s memories?

What have you found is the most realistic method for you, both in terms of time and money?

If this is one of your goals for the year, join me for monthly accountability coaching to get your things done this year!

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