Scheduling and tracking important but not urgent items

Clearly my system for catching questions is not great because Laura left this question for me ages ago.

I have a question relating to calendars.

Do you have a system for regular things that you would like to but don’t want to schedule per se? So, for example, your walks. Let’s use the scenario that you want to go for four walks a week but you don’t want to schedule them all out in advance, you just want to do them at any given time during the week.

I know one option is to write when you have already taken a walk. But what kind of chart/note/system might help you track things like this? Now when I use the example of a walk, it could be anything- eating more fruit, three handwritten notes a week, declutter one room per week, etc. Just about anything that you want to do but don’t necessarily know a month ahead what exact day you want to do it. (this comes into play daily for me in my work with the dorms – snacks to give out, kids in for one on one time to play, kids in to eat a meal with me, sleepovers, etc.). So I know I want to give out snack 4-5 times a week but I don’t want to schedule the days a month ahead. It’s when I have the money/time/energy/food available.

I want to point out something very important here:

These are all important things (to you) but are not urgent. No-one’s going to say, “oh! you didn’t declutter that room” or “why didn’t you go for your walk this week?” which means they’re your goals.

In Gretchen Rubin language, these are inner expectations and if you know your tendency, people who don’t have any trouble meeting inner expectations are Upholders (I’m an Upholder) and Questioners. Obligers and Rebels have the most trouble with inner expectations, and let’s face it – no rebel reads my blog 🙂 So really, I’m talking mostly to obligers, and others looking for a tip to improve their already strong goals game.

I have some ideas, but you’ll need to ask yourself a question first.

Do you do weekly or monthly planning?

Laura mentions weekly a lot so I’m guessing she’s a weekly planner like I am 😉

When I read the question, I immediately thought of three examples from my life: reading goals, friend goals and blog writing goals.

Reading

Because I know I’m a weekly planner, I know I need to read one book every week, and at least two others over the month, to reach my monthly goal of 6 books.

I ask myself: when am I most likely to get this done? That is definitely on the weekend.

So this item of reading a book goes on every weekend to-do list (you can go back and check my instagram – you’ll see :))

I do read every day so to get in another book every two weeks is not difficult for me.

Friends

I like to connect with at least 5 friends a month. There’s usually a group (more than 1) one in there, so in my mind, I have to have a plan once a week, usually during work lunches, or a tea time just after work.

I don’t mind when so when I do monthly planning, I will reach out and schedule something every week.

Blog writing

My goal is always to write 3 posts a week even when I only publish 2, specifically for those times when things come up and I have no chance to write.

While I prefer to write on Monday evenings, it doesn’t always work out, but the item is on my weekly list, so I check in on my energy levels and when I feel like it, I’ll write the post/s.

Some weeks, I’m not particularly motivated, but I remind myself that (1) I’m unlikely to want to do anything intellectually strenuous on the Tuesday (I have two dance classes), and that (2) my energy from work is likely to flag as the week progresses, so I just need to start (that’s usually enough for me because once I’ve made a start, I’m good).

To summarise:

  1. Know when you’re most likely to be able to do it
  2. Work with your energy/ capacity and when you do have the time and energy, use it.
  3. I don’t schedule these tasks on a specific day (unless it involves another person/s) but I do have weekly goals.
  4. I write these on my weekly goals list. Just glancing at my list on a daily basis helps to keep me focussed. You may be the same if you’re an Upholder. If you’re an Obliger, get yourself some external accountability.
  5. If you’re a monthly/ daily planner, basically the same things apply except glance at your list every day and see which you can add to that day.
  6. If you have a daily habit that you’re tracking, like to eat 3 pieces of fruit daily, then I suggest a separate page in your bullet journal, or write a line item in your weekly goals page (there’s one in my freebie Time Management pack) with 7 spaces and tick it off daily. You may have to set a reminder at the same time every day, or multiple times per day to get you going.
  7. Don’t freak out if you “fail”. It only means you need to try a couple of other things to find what works for you. There’s definitely something out there.

How do you schedule the important but not urgent things (your goals)?

Did something particularly resonate with you? Care to share?

Do you set goals weekly or monthly?

My new bullet journal – a grid notebook

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

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

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

And the verdict?

I’m loving this grid notebook.

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

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

What should you consider in a bullet journal?

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

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

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

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

Tell me how you decided on your bullet journal

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

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

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

1.Labelling craft kits

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

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

2. Gift tags

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

3. Conversation notes

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

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

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

4. Speech preparation

My kids have started to do little speeches at school.

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

5. Scriptures/ affirmations

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

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

6. Labelling shelves

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

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

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

7 . Love notes

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

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

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

How my whole planning system fits together

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

Shining Planner

Moleskine weekly diary planner

Bullet journal

  1. Shining Planner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Moleskine weekly diary planner

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Bullet journal

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s it!

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

Has this helped anyone? Please let me know.

How does your planning system fit together?

Bullet journal 101 – most useful pages

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reading goals

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

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

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

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

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

Favourite author lists and the books I already have

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you read my post on why you should consider menu planning?

 

I do my menu planning weekly but if you’re more of an all or nothing person, you might want to just plan a month’s worth of meals and get it all over and done with at one time.

Weekly or monthly menu planning for you?

I feel like I’m doing that thing with my kids where I say “cucumber or tomatoes?”

IMG_0929

A couple of ideas on ways to approach menu planning:

  • have a theme for each day: mince on Mondays/ chicken on Tuesdays/ vegetarian on Wednesdays/ fish on Thursday/ easy Friday (pizza/ eggs/ soup)
  • cook a certain number of nights and use freezer dishes for the rest
  • delegate certain nights to your spouse

How I do it

1. Generally, D does supper on Tuesdays and Sundays. The trick when you delegate is you are not allowed to say a single thing except “thank you for the lovely supper”. They will stop if you nag about anything. Tell yourself the kids will be fine without vegetables for 1 – 2 nights. I don’t write anything on my menu plan except “D”.

Sundays is usually toast with peanut butter, cheese, etc. and this is (sadly) the kids’ favourite meal of the week.

2. According to my daughter, we always have rice on a Monday (I checked my menu plans and turns out, she’s right 🙂 I haven’t intentionally planned it like that, but I do like rice/ pasta/ rice/ potatoes/ bread-based within my 5 meals.

3. We very rarely go out for supper because 1) I can whip up a pasta quicker than us getting ourselves sorted and to the nearest place and waiting for our meal 2) we prefer lunches out

4. I cook a lot on the weekends. Not every weekend, but about one or two weekends in a 5-week period. That feels about right to me. I may make 3 meals but I cook double so that’s 6 nights’ suppers sorted.

5. Leftovers. Don’t discount the leftovers. Those meals I cook on the weekends last longer than I anticipate because often we don’t have to have the 5th meal of the week because there is enough leftovers. Sometimes I’ve had supper out, sometimes D only wants half of his supper because he’s home later, and so on.

Meals that freeze well

Some people think potato or pasta doesn’t freeze well. I have done both and the meals are still perfectly fine. I think the trick is to not let it thaw forever out on the counter because your food will get watery (yuck!). I put it in the microwave to defrost it a bit for about 6 minutes (that’s two presses of the quick defrost button on my microwave) and then straight into the oven to crisp up.

  1. Cottage pie
  2. Baked pasta dishes. When you cook one dish to have “fresh” on the night, do another dish for the freezer. Put it in the casserole dish, put some cling wrap (Saran wrap) on the top, and into the freezer.
  3. Rice
  4. Curries
  5. Bolognaise
  6. Chicken a la King
  7. Taco mince
  8. Chilli con carne
  9. Chicken and broccoli casserole
  10. Soup and the rolls 🙂

and so on (share your ideas in the comments please)

IMG_0930

Do you menu plan? Weekly or monthly?

Do you cook freezer meals? Which ones are your favourites?

Bullet journal 101 – planning pages

Thanks again if you took the bullet journal survey. If you still want to weigh in, go right ahead – I have one more post planned besides this one, but if there are more questions left on the survey link, there might be a third post this month.

If you’ve never done a bullet journal and you want to try….but you feel intimidated by the fancy ones you see on Instagram (clearly not mine!), I’d say if you do nothing else but a few standard pages, your life will feel at least ten times more organised.

Take some time and think through your needs

  1. Do you think in terms of daily or weekly planning?
  2. Do you prefer to get things done during the week or on the weekend?

If you’re like me and you think of getting your stuff done over the course of a week, then you’ll do weekly planning. I actually still recommend this option to most people because it takes off the pressure from achieving something every day. I personally don’t mind if I have a day or two of slothfullness because I know I have 7 days to get things done; not only 1.

However, if you like to get a few things done daily, and you won’t beat yourself up about a few days of non-achievement here and there, then by all means, do a daily to-do list.

To sum up, these are the pages I suggest you pick from for your basic bullet journalling.

1. Monthly review of the month that’s just passed

Use my standard 4 questions – what went well? what didn’t go well? what have I learned? what can I let go of? Of course, you may add more if you want but we’re keeping it simple

2. Goals for the month

Keep it simple to 10 or so items. I think in categories so I have socials, family, fun, health, house.

3. Life admin list

This is a master to-do list and has all those things you currently need to take care of – hair appointments, car stuff, electrician, and so on. You could incorporate this into your goals for the month if you won’t get overwhelmed. I like them separate so I don’t feel drained when I look at my goals list.

4. My weekend to-do list

This is still my favourite list.

I make one every Friday evening and as I’ve written before, it has to have 3 categories. Please click that link so you can see a real person’s to-do list. It is not Pinterest perfect because it is a tool to get things done.

Fun fact – way back when (Dion and I have been married 22 years and we’re both strong J’s, and upholders, so we love planning), D and I used to make a little list every Friday evening on the back of a used envelope. I think I was too poor to buy cute (unnecessary) stationery back then.

5. Daily to-do list (my work from home list)

I cut out on my commute (a whole two glorious hours) when I work from home so I can either get more work done which is the case most of the time and especially the last 3 – 4 months, but at other times, I keep a list of things to do around the house during my breaks. I usually have about 6 tasks that are all super quick things to get done. Either that or I get some errands done.

If I don’t have a list, I find that it’s easy to simply scroll instagram instead of being productive.

6. Weekly list

I make my weekly list (because I do weekly planning) in my Moleskine planner. You can see the specific style of diary I prefer to use in the pictures on this post.

Beth and I chat every Thursday evening so that’s when I do my weekly planning for the week running Thursday to Wednesday.

I attach no schedule to these things at all unless they’re time-based activities, like my weekly flamenco dance class or book club.

Basically, I glance at the list every two days or so and do them when they suit how busy my day is, or not.

In case you’re thinking this is very “loose” of me, that is true, but over the years, I’ve more or less settled into a loose rhythm, like Mondays is my main writing night, Tuesday is dance class and reading when I get home, Wed could be photos or podcast club, Thurs is Beth/ coaching/ starting on a small thing on my weekly list (to build momentum),  Friday and Sat are reading nights again (that’s how I read so much) and Sunday afternoons are blogging, planning, reading 🙂

For your own planning purposes, which of the pages mentioned above would suit your lifestyle?

What I learned in August

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

So here’s what I learned this month:

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

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

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

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

It pays to review your beginning of year lists

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

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

I love Barre180 class

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

On birthday parties

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

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

Over to you.

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

Here’s your permission to reward yourself

My default setting is usually go, go, go.

As such, I usually keep striving and reaching towards the next thing, without taking a moment or two to just enjoy having accomplished a goal.

I’m not great at the resting and rejuvenating types of rewards but I’ve become a lot better.

A large part of it is a monthly ritual I’ve put into place where I review what I’ve gotten done during the month.

I celebrate all by myself that I’ve done x, y and z, and that it was, indeed, an accomplishment. Since I’ve started noting down what I have done instead of what I haven’t, I’ve felt happier and more grateful for the good things in my life.

Why should we reward ourselves after we accomplish a goal or do something we’re proud of?

It helps us to mark the occasion, take stock and celebrate properly, which in turn, motivates us to keep at it.

Your reward should ideally be in proportion to how much work you put in to get something done.

I always tell people – it may not be the best use of your time to take a 15-minute break after organising your desk for 15 minutes 🙂 A great idea if you’ve just spent an hour filing – yes!

Here are some ways to reward yourself:

frugal

  1. have a bubble bath with candles and a magazine
  2. enjoy a cup of tea while you read a book
  3. get on the phone and chat with an encouraging friend
  4. spend time baking or cooking a recipe from your Pinterest board
  5. spend time being creative

material

  1. buy a little gift for yourself, whether physical like a nail polish or lipstick, or experiential like getting your hair done
  2. get that something you’ve wanted for a while, even if it seems frivolous, and especially if you’re usually an under-buyer
  3. go out for a meal with your family or friends
  4. buy a beautiful handbag
  5. have a movie or bookshop date with yourself

And then there are always rewards of the soul variety.

More than any of those suggestions above, I really want you to get comfortable with talking to yourself and saying all those things you wish others said to you. Give yourself the permission to say “well done”, “I’m proud of you” or “you’re a great mother” even if you never hear this from others because that is the greatest reward you could ever give yourself – the knowing that you are enough.

Do you reward yourself when you reach goals or finish projects?

3 things I do that help my productivity

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fundamentals

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

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

Psychology

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

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

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

Details

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

Over to you!

What do you think about the triad of productivity?

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

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