A life in rhythm vs a balanced life

One of my goals for this year is to (finally) finish reading the 10 physical books on my actual bookshelf – this one.

rainbow bookshelf

Therefore I need to be reading about two books a month to be done by the end of June. I had the goal set for the end of April but I realised that end of June is more realistic as I only have 2 – 3 slowish mornings a week to read, not the 7 I had in 2020 and 2021 when I read, in bed, every morning, without fail.

In January I finished Ikigai and Your Life in Rhythm.

Let’s talk about your life in rhythm by Bruce Miller

The part I loved the most talks about seasonal rhythms. These are both strict seasons like autumn and winter and also “the season of being an empty nester or new parent” or “the season of going into year-end or budgeting season. Accountants feel the end of tax season to a greater effect than those who are not in a finance field.

I was then inspired to use my own Let’s Do This workbook to note down what happens in my life seasonally.

Quarterly rhythms

birthday season – all four of us celebrate our birthdays in less than a month, my mother’s one is in that same month and my mother-in-law is less than a month earlier. Not exactly sure why but I also seem to have a lot of friends who also celebrate their birthdays in July and early August. This is probably why I do “birthday month” – it takes some of the pressure off me to “celebrate” and also it’s nicer to have friend dates to look forward to the whole of August.

actual winter – as long-time readers know, I love winter and my own rhythms also change then. I leave work earlier as I don’t like driving during loadshedding when it’s dark outside. I sleep more, easily a solid 7h30 on average daily (just checked my Fitbit stats and from June to Aug last year, I averaged 7h38 last year and 7h46 in 2022). We also usually take a beach holiday in winter which I love.

happy Marcia on a beach holiday in winter

other quarterly cycles – swopping my clothes around (this happens twice a year, once in April and then in around October), spring cleaning (September and December/ January are the big ones), beginning of the school year (the big fitting on and replacing of school shoes, clothes and takkies, and of course, buying all the school books).

Weekly rhythms

I’ve always found it helpful to think of my life in a weekly rather than a daily rhythm. Thinking daily makes me feel like I’m always behind but in a week, I feel like I generally get to what I want to do.

What are some of your weekly rhythms?

Well, there are things you do during the week (like work and your kids go to school) and then there are weekend things.

It’s helpful to think about what you like to get done and see where in the week that might fit.

Exercise

I like to have three sessions a week, at least two of them cardio. I realised when I did my January review that in trying to incorporate more stretch classes, I was robbing myself of cardio because I still only have those 3 sessions available every week. (More on this in my next newsletter) At least I realised this quickly.

Big chunks of reading

I read “bits” every day – 20 – 30 mins in the morning and about the same at night, and on the days I drive into the office, I have another 90 minutes of a fiction audiobook.

I also like what I call a big chunk of reading on the weekend, 3 – 4 glorious hours to immerse myself in a book. That is not going to just happen, so my preferred rhythm is a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

Household maintenance

I also menu plan after looking through the freezer (e.g. we are going to have a lot of chicken this week because there is too much in the freezer), update the shopping list and cook something in batch, most weeks.

I also like to tidy my bedroom and bathroom on the weekend to reset for the week ahead. No, the world will not fall apart if this is not done, but my brain is calmer if it is. #outerorderinnercalm

winter is the prettiest… especially framed by red cars

What I need to work on

Personal monthly rhythms

I am great with doing a goals review every month, updating my spreadsheets and setting goals for the new month. Here’s a post where I put it all together for you.

However, I never take into account my female cycles (and I should, because it does affect my energy levels and what I can do that week). I also want to start setting up regular maintenance days for colouring my hair. I’ve been winging it and do when it looks really bad but it would be nice to be a grown-up and actually schedule a regular weekend for “upkeep”.

If you want to rethink your goals and rhythms to take the seasons into account, use page 8 in my workbook:  Let’s Do This 2023 workbook (it’s free).

Which rhythms are easier for you, and which are more difficult? Annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly or daily?

How I’m approaching #write 24 in 2024

Confession – only 1 of Gretchen’s previous challenges worked for me. If you’re guessing it was the #read21in2021, you would be correct. I’m terrible at rest and being outside and, well, we won’t talk about 2020 and its effect on financial services in South Africa.

Since I already read plenty of minutes daily, I decided to focus the 2021 challenge on non-fiction, in particular, working through all the books on my physical bookshelf. I had been through the bookshelf many times and decluttered the books I was no longer interested in reading, but all that remained, I did want to read, I just… didn’t. There’s always something more exciting to read, isn’t there?

So #21in2021. I read 32 non-fiction books that year, 36 books in 2022, and 26 books last year in 2023. This year, I intend to finish the remaining 10 physical books and then I hope to never buy a physical non-fiction book again. I discovered during 2021/ 2022 that I love the practice of listening to 30 minutes from a non-fiction book every morning while showering and getting ready for the day. I’ve not stopped this since 2020. It’s not always 30 minutes but I always get in at least 15.

What worked about my #read21in2021?

I made it work for me and it was already hooked to a general habit I had nailed – reading.

This year when I heard that it was #write24in2024, I immediately thought, “oh no, that’s too much on a daily basis” until I listened to the podcast episode explaining it.

  • I then did the same thing I did with the reading – thought about how I could make it work for me.
  • I want to build a better writing practice on weekends to get my newsletter out on a monthly basis.
  • I want to get better with blogging regularly – not just a spurt of 4  – 8 blogs and then nothing for months on end.
  • I want to create regularly daily reminders for myself in my 2024 wellness diary and note down the things I am tracking, like sleep and water.

Given these items, I decided how I would #write24in2024.

  1. I use the weekdays for daily updating of my wellness diary in 2 – 4 minutes.
  2. I keep a bookmark to my newsletter provider on my laptop so that if I want to quickly jot down a sentence or two in two minutes, I can.
  3. I use the Sunday’s 24 minutes to write the monthly newsletter over two weeks. On the other two weeks I write a blog or set up a few 3 things mini newsletters.
  4. On that note, I set my stopwatch on my iphone and write until I feel “done”. Usually it’s been in the region of 48 – 49 minutes. I write what I want, choose a few photos and set it to publish during the week when I’m at work.
  5. The idea is to either publish a blog on a Monday or send out a newsletter during the last week of the month. At least that’s what worked in January – two blogs, two newsletters (both written in January although the first one could be the year-end wrap-up) and two mini-newsletters (these are easily 24 minutes each).
  6. I am also using #write24in2024 to do my monthly reflections and goal-setting. If I were more organised, I would use it for some tracking and weekly reflections too.

It’s going really well so far, one month down.

How are you doing with any of your project -based annual goals?

5 ways to set fun, achievable 24 in 2024 goals

I’ve been following Gretchen Rubin’s annual goals linked to the calendar year since she started doing these back in (was it 2017? 2018?) and they are certainly a fun way to write down some goals. However, it gets a bit tricky as the years go on. I’ve found that a few things help me to not feel overwhelmed with the sheer number and I’d like to share these tips with you:

1. Pick a few easy, once-off goals to get you started

  • Is there something you need to buy that will involve only a step or two? New underwear?
  • Do you want to try something new? One year (2020) I had “try an adult ballet class” on my list. Once I attended, that was done! I bought a car, a big deal because it had been 17 years with my previous one.
  • One year I had “learn to roast a chicken”. I had to do it twice before I was happy with it and I also learned that I prefer to pay for a rotisserie chicken 😉
  • Do you want to see a favourite performer, a ballet, or go to the theatre?
  • I also put my most-hated but still necessary medical appointments on my list.

2. Are there practices you want to commit to monthly or weekly?

  • It doesn’t have to be many times a month but having something to do 12 times a year is doable and the consistency will help build it into a habit.
  • Some examples – join a book club and attend once a month, see Friend X once a month, have a monthly date with your kids, etc.
  • Maybe for an exercise routine to stick, you might have “attend Zumba twice every week”.
  • I have seen so many fun lists with 24 worked into the goal. I also have a couple: 24 fun nights away or in Jhb, 24 Fun Fridays, etc. My one coaching client has “24 Sunday morning adventures with T (her young son)” – doesn’t that sound fun?

                                         A new weekly class at the gym

3. Do you have any project-based goals?

  • A project is something with multiple steps but it has a specific start and end date.
  • Some projects that have been/ are on my lists: buy a new car, get pyjama lounge carpet ripped up and replaced, and so on.
  • Are you doing the Happiness Project Revisited? Or any other course? That would fit in here too. I’ve done The Nester’s Cosy Minimalist course before and Emily P Freeman’s Discern and Decide.

4. What about goals that inspire growth?

  • I would classify a no-spend month, decluttering your kitchen, organising and getting up to date with your photo books, all in this category.
  • I am an underbuyer in most areas so I need to be encouraged to spend out in some areas. Maybe you’re one too? Maybe you’re an overbuyer and need to get your spending under control?
  • I currently have a low-iron stores situation going on so for 2023 and again this year, one goal is to have my iron tested quarterly.

5. Open and wide goals that invite whimsy or fun

  • This is my favourite category. Sometimes enneagram 1 upholders need to loosen the reigns.
  • Last year I had “watch more TV” on my list. That’s it. Open to my own interpretation and indeed, I watched more TV (I didn’t previously watch more than about two episodes of something once a month) and so I loved it. Yes, I also read fewer books as a result but I definitely had more fun.
  • This year, I have “listen to more music” on my list. I subscribed to Spotify Premium and am making playlists, searching anything that strikes my fancy and cooking with music instead of podcasts. More fun!
  • I also have “play with photography again and post things that delight only me”.

I hope all these categories help and don’t hinder you in your goal-setting this year. The point is that if you only have goals that you have to do weekly for a year, it’s going to feel like a slog. You want to have a bit of this and a bit of that so that you have a good balance. I tweaked and tweaked until my list felt more play and not all work, and then I decided to see if I could make a second list, and lo, I have another 24 items. I’m holding it all loosely though 🙂

Please ask all the questions you need. I plan to do a follow up post on how I track all of this, because I know there are many interested.

The Happiness Trifecta

Gretchen Rubin mentioned on her podcast that she know thinks of the Happiness Trifecta as a way to embrace or enter the year.

I have mentioned in my Instagram Stories but I decided because I want to be happier this year, to do the Happiness Project Revisited. Part of that foundational work for the year has involved these three items too (if you want and I want :)).

1. Word of the year

  • I am a big, big, BIG word of the year fan because it’s such an easy way to guide your thoughts and actions on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
  • Choose one! Choose one per month/ quarter/ whatever takes your fancy.
  • How to choose a word of the year
  • For inspiration, read all my word of the year posts here.
  • My word for this year is WHOLE. If you missed the post last week, you can read it here.

2. Annual Challenge – write24in2024

  • This year, Gretchen Rubin’s challenge is to write either 2 – 4 minutes or 24 minutes every day in 2024.
  • I am using the challenge to write 2 – 4 minutes a day most days to update my daily diary and then at least twice a month, I want to write for 24-minute sessions. Today and every Sunday I use a longer burst of time  – 24 minutes – to write a blog and/ or newsletter. I am timing myself and once I have an idea of how long it currently takes me, I might work on the newsletter weekly and send it at the end of the month, so it doesn’t feel overwhelming. I already say “you can do anything for 15 minutes, so 9 minutes longer every week is technically “nothing”. So far I’ve written about 48 minutes every Sunday but I am allowed to stop at 24 minutes.
  • Are you joining in the #write24in2024 challenge? How are you using it? You could write in a journal, make a list, clear your head before sleep, update your line-a-day journal,  make the next day’s to-do or ta-da list… the possibilities feel endless.

3. 24 in 2024 list

  • This is such a fun way to do your goals.
  • Make it as small or big as you want. I would caution you to have a mix of goals – some once-off items (buy new bedroom curtains, replace all my gym clothes, etc.) and some project-based items (go out to eat 12 times this year, have a date night once a month, read two books every month, etc.)
  • I have now done my list of 24 goals TWICE. The first time I had 26 goals so I let it sit. I then whittled it down to 24 with some stealthy merging of goals. And then I listened to the podcast episode where they discussed their goals and I want to play with my list AGAIN. My list feels a bit too boring and I think I have too many hard things and not enough fun.
  • Have you made your list? Do share! if you’re on IG, tag @organisingqueen so I can come see.
  • I will write more about this in next Sunday’s session.

4. Other fun things

    • To play with the 24 in 2024 theme, I have also resolved to declutter as many batches of 24 things as I can. I’m on number 15 of Batch 2. You can see all these items on Instagram in my highlights.
    • I initially had these as separate goals – declutter 24 items of clothes, gift 24 items of stationery (I still want to do this), use up 24 bath/ body/ beauty products.
    • Doesn’t 24 nights away from home sound fun (if I count business travel, I could do it)? I’ve already got 1 in the bag as we were away on 1st Jan.
    • Can you think of anything fun on the 24 theme?

I love to hear your words, your own “24” challenges, so please tap the comment block to reply.

How to break up with your phone by Catherine Price

I read this book during lockdown in 2021 and at the time, I rated it 4.5*. Based on how much the concepts stayed with me and how much I still recommend this book, I have now moved it to a full 5* rating.

How to break up with your phone

I think most people lie to themselves about their phone usage. I used to do the same until I used the Moments app and these days iPhone helpfully sends me the screen stats to shock me every Sunday morning.

Why did I want to read this book?

My phone usage at the time was abysmal. And, as I’ve said before, we could all literally finish a book every four and a half hours if our phone usage was reasonable.

About the book

The book is divided into part 1 – the research, which is very interesting and easy to read – and part 2 – the how to, practical part.

I don’t care too much about the numbers these days because I now recognise after reading this book that most of what I use my phone for are tools like Goodreads, Mail, Camera, etc., but I’d be fooling myself if I didn’t admit that the Instagram dopamine hit is strong.

Did you know that they purposefully update likes and notifications erratically to keep us swiping and checking? Of course, once I found that out, I channelled my inner rebel and consciously don’t do it.

That’s just one of the things she talks about in the book.

If you watched the Social Dilemma on netflix a few years ago, you will recognise a lot of what is said here, but the book is still a solid, 5🌟 read.

Now for the fun!

my iphone screen

Three things that really, really help me:

  1. I can’t help thinking that I would rather have read a book than scroll some random person’s Instagram feed – that definitely helps me to stop the mindless scroll.
  2. Put your screentime widget on your front screen of your phone (see top left of screen above). Every time you pick up your phone and are confronted with your daily usage, you might reconsider what you intended to do. I added this widget in the second week of January this year and my screentime has gone down from 7 hours 11 to somewhere between 3 and 4 hours on average. More importantly, my Instagram usage has radically decreased. Here’s how to do it for Android phones.
  3. Put all your social media apps on page 2 of your phone. If you keep your tools on page 1 of your phone, you’re less likely to go straight to Instagram, Facebook, etc. Facebook is not on my phone and I maybe spend 10 minutes a month there via the web, and it’s all birthday check-ins.

Does your screentime usage bother you? Have you added the widget to your front page yet?

5 (quick and easy) steps to reflect on your half-year review

If you’ve been reading for even just a little time, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of stopping, and pausing to reflect before marching on. It’s because I was not good at this step that I feel like it’s so useful. If you’re thinking “oh, this reflection business is not for me” it’s probably then going to be a very valuable exercise, especially for you.

As we have just finished the half-year, let’s pause and reflect on the first six months of the year. Here are my 5 steps (I change these all the time and if I gave a talk, I’d probably change it again ;)) which I have positioned as questions:

1. Where do I need to give myself grace?

  • Many of us set out at the end of 2022/ beginning of 2023 with a brand new set of goals and intentions that seemed easy at the time because we were hyped up on New Year Energy. I am the same as you! I conveniently forgot that I’m not an outside person and told myself I could go outside almost daily for 23 minutes in 2023. Here’s where I let that notion go.
  • Do you need to give yourself grace and let some things go? Books, TV shows, projects (work or personal)?

2. What is working? What am I happy with?

  • This is the fun part so go wild.
  • Did you get some work projects done? Did you get personal projects done? Did you rest well? Did you watch some good TV? Is your reading in a good place? (I have watched some good TV – On the verge, The Bold Type, Working Moms, Wellmania, etc.)
  • Are you rocking your relationships? (I am rocking my in-person relationships… probably because I’m tired of online everything!)
  • Have you finally adjusted to a new work from office rhythm? (more on this in a blog post but finally, after 5 months in a 3-days-a-week schedule, I can say yes)
  • Have you finally reduced your addiction to the tiny computer in your hand?
  • Are you in a good exercise/ movement routine?

3. What do I still need to do?

  • When you review your list (or make a new list), what is still calling to you to do for this year?
  • How is your health? No joke – I have 5 health appointments to make this month and two that must happen – the pharmacist told me she is only issuing my meds as an “emergency” so I’ve got to go get a repeat script from my doctor in the next 3 weeks. Alrighty then.
  • Do you have some house projects you want to take care of?
  • Do you have some fun things you want to plan to look forward to?

4. What do I want to change?

  • When you consider the last 6 months, what are you not happy about?
  • What needs to change? Is it something you need to speak up about? Schedule the time to do so.

5. What are my in-progress projects?

  • What have you started, made some progress towards but you need to finish it off? Personal projects, work projects, finance projects (I met with my financial adviser in May and she gave me 3 actions – I have done none but I told her I would only action in July or August), health projects?
  • If you have nothing, great! I put this question because many of my projects don’t always start and finish in the same month, as neat as that would be.

If you need some inspiration and guidance to get going, I am here to give you a loving kick in the pants to get you moving again, but you have to take the first step.

Other half-year review posts on the blog

(no surprise to anyone – I didn’t do one in 2020!)

My 3 top takeaways from quarter 1 of 2023… updated for quarter 2 too

Originally written in April 2023 and sent to my newsletter list, now updated in July 2023

If you look at my numbers, it appears things are going great. I just checked my spreadsheet and I’m on 11.84 out of 23 for my #23goalsin2023, which is 51%, and we’re only 3  months into the year.

That says two things to me: I am good at getting big things done early (this is true – I always weight my work so that I “eat the frogs” first) and the rest of the year is going to show only incremental change (also true as a lot of my goals are project goals which means a 1/12 increase monthly).

However, let me share some of my favourite insights from the first three months:

1. Leave what’s not working for you

  • I abandoned the tracking of Gretchen’s Go outside 23 in 2023 project (and then on a recent-to-me podcast, I heard another listener say she also considers time in her car travelling to places “outside” time) but I am certainly outside more than 161 minutes a week.
  • I have abandoned three books this year already (great for me!) and I have abandoned some self-imposed, ambitious work projects (on my actual job). That will have to wait for after 30 June 🙂

2. Habits are easy for me to maintain if I schedule them

  • As a true upholder, I’ve embraced the scheduling of good habits.
  • I faithfully book two gym classes a week and attend. My Spanish dance classes happen every Thursday without fail.
  • I book all the days I plan to be at the office. Our hybrid work situation is flexible so “be here any 3 days of the week” I plan the previous week and align my menu planning and gym visits to that schedule.
  • I also take about 30 minutes (I tell myself it’s 23 minutes though, for whimsy!) to do my planning for the week – update diary, book journal, bullet journal and line-a-day diary. This is all scheduled.

3. Some things will just take longer than you think

  • For my work programme, I have now finally embraced the “staying present” and “enjoying the journey” but I’ll tell you – it all takes way longer than I think it should. On the other hand, I do actually think the end-product is better!
  • My health metrics are taking longer to right themselves. I was very disappointed about a month ago when my iron levels had not miraculously fixed themselves (nor had my cholesterol) but a colleague told me that her iron levels took two years to fix. I’m hoping mine happens faster than that but still, apparently health metrics don’t all fix themselves in just a few months.

What were your big takeaways from quarter 1?

For my quarter 2 update, I …

  • am now at 65% of my 23 in 2023 goals (if you think that’s awfully specifc, it’s because I track it with formulae on an actual Excel spreadsheet)
  • I have fully completed my programme and finished well
  • I am on my actual treat holiday for finishing the programme (so glad I booked it as it dragged me through the last two months).
  • I have now finished reading 64 books for the year so I am on track for 100 in 2023
  • I am most behind with all my medical appointments and have to get my bloods drawn and schedule my appointments to see if there is any change. It still feels like a miracle to me that doctors know what’s happening with you just from your blood! (Yes, I am easily awed)

And what are your quarter 2 updates?

Our bathroom renovation – what we would change and what we wouldn’t

A little bit of background:

  • In 2020 Dion and I were planning to go to the US for a holiday to celebrate a big anniversary. We all know what happened and there were no big travel holidays.
  • 2021 didn’t look much better both from a comfort to travel point of view and so I had the bright idea – instead of those savings languishing (!) in our savings account, waiting for better days, why don’t we spend it on something we can enjoy daily, like a new bathroom?
  • This was one of my more inspired ideas as that is exactly what we did. Another inspired idea was to have them do the main demo work while we were on (local) holidays and therefore not bothered by noise and dust (win-win). We did have a full week of people in the house once we returned.

What we would change:

Maybe next time (if there is a next time) we’ll stay away for two weeks because it was challenging for me to work and live in a house with a ton of people also working. On Teams: “hi client, please just ignore the drilling, there’s a bathroom renovation happening”.

I go back and forth on this, and we can still change it – the force of the shower is just pleasant, not super strong. That is a water-saving mechanism and is fine for most of the year but I will admit that in winter, I do sometimes think I need a bigger force shower with lots of hot water blazing down on me.

What we did change

We added more hooks and towel rails and moved the position of the rails within that first week. Compare the top picture to this one.

What we would not change:

  • Everything structural – I love having a big shower and no bath
  • I love our double basins
  • I love that we kept our wall for toilet privacy
  • I love our long wall of cupboards that hide our laundry baskets, cleaning materials and toiletries!

Here are some more pictures:

 

Have you ever had a renovation while you lived in the space?

Did it make you crazy or how did you handle it?

An ode to fun – watch more TV

Some long-time readers will remember that I’ve intentionally included words over the years to help me have more fun in my life – joy in 2016, fun in 2018, play in 2021 and delight in 2022.

This year, as part of my #23in2023 goals, I have a very strange goal for me – watch more TV. Watching a lot of TV is very normal for most people but not for me.

Things I like to watch are design shows like Dream Home Makeover or practical cooking shows like Nadiya’s time to eat, shows about women in my stage of life (Working Moms, On the verge, etc.) and shows with a beautiful visual aesthetic (Grace and Frankie – my true comfort because the writing is perfection, the acting is amazing and it’s gorgeous to look at – the kitchens, the houses, the beach!)

I do not like crime (why, people, why?) or anything dark because I really love that I sleep well and I don’t want that disturbed.

I’m doing excellent on this goal this far – this is what I watched in quarter 1 of 2023:

  • Dead to me (Netflix) – final season
  • Bad Sisters (Apple TV) – episode 1 (I will treat myself to a one-month subscription in July when I’m on holiday and watch the rest of it)
  • On the verge (Netflix) – started last year but I finished everything available
  • The bold type (Netflix)
  • Daisy Jones and the Six (Amazon Prime) – I’d watched half by the end of March and I finished the other half in the first 3 days of April (so that I wouldn’t have to subscribe for another month.

Now, I have some questions for you:

  1. Do you watch a lot of TV?
  2. What do you like to watch?
  3. Given my tastes above, which Netflix or Amazon Prime shows do you recommend?

{Goals} Quarterly review – Jan to March 23

And here we are, at the end of the first quarter of the year.

Three months over – just like that!

A summary of just a few high – and lowlights over the last quarter:

  1. I applied for my passport and received it.
  2. I read 31 books, 8 of them 5* reads, which is a great start to my reading year.
  3. I have watched a lot of TV (one of my #23in2023) – finished Dead to me, On the Verge and am now knee-deep in The Bold Type. And of course, I’m also watching Daisy Jones and The Six.
  4. We finally had our solar installation and it has been life-changing. I don’t have to think about loadshedding when I want to go out or concern myself with my laptop holding charge until the power comes on again.
  5. Despite being on iron supplements over the last 3 months, my iron levels have not improved to a degree where I can stop them. I think I thought that 3 months would sort out my iron deficiency but apparently not.
  6. I’ve had a consistent 3 workouts a week since January – two Zumba classes and a Spanish class. We have had a new Spanish teacher this year and it’s been so invigorating for my dancing.
  7. A friend of mine was diagnosed with stage 3 cervical cancer. Everything else pales next to that, doesn’t it? She is a fighter and she’s fighting as much as she is able.

Life is like this, isn’t it? Highs and lows.

Tend is being a good word for me this year – a reminder to take care of my health, family, friends and work.

How was the first quarter of 2023 for you?

How is your word working out?

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