I’ve chosen a word, now what? 5 practical ways to make your word real.

It’s all very good and well to choose a word of the year but sometimes I ask people a few months in, “how’s your word of the year going?” and they can’t even remember their word.

Don’t feel bad if this is you; it is very normal but that’s not to say we should accept that, throw up our hands and just leave it be.

My 14 words from 2009 to 2022

  • 2009 – simplify
  • 2010 – consolidate
  • 2011 – courage
  • 2012 – create
  • 2013 – trust
  • 2014 – shine
  • 2015 – enough
  • 2016 – joy
  • 2017 – give
  • 2018 – fun
  • 2019 – bold
  • 2020 – light
  • 2021 – play
  • 2022 – delight

After 14 years of me choosing and living with a word, I’d like to share a few things that work for me:

  1. Set your word as your screensaver/ password or desktop wallpaper on your laptop or phone

Out of sight means out of mind. If you have to type in that word as a password several times a day, it will stick. If you see it as your wallpaper on your phone when you reach for it 80 times a day (or so the stats say), you’ll start to remember it.

2. Make a policy for yourself around your word

E.g. if your word is connect, then maybe you’d say, “every time someone asks me on a friend date, I will say yes”. When my word was fun, I weighed up every commitment with “does this sound fun?” If it didn’t, I declined. My policy this year is to stop and take the picture (a sure source of delight to me afterwards even if I don’t feel like it in the moment)

3. Set goals for your word

Ask yourself monthly, “how can I _________ this month”. Where do I need a reminder that I am enough? Where can I take delight? How can I be brave? What needs to be nourished and how am I going to do it? Who can I connect with? What can I create?

4. Review how you did at the end of every month

On a scale of 1 – 10, how much did I move? Did I take enough action? Did I rest enough? is there enough balance? And so on. Use your word and make changes for next month if what you were doing wasn’t working.

Set a reminder in your phone otherwise you will most likely not remember. I call the last day of every month Goals Night for this very reason.

5. Stay open to your word

Yes, I just said in 3 above to set goals, but also stay open. Sometimes the need for your word will appear in unexpected ways. Last year my word was play and I have not worked as hard at my job in many many years. There was a need for me to remember to play. See? My 2016 word was joy and that was the year we bought this house and struggled to sell the previous one. I had to choose joy in those 3 months!

Bonus – buy a piece of jewellery or art

I have many necklaces and rings that remind me of my words through the years. I also bought a piece of art off etsy one year for courage.

What are the tips and tricks you’d like to share?

It all started with a facecloth (more about my latest project)

If you’ve hung around here for awhile, you know I love a project. I don’t know what it is but I think it’s that I like something with clearly-defined rules, and a very clear start and end date.

Aside from my annual goals (which I’ll review end of March as I checked at the beginning of the month, and nothing could be crossed off yet ;)), #rest22in2022, I am also doing what I call Project Upgrade this year.

Really, it’s Project Upgrade, Fix or Declutter. Let me explain.

I’m an under buyer with most things in life so I will use things until they’re completely done. I do declutter regularly as I am very partial to the one in, one out rule, but I very rarely upgrade things just because. And I’ve been thinking that I need to do that; I don’t have to be the only one to use up things.

It all started with a facecloth. I went to Cape Town on the 30 November last year and forgot my facecloth at home. The hotel provided me with the softest facecloth ever that is now my “travel facecloth”. After I’d used this facecloth for 3 days, my current one suddenly felt too rough and I started pondering.

If this exists in one area of my life, where else is it happening?

So I made a quick list and decided to adopt it as my house/ personal project for the year.

Declutter

These are for things need to go but I’m still hanging onto them. Why? (gym pants and gym t-shirts)

Fix

Some things really just need a quick google, a couple of phone calls and arranging a date for the service provider to come and do their magic. E.g. the pool cover that needs replacing, there are some chairs that I’ve wanted reupholstered, and so on. They’re all “fine” but “fine” is not delightful and they can all stand to delight me again.

Upgrade

I batch-cook almost every week but I only have one very big pot, one saucepan the same diameter and a medium pot. I’ve wanted another big pot for months. Why don’t I just go buy it?! I think because it feels like there are so many options and everything comes in sets and I don’t want a set. If you can recommend a good big pot, go ahead – I’m listening!

My plan is to tackle 2 – 3 of these little projects every month, seasonally where possible (pool and windows in autumn once the rains stop).

So far so good. January’s three projects were done successfully and this month, we’ve had an electrician out to sort out the plug points in the lounge, I’ve decluttered and bought nice new kitchen cloths and after visiting 2 – 3 shops, I finally found new gym shoes yesterday.

Of course, I fully expect to have to move things around and delete some because this house is 45 years old and things constantly need fixing or upgrading. But I definitely want to sort out all my personal upgrades.

What do you think? Would a project upgrade, fix or declutter work for you or your home?

How to use the one-minute rule at work

We’ve spoken before about the one-minute rule. We also talked about ways to use this rule at home.

What about at work?

Here’s how you can use the one-minute rule…

with your emails

  • if you’ve opened and read the email, and don’t need to refer back to it, delete it 🙂
  • if you need to delegate, forward it so that other people can work on it while you go through the rest of your inbox
  • decide there and then on your next action step and quickly type into the beginning of the subject line READ/ MEETING/ TALK TO ___ so that when you’re ready to work, you know exactly what to do next

in meetings

I like to write my meeting notes on the top 70 – 80% of the page and leave the bottom section for actions, OR sometimes there’s so much being said, I just write notes and later as we summarise, I allocate actions and I write the initials of the person in the margin. Now for the rule…

  • do your quick actions in one-minute bites immediately after a meeting
  • many actions are multi-step actions but you can always do the very first step even if that first step is just to allocate a block of time to work through the actions (“actions from XYZ meeting”)

with daily or weekly planning

  • if you’re a daily planner, start the next day’s to-do list page and keep it ready
  • as things pop up, add them to your list so you don’t have to keep it in your head or on random sticky notes in your notebook
  • the same principle works for weekly planning but since I don’t know if I need two more pages to close off the week or eight, I use a long post-it note for next week’s actions. When I’m then ready to make my actual weekly list, I have all my priorities in one place.

How do you already use the one-minute rule at work? Can you think of where you could use it?

How to use the one-minute rule at home

Have you heard about the one-minute rule? Even if you haven’t heard it referred to as such, I’m 100% sure you know of it.

What is the one-minute rule?

You take one minute to do something now rather than putting it on a list (mental or physical) to do later.

Why does the one-minute rule work?

It is quicker to take the time to do it now rather than in the long run because you have momentum.

Yes, it is sometimes annoying to take 60 extra seconds but I love thinking about my future self not doing something later 🙂

Let’s talk about some examples in your home:

Kitchen

  • Put food items away and wipe down the counter before having your meal
  • Take freezer items out when you think about your evening meal
  • After your shopping is packed away, take your reusable bags to your car or put next to the front door immediately. Don’t expect to remember them later – we all have friends with 27 bags in their kitchens that keep buying more when they’re at the grocery store.

Bathrooms

  • Spray down your basin and give it a quick clean with a sponge or those new-to-me cloths with microfibre on the one side and a scourer on the other.
  • While you’re at it, give your toilet a quick swish and swipe (a la Flylady)
  • Hang up your towels and put your laundry in the hamper immediately after showering rather than later

Lounge

  • Take a minute to straighten the cushions and put the remotes and coasters back in position rather than having to straighten up the following day.
  • Take all the mugs and glasses (and plates, if you allow eating in the lounge!) back to the kitchen.

Where do you use the one-minute rule at home currently? Can you think of some examples where this might work for you?

Are you using your Tendency?

If you follow me on Instagram, especially on my bookstagram account, marciareadsalot, you’ll know that I’m doing a project called #read21in2021, Gretchen Rubin’s 2021 habits project.

The idea is simple – you read every day for 21 minutes. The execution is not always that simple though.

Let’s talk through the Tendencies on a high level and see how each tendency might approach a project like this:

Rebel
If the Rebel decides that they identify as a reader, and they want to read more, they will change the project to suit them. My son told me it sounded fine but he would read for 25 minutes a day, not 21 minutes. He didn’t even keep it up for a week at first but he reads nothing for a week or two… and then he’ll read one book every day for weeks on end. Swings, roundabouts 🙂

Questioner
This person will need to understand why they’d want to do something like this project. If they can’t see anything they’d like to change about their reading life or why they might want to do such a project, they wouldn’t even start.

Obliger
The Obliger will stick with the project if they do it with someone and hold each other accountable, or if they buddy read specific books with a friend. If left to their own devices, they might battle with justifying the “me time” for reading.

Upholder
Upholders love a project. Since this project comes with 365 little boxes to cross off, even better. Once an upholder decides how they would approach this project, they would figure out the best time of day and get to it.

I’m an upholder. Upholders also need to constantly check in with themselves that they’re still enjoying things and that they’re not blindly following along.  

This year I’m reading non-fiction from my physical (mostly) and Kindle shelves.

Do you know why this is working for me?

I change the type of books – dense, action-oriented, memoir, Christian non-fiction, etc. – and never read two of the same type of non-fiction one after the other.

I also read for exactly 21 minutes and not a minute longer (I set a timer! isn’t this very upholder-ish?!) unless a few extra minutes will result in a finished book. This means I never get bored and the task doesn’t feel overwhelming.

 I swop around between physical and Kindle. If I look through my physical bookshelf and I’m not in the mood for anything on that shelf, I check my Kindle. Sometimes I even check Scribd – there may be a book I own which is in an audio format that I might prefer.

 In the 9 months I’ve been doing this project, I’ve already read 22 (of 113 total) books. I hope to make it 30 by the end of this year, and continue into next year to finally finish all the non-fiction on my actual, physical bookshelf.

Did you spy this book on the shelf above? 😉

This is a post bout a reading project but it’s really about any project or habit.

If you want to get anything done or create a habit, it’s important to eliminate your own stumbling blocks and figure out what might get your project/ habit moving again.

I do offer laser coaching Four Tendencies sessions so if you’re interested, email me and let’s get you set up. 

Meanwhile, do tell me how you’re using your Tendency in your reading life. I love to talk books and reading, and I love to hear from you!

For this last quarter, do you need a reset?


I shared on Instagram that I applied for a new job and got it! It’s a promotion and I have both direct and indirect reports, and while I’m loving it, it’s a lot. Especially since I’m still doing my old job until I recruit suitable replacements.

I decided that this is a good a time as any for a reset.

As Gretchen Rubin often says, the Strategy of the Clean Slate is powerful so I’m using this time to rethink how I want to move forward at work. In financial services, we’ve all been working way too much since Covid hit last March and I honestly think this level of intense work is unsustainable.

  1. Do you need a reset in the way you work?
  2. Do you need to move more during the day?
  3. Do you need to eat better and stock up on healthy snacks?
  4. Do you need better work boundaries for yourself and others?

(all of these are a yes for me too)


What about a reset in other areas of your life?

  1. Do you need to catch up on some personal medical or other errands  – dentist, gynae, haircuts? 
  2. Does your home need a bit of a refresh? As much as I clean and organise throughout the year, there is nothing like spring to inspire me to organise little spaces and get a few tolerations sorted. Earlier today I emailed the carpet cleaner and I’ll be booking the window cleaners soon.
  3. Does your exercise routine need a shake up? It seems that mine gets shaken up every 6 months or so even though it is not intentional. My existing Zumba classes have been fully booked for the last couple of weeks no matter how early in the day I book. I’m not a fan of just pitching and “hoping for the best” as some have suggested. I’d rather intentionally book elsewhere and know I have a space – that suits my upholder self much better. So I decided to lean into it (less stress!) and have just booked elsewhere for now. And look at my gorgeous view while I drive to the new gym…

If you need a reset, and you need some help strategising, that’s my super power so contact me when you’re ready for your laser coaching session.

Otherwise, comment and tell me where and how you’re resetting in your life.

My birthday month review

August is my birthday month and so I thought I’d share just some of my thoughts.

A reminder that I happen to use this review format around my birthday. You can do the same or if it doesn’t matter to you, then pic a random date and do an annual review, like now.

The end of the year is not a good time for me because kids are doing exams, then schools are closing, Christmas, holidays, etc. I do my annual review in November but I like the time around my birthday to do a more personal review.

Here’s the free printable birthday review PDF I made for us to use.

I didn’t want to use the same questions here, and I saw Jessica Honegger (founder of Noonday) talk about this method, so let’s try a start, stop, keep. list.

Start

  • Monthly one-on-one dates with the kids. These were going so well for 11 years and then… Covid. I need to bring these back again before it becomes even more difficult.
  • Dates with Dion. We left the kids alone for an hour and 10 minutes the other day and… nothing happened. It’s a start to the old life 🙂

Stop

Working so hard and work smarter. I’ve already started putting a few new things into practice like being very good with daily focussed time

Keep

Reading – I’m reading at least 10 books a month on a consistent basis and have found a really good rhythm of audio, physical and ebooks that works well for me

Friends – I connect with one friend a week, on average, and I have one book club a month for fiction, and another book club every 6 – 8 weeks for non-fiction

Exercise – Zumba and Barre classes are going well. And due to Covid restrictions, if I miss out on a live class, I now know I have the option of an online workout. E.g. the other weekend the wind was howling outside (atypical Jhb weather) and we all slept through so I missed my Zumba class, but then I did an online workout.

Holidays – we tried one new place in this crazy year and it was a delight for my senses, especially during autumn, the most beautiful season 🙂

Play – remembering my word of the year and saying yes to different things to keep it front of mind.

Some other birthday review posts:

My annual review in 2016

My annual birthday review in 2018

I made a birthday list in 2020

Do you do a birthday review?

What do you want to start, stop and keep in this next journey around the sun?

My absolute favourite pens – gel pens

Let’s get it out of the way – I like the look of pencils but I don’t ever use them. I went through a stage, maybe 10 years ago, where I bought some coloured pencil lead – pink and blue – which gave me some joy, but certainly not as much joy as my absolute favourite pens – gel pens!

I have three favourite gel pens and they all have three things in common:

  1. They’re point 0.7 mm
  2. They’re colourful (no black and boring blue; I do like a nice navy though)
  3. They all have retractable points

I started out with Pilot G2 0.7 – hunter green, sky blue, dark red, metallic colours, they’re all so good

then Pentel brought out such amazing colours in their energel brand – purple, pink, orange in addition to the green (I’ve been using them for 7 years)

and then my friend, Suzy, sent me a full set of Papermate Inkjoy Gel pens in the most delicious colours. At the time we couldn’t get them in South Africa. Now we can get them, but they’re R53 per pen! (see the pics in this post for the Papermate pens)

Which are your favourite pens? Or pencils, if that’s more your thing?

My favourite work notebooks

I’m fussy about my stationery but even I’m surprised at how specific I like my various items of work stationery to be! These are called campus notebooks by Typo and I pay R69,99 each or R100 for two (they have them on special a couple of times a year). They’re spiral-bound, a little wider than A5, have 4 sections (more on these sections later) and have lined paper.

They are my favourite notebooks which I use in the following way:

  1. I keep about 4 pages free in the beginning of the notebook for a few lists: lists of my clients, lists of new business I’m working on and any other lists I might need (sizes of meeting rooms are current favourites because I book enormous meeting rooms during these times, current work projects, and so on)
  2. I then make a daily eat the frog list, and my ta-da list and goals for the week at the end of each week. It’s my whole end-of-work week routine.
  3. I start each day with a daily list, make meeting notes and actions, both in preparation for the meetings I run and when I’m a participant. One day can use up anything from 3 – 8 pages, depending on the types of meetings.
  4. These notebooks used to last 6 months each but during these pandemic times where we work mostly from home and have far more meetings than ever before, they’re stretching to 3 months if I’m lucky. (I just checked my current notebook – I started it on 18 May and looks like I’ll start another one on 18 August).
  5. I completely ignore the partitions. I know some people like to use one section for clients, one for team meetings, one for something else and one for to-do lists. That’s not how my brain works – my brain works strictly in chronological order. E.g. “when was that client meeting? oh, 4 August.” I then flip to 4 August and find my notes. So I (horror of horrors) just cut out those partitions and I keep just one for a few post-it notes.

And now for the enormous disclaimer…

There is absolutely nothing special about this notebook or any other notebook.

The best notebook is the one that works for you!

Confession – you don’t even need a fancy notebook. An A5 exercise book that school kids use will do.

I would say you need a system to keep up with your work actions, a place to hold the thoughts in your mind, a place to plan the important and not urgent matters (quadrant B items) and a place to reflect back and refer to notes.

If you have that, great!

If not, perhaps try my system – who knows? It might just work for you too. If not, keep the bits that work and start tweaking the other parts.

Which is your favourite notebooks to use for work?

PS Whenever I post something like this, people always say, “why should you use pretty stationery for work?” To that I say, I spend 50+ hours a week on work; I definitely want to use that time and make my environment and tools ones that spark extreme joy for me 🙂

How to do a quick and effective half-year review

It might be that I’m such a big fan of reflecting and reviewing precisely because it doesn’t come naturally to me.

I recognise the process as valuable though which is why I take the time to do a half-year review every year.

Your review is only a 20 – 30 minute process but it will make you feel that you closed off the first half of the year and can focus afresh on the 6 months ahead.

What do you need?

  1. 20 – 30 minutes
  2. A drink of your choice – hot or cold
  3. Notebook/ bullet journal
  4. Pen

You could type into a computer or your phone but I recommend doing it with a pen and paper so that your brain slows down enough to process as you think through the questions.

Here are some questions to ask yourself. Use all, or just use the first 5 questions:

  1. What went well, and why?
  2. What could be better? How?
  3. What have you learned about yourself?
  4. What energised you? How can you bring more of this into your life?
  5. If you chose a word of the year, has it been guiding/ inspiring/ clarifying for you? How are you living out your word of the year? Do you need to change your word? Here’s your permission slip if you want to do that.
  6. Looking at your goals, have you made good progress and are you on track?
  7. Are there any goals you need to let go of? Let them go and be kind to yourself.
  8. Do you know why those goals were no longer motivating you?
  9. Looking forward… what are the 3 main things you want to focus on for the next 3 – 6 months?
  10. Do you have the necessary support? I would love to help you.

Reset and refresh sessions

  • I will send you a prep pack once I receive your payment which you work though and return to me 48 hours before your session so I can spend some time beforehand preparing.
  • We meet on Skype or Zoom, whichever option you prefer.
  • We will discuss what you want to keep in your life going forward and more importantly, what you want to let go of.
  • We might set new goals and develop action plans, or tweak existing goals to suit where you are right now.
  • My goal is that you leave the session encouraged, inspired and that you have clarity on the way forward.
  • The sessions are 60 minutes long and your investment in yourself is $75/ R1000 (previous clients get a discount!)
  • I encourage you to book another session in 6 months, but only if you think it will be helpful.
Contact me now to schedule your session. I work with clients all over the world so we will find a time that will work for your time zone.

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