{Covid-19} 5 things I love and 5 things I’ll miss about lockdown

As we close out this month, and there’s more talk of opening up, I thought I’d share my 3 lists of 5 things. Do join me. This is great for your own Covid-19 journalling 🙂 or your bullet journal.

5 things I miss (more here)

  1. Freedom
  2. Seeing friends face-to-face
  3. Going to the gym
  4. My dance classes
  5. Kids going to school

5 things I love

  1. No traffic going to work
  2. Not having to colour my hair
  3. Seeing the daily winter sunsets (I would usually still be at work or driving home)
  4. Everyone is doing their own laundry
  5. Seeing the kids relate to each other like they did when they were little

5 things I’m grateful for (more here)

  1. Zoom Zumba and our core group of workout buddies
  2. That my husband and kids love being at home (I think this family can take only one of me!)
  3. Audio books accompanying my cleaning
  4. Cooking healthy meals and using up everything so there’s no waste
  5. Excellent sleep (I’ve averaged 8 hours for the last two months)

What are some of the things you miss and love about lockdown?

PS if you want to do a monthly review, download your monthly review pack here

Project – declutter bookshelf

Let’s take a break from all the Covid-19 talk and focus on a fun, pretty project you could do during the workdays, if you’re not working, or on the weekend if you want a break from boring things like laundry.

I had a goal this year – to go through my bookshelf and declutter anything I no longer wanted to read. So this is it – these are all the books I own, other than the ones that live on my Kindle.

Here’s what I did and suggest you might like to do too:

  • If there are books a friend has loaned you and you know you’re not going to read them, return them. If you keep them, they start to guilt you everytime you look at them. None of us needs that guilt.
  • Return any books to their owners that you have read. See the brown wrapped book? Ready to go to a friend when I can next see her.
  • Pick up and go through each and every book on your shelf and make two piles: those you have read and those you have not read.
  • For the ones you have read, honestly answer these questions:
    • Do I love this book so much I want to keep it? Might I re-read it? Yes – keep. No – toss aside (I only keep books I LOVE and that rate an 8-10/10)
  • For the ones you have not read, answer these questions:
    • Am I likely to ever want to pick this book up to read? Yes – keep. No – toss aside
    • Was I gifted a book I don’t want to read, but am keeping because the person is a special friend or family member? Hold the book, think positive thoughts and toss aside.
    • The not-sure bunch. Ask yourself, is this a title I want to take with me into my future? Here’s where it’s easy to let go (most things I know full well I am never going to read).

Those tips helped me a bunch. I now have books on my shelf I know I want to read and a lovely pile of books waiting downstairs to donate to my local library.

If you choose to go through your books, please send me pictures or better still, post your pics to Instagram or Facebook and tag me to come see.

{Covid-19} It’s all flipped, hasn’t it?!

Our president made his first announcement about social distancing on Sunday 15 March, and then on Monday 23 March, he announced that lockdown would begin on Friday 27 March.

We were on holiday in a very remote area of the country at the time of the lockdown announcement so we drove back home and were safely inside when lockdown began.

Monday 30th was the first day of work during lockdown. It was crazy. Also I made this list of things I wanted to get done on a daily basis. I was so naive. I work in financial services, which is an essential service. I am honestly busier now than when i have normal busy periods at work. If I don’t set good work boundaries, I end up working late into the night.

So that little Project Life card was only partially completed for 5 days and then I hid it deep down in the papers on my desk. Out of sight means no guilt about not getting things done.

This was my daily list for the second day of work/ lockdown. By the way, that “write blog” entry is this very one I’m finally writing two weeks later. That’s exactly a metaphor for life. I’ve not felt like doing anything extra on the computer after spending so much time on it for my actual work.

So what’s the point of telling you how I’m not getting my list done? I wanted to…

share my real life with you (not that I don’t always do that)

show you my ideal day vs reality

tell you how I’ve adapted and how things are now going

My workdays are taken up with work, a Zumba class (which is saving my sanity!) twice a week, cooking daily suppers, keeping up with the laundry and basic daily cleaning. And occasionally checking on the kids to make sure they’re doing schoolwork.

The only time I actually have to do anything extra like extra reading, organising, deep cleaning, etc. is on the weekend, just like before. Except! I’m doing so much proper cleaning and cooking ahead that I don’t have much time for extra because I’m knackered.

It’s taken me a lot of time, and I still have to give myself a talking to because the truth is that my own standards for cleanliness are much higher than the rest of my family. Anyone relate? Everyone has jobs but I have the job of making sure the other jobs get done, and I do toilets because I’m the fussiest about toilets over just about anything else 😉

I’ll leave you with these two last thoughts:

  1. go easy on yourself during these strange times and remember, you’re doing the best you can

but also

2. figure out how you can have some small joys during your day (cleaning up while listening to a catchy song – I recommend Ricky Martin) amidst all the cleaning, dishes, work and schooling going on.

How are you doing…really? Are you in essential services? How are your days being filled during this time? What’s keeping you sane?

{Covid-19} Let’s be intentional about our at-home time

Let’s quickly talk about being intentional while the threat of Covid-19 continues. When I use the word intentional, I don’t mean productive unless that is what you want to be intentional about. The last thing I want to do is put you under pressure; I want to give you grace and a few tools to take this one day or week at a time.

While I’m a girl who loves a plan and to know what’s happening, I’ve decided to take it all one week at a time. It’s how I plan anyway and I’m reminding myself things change in an instant. I’m making a Three Things To Do Today list and that’s it. My three things usually have something physical/ creative, something productive and something connecting.

What would your Three Things list have on it?

Mentally

  • If you’re feeling anxious, stop and ask yourself, “what will make me feel less anxious?” If it’s something you can do something about, do it. Otherwise, severely restrict your social media and news time. I’m not an anxious person by nature and even I started feeling a tinge of anxiety, so I’ve been reducing my social media time.
  • Fill your head with affirmations (write them out on an index or Project Life card), encouraging podcasts and things that make you happy. Jennie Allen has a great book out (how timely!) called Get out of your head. I started the Bible plan a few days ago and so far, great!

Physically

  • If you’re working from home, make sure you keep specific work hours, and stick to those hours. It’s so easy to work all the time and because you’re naturally going to let your home things bleed into work time, you may feel guilty. Don’t do this. Work hard during work time, and then switch off (yes, use a reminder on your phone!). If you want, track your work time so that there’s no guilt about switching off when your day is over. This is an excellent tool for obligers especially, but will also work for upholders and questioners.
  • Get outside in nature and go for a walk or run, just not with other people. Find a form of exercise because when you get moving, you’ll feel better. There are plenty of free things on the internet these days; one of my favourite ballerinas, Isabella Boylston, is doing ballet from her apartment. A yoga teacher I know is doing virtual yoga classes. All of these are win-win; exercise for you, and you’re supporting a small business/ Dancers Emergency Fund.
  • Get plenty of sleep. I know it’s hard but some easy sleep hygiene is to get off your phone early in the evening, read a relaxing (physical) book and stop drinking caffeine at lunch time.

Organising projects

  • A fellow twin mom, a little ahead of me in the game, shared on her Instagram how their family is going to play all the board games they own while they’re quarantined. They will then decide to declutter the games they no longer like. I think this is an excellent idea, don’t you?
  • You know all those things you wrote on your list at the beginning of the year? If they still matter to you, now is an excellent time to tackle them. Involve the kids! This book might help! Print out the list 4 “things I could do in 2020” so there’s no pressure on you, and see how you go. I love to hear feedback – let me know and tag me if you’re on Instagram.
  • Download your customised Tendency to-do list here

What are the things that you’ve found to work well for you?

Weekend routines and rhythms

We are all different personalities and need different rhythms for our weekends to feel like they were good ones.

What is important and consistent across personality types is for all of us to decide for ourselves what the components are that will make a weekend feel successful, and then incorporate those elements into our days.

This will also differ according to different times and life stages, e.g. in winter I cook more because that feels more life-giving to me, but in summer I only want to be in the kitchen a very short time.

Let’s look at some components of a successful weekend, shall we?

church – anchor event

1. Anchor events and scheduled activities

In this section, extroverts will typically want to have more time spent with other people where introverts will be happier by themselves.

I have at least three anchor events on most weekends – a tea with a friend after work on Fridays, Saturday morning Zumba and Sunday morning church. Those things are scheduled and in my diary, and can move, but probably won’t.

2. Downtime

We all need downtime, but what downtime looks like for you may differ to the next person.

Some people relax by reading on the couch; others relax by going for a long run. You do you.

3. Chores

Let’s face it – we all look forward to getting some nagging things off the to-do list and I, as an enneagram 1, like nothing more than to potter and set things in order in my home. The week is often for keeping the house ticking over and weekends are when I (and you) can devote a longer period of time to a little deeper cleaning or organising, like swopping summer and winter clothes, decluttering your kitchen cupboards, etc.

4. Planning

This only has to take 20 – 30 minutes but is so useful if done consistently. I know some couples who take time on a Friday night to plan for the week ahead. I do my planning in two stages – quickly on a Friday night or Saturday morning I plan the menu for the week ahead and write out the shopping list, and then on a Sunday afternoon, I take 5 – 10 minutes to review and plan for the week ahead. On very busy weekends, I might push the planning to a Monday night but I like to still get it done.

I need to get out once a day at least or else I get cabin fever 😉 but other than that, I like to both relax and get things done around the house every weekend. This goes out the window if I have a heat headache but if I’m well, that sounds like the perfect weekend for me.

I’m flexible around my loose plan (typical upholder!) but I do need those first three components to be present, and I feel like I’m winning for the next week too if I get my planning done.

What are the components for you to feel like you’ve had a successful weekend?

How to read more in 2020

If you’ve been reading around here or follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I’m a big reader. (I even started a bookstagram account late last year – marciareadsalot).

I read 97 books in 2016, 120 books in 2017, 112 books in 2018 and I finished on 108 books last year.

I hover around the 100 books a year mark consistently, and thought I’d share 5 ways that we can all read more. It’s not like I do nothing but read (I’m a full-time employee, parent to twins, wife, friend and coach/ speaker/ workshop facilitator) but I do prioritise my reading.

  1. Have a compelling to-read list

If you only have boring books on your list, you’ll be less inclined to pick up a book and read. Therefore, decide what you like to read and add some fun books (for you) to your list.

If you can’t wait to read a book, there’s a very high possibility you’ll read faster, and thus read more books.

Tip – I create a To read – January collection within my Kindle so that I always have a great list of books to pick from. If I own the physical copy, I download the sample, and leave that in the collection so I remember what I wanted to read.

2. Stop reading books you hate

This ties into number 1 above. If you are not enjoying a book, stop wasting your reading time and pick up a book you want to read instead.

Did you know that you don’t have to finish every book you start? Please start freely abandoning books. I abandoned 7 books this year (yay!) – the faster I abandon, the more I can read 🙂

3. Always keep a book with you

Even if you don’t keep a physical book with you, have an audio or Kindle book on your phone. I like to keep a non-fiction book on my phone that I can read a short piece when I have a few moments. Things that work very well are essay-type books, or 100 days to …… or 365 days of …………..-type books too.

4. First read, then scroll

I realised that I was grabbing my phone in the mornings instead of my book, so a couple of mornings I didn’t switch on the wifi for a whole hour while I read instead. I nearly finished my book just from reading first instead of scrolling.

If you’re having trouble focusing, set a timer for 20 minutes and start reading. 20 minutes is the perfect time for a non-fiction read, and I guarantee that if you give a work of fiction 20 minutes, you’ll get into it enough to either continue or abandon.

I also want to point out my blog post from a few years ago where I recognised that with the 4 – 5 hours of phone time I have a day, I could easily read a non-fiction book once a week. See why you and I are not reading more books.

5. Join a book club

Most of the population are obligers and as Gretchen Rubin says, if you’re an obliger and you want to read more books, join a book club. A friend told me on instagram that she had a terrible reading year (14 books). She is an obliger so i suggested a book club. She is in a book club but they each read a different book. As a Four Tendencies facilitator, I’d suggest she join a book club where they all read the same book. My own book club reads the same book and we are mostly Obligers, with some Questioners, one Rebel and me, the Upholder, and this works very well for the Obligers.

Joining a book club is one way to read more and it’s a fantastic way to also build intentional friendships.

Are you reading more or less than you were a few years ago? How do you make sure you’re reading a lot?

{2019 review} What went well in 2019?

I never used to like reflecting on anything really but it’s a part of my life I’ve really started to enjoy, not only having it done, but also the introspection part of it.

I particularly like monthly reflections, my birthday review and this, my annual review. I share that so that if you’re the same, you can take comfort from my initial discomfort and know that it’s a good thing to look back (however fleetingly!) and see how far you’ve come.

So, what went well this year?

Work rhythms

I’ve been in an excellent work rhythm for years now and I know how to manage the stressful parts of my job together with my personality. I do still have those moments because I’m human, but these days it takes me a day or two to get back to my preferred way of being rather than weeks like it used to.

A large part of this being on top of things is having my work from home day every week. There was a week recently where I had meetings the entire week and wasn’t able to work from home, and I could see how my deep work piled up.

My word of the year

I’ll talk properly about it in a post dedicated to the word, but I will say that BOLD has been an excellent and very timely word for me.

Book clubs and reading

I’ve always been a voracious reader and aside from a short reading slump this year (which I recognised because the same thing happened to me last year – could it be the time of year???), I’ve had a great reading year. Some months I abandoned all my rules and my sleep was interrupted as a result, but I read some great books, which I will also share in a separate post.

As for the book club, gosh, how I love my book club. We are in such a good place three years in. Dion suggested that it was because we are mainly obligers but actually we are the perfect ideal mix – 1 upholder, 1 rebel, 2 questioners and 4 obligers. We have good systems that work for proposing and veto-ing books, for hosting, etc. We’re reading good, discussable books and even if I don’t enjoy the book, I enjoy the discussion so much because I learn about the others’ points of view. It’s a truly life-giving intentional friend date that works really well and is still the highlight of my month.

This year, we also celebrated the first anniversary of Kids Book Club (such a creative name ;)). We are also in a good rhythm where this one is concerned. We have a core group of 3 sets of kids and another 2 sets of mostly regulars. I have a spreadsheet (of course!) for hosting so that we don’t always rely on the same people. The kids seem to like sharing their books because most of them want to go first and another mom, who was my kids’ amazing grade R teacher, came up with an excellent idea – first photos, then food 😉

Workshops

This year I ran 10 workshops with 75 people total: 8 Four Tendencies workshops, and 2 Five Love Languages workshops.

5 of those workshops were run at my home and 5 elsewhere: corporate offices, a hotel and someone’s home.

All were So Much Fun!

I can’t fully express how amazing it is to see people have realisations about their Tendencies and Love Languages right in front of me. It is amazing to have the privilege to be part of that and I can’t wait to welcome another 75 next year.

It would be remiss of me not to let you know that the first workshop date for next year has already been set: Saturday 8 Feb 2020. Mark your calendar, pay your deposit and come, let’s have some fun together.

One of my goals for next year is to run a Four Tendencies workshop for kids – I’m thinking April, so let me know if your want your schoolgoing child to attend. There will be student pricing available.

Friends

My scheduled friend dates are still working out well as is my friends spreadsheet. I got to see 3 Cape Town friends I’m not usually able to see on a Cape Town trip in October and it filled my love tank. I’m already on 90 friend connections for the year; could I make 100?

Workouts

I have a very regular habit going on of Zumba every Saturday, my Spanish dance class every Monday and Barre 180 on most Tuesdays. The Barre class is the one I’m most likely to miss if I need to, due to work, but still, I’ve already clocked 101 workouts, and hope to finish the year close to 120.

Sleep

My sleep has also been excellent this year. I will definitely end off higher than last year’s average of 7 hr 35 and am hoping for my best sleep year yet 🙂 Only I can get excited about that because my sleep used to be much less when I first started tracking it.

What went well for *you* this year?

{mindset} The DREAM method of organising Christmas

Christmas cards

I see Christmas trees and lights up in the shops, and yes, I’ve already had two Christmas mince pies, so I guess it’s time to talk about Christmas.

For a change, let’s approach it another way by referencing my DREAM method to organise your Christmas.

D ream

What is your dream for Christmas? What is your vision? What do you envision when you think of Christmas? Be sure to include your family’s vision and dream too – it’s often a lot more scaled-down than we imagine.

R emove

Remove everything from your mind that does not contribute to that vision. What can you remove that you thought you couldn’t? Full-on decor? Lights outside? Too much cooking? Most of the gifts? All the cards? 🙂

Christmas decor

E liminate

Eliminate all but the necessary. If the kids don’t want to make cards any more (like my kids!), then don’t. There is no Christmas cheer from forcing anyone to participate if they don’t want to.

Last year I had on my list to get festive doughnuts from Krispy Kreme. The kids told me they actually only like the very plain glazed ones.

A rrange

Arrange all the elements you’re keeping in a way that works for your family. If you have a family of introverts, do not jam-pack the schedule because your introverts need time to relax, lots of time to relax. In the same way, do allow the extroverts time to get out, mingle, and see all the pretty lights 🙂

Do, however, put the things you’re keeping on a visible schedule to be sure you will enjoy those events. Now’s the time to speak up and encourage each family member to think of the one or two things they absolutely love about the season so that you can arrange it in plenty of time.

Christmas meal

M aintain

Maintain a good spirit through it all. The reason for the season is not to be grumpy because people only want to do 3 things versus your 10 things.

Often we have a not-so-enjoyable time because our expectations vary so greatly from those of our family’s. Adapt and remember it’s better to do less with a grateful heart than be running around, stressed about “getting it all done”.

And now, I need to start making my very short list of my DREAM Christmas. Usually my list only has the Carols by Candlelight on it, decorating the house while listening to Michael Buble and Mariah Carey, and reading plenty of Christmas-themed books.

What’s on your DREAM Christmas list?

Organising Queen’s best books of 2018, just in time for summer/ winter reading


I thought I’d go ahead and post my best fiction and non-fiction books of 2018, just in case you want some backlist titles for summer/ winter reading.

Just like in the Northern Hemisphere, I also read a lot during our winter because I completely indulge myself in all that is good about winter (reading with tea under a blanket).

So here we go, first my top fiction reads and then my top non-fiction reads.

Fiction

Still Alice – Lisa Genova

Still Alice is 10 years old this year! If you get the physical copy, you might find the lovely 10th anniversary edition.

I loved this book so much but I’ll confess because I lean to the dramatic (!), it made me super paranoid that I was getting Alzheimer’s. That’s not a spoiler – it’s in the book blurb that it’s about a woman who gets early-onset Alzheimer’s. To this day, if I walk into a room and can’t remember why I’m there, I freak out a little inside. 

I gave this book 4.5* because it was so uncomfortable to read in places, but it is my own issues. It’s actually a 5* read.

The Ensemble – Aja Gabel

This was a debut novel spanning about 20 years in the lives of a string quartet. It is beautifully written, has interesting, compelling characters and still moves at a good pace. You don’t need to know anything about music (I don’t!) to appreciate and enjoy this book.

I still can’t believe this is her debut novel – it’s so, so good and was my absolute favourite book of the year (5*). I loved it so much I plan to listen to it in June on audio. And….  if you’re like me, once you’ve read the book, 

As an aside, Beth also read this book (the only one of my friends SO FAR!) and loved it, and we generally read completely different genres, other than psychological thrillers which we both enjoy. 

Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

Like Still Alice, this was also a book club pick. I loved everything about this book and I loved the mom character too, who I am sure is an enneagram 1.

This was a 5* read but I chopped off 1/2* due to a small detail near the end.

If you’ve read any of these three books, do let me know what you thought in the comments.

Non-fiction

How not to hate your husband after kids – Jancee Dunn

I know this is a clickbaity title but the research is so solid, and this is a fantastic book. She covers all the important parts of marriage – especially the ones that cause… disharmony…. and I loved every single chapter.

Lab girl – Hope Jahren

This was the book that made me see nature in a different way. I wrote so much more here.

The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin

And I wrote more about this book here

And if you want to get inspired to get organised and nest, I’d love you to grab a copy of one of my books here.

Do you have any great backlisted titles to recommend to me?

PS These are affiliate links – it costs you exactly the same price and I get a few cents on each title for recommending it to you.

{reading} How I track my reading and January books read


So let’s talk about book tracking.

This is a big deal in the bookstagram world, and if you know me at all, you know I love tracking anything and everything. I learned since reading The Four Tendencies that upholders do well with monitoring, which is really what tracking is for me.

I first started tracking my reading straight after my last matric exam. For those outside of South Africa, it’s your last school year. That day was on 18 November and on that very day after my Biology exam, I went to the library, took out all the books I could and started tracking from that day nearly 27 years ago.

At some point once I’d started working, I started keeping an Excel sheet.

Fast forward to when I discovered Goodreads, and little by little but only back to 1998, I entered most of that notebook into Goodreads.

Well, how do I currently track my reading?

I track in 3 ways:

Goodreads (if Goodreads ever goes away, I don’t know what I’d do)

I use Goodreads for recording books I’ve read and to check when I’m at the library or bookshop whether I’ve read a certain book before borrowing or buying it. After thousands of books read, I can’t keep it all straight in my head 🙂

There’s an app which I use for on-the-go tracking, but I write reviews at my laptop as I need a proper keyboard.

Excel spreadsheet

I track my monthly goals on an excel spreadsheet. In the past I’ve done an exercise at the end of the year to see how many fiction vs non-fiction reads I had, and other such interesting stats, which took me hours. Hours of pleasure, but hours nonetheless. Then I got clever. So since 2017, as part of my monthly goals, I also track the numbers of non-fiction vs fiction, physical/ kindle/ audible books and so on. It’s so much easier to enter the totals in less than a minute every month and my Excel sheet is set up to total, and do % of goal, etc. so I have the annual totals quickly too.

Bullet journal

This year I started writing down the month’s books in a special notebook I call my book bullet journal. I also have notes at the back of books I want our book club to read, books I want to read on Audible, books I need to borrow through Overdrive, and so on.

It’s really lovely to have a beautiful, fun notebook, and to physically write down books I’m reading again, especially since I haven’t done so for about 15 years, if not longer.

How do you track your reading?

And as for the books I read in January…

I finished 10 books – 5 of them during the first week while I was on holiday 🙂

My final tally is 8 fiction; 2 non-fiction with 5 physical books, 1 audible and 4 Kindle versions.

Favourite reads of this month: The Friend – Dorothy Koomson (my first 5* read of the year!) and The Sunshine Sisters – Jane Green

What were your favourite reads in January?



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