What do you need during this pandemic festive season?

This week, more than ever, I’d like to talk about the three Rs that are so important for this time of year.

1. Rest – to recover physical strength

  • Let’s face it – everyone is tired. It’s been a looooong year and most of our reserves are depleted.
  • Whether you take actual leave over December or not, I’d like to encourage you to build in some time every weekend to do something truly restful for your body to replenish your physical reserves. Prioritise sleep; if you feel tired, go have a nap on the couch. There’s nothing nicer than going to lay on the couch with a book and nodding off to wake an hour later, refreshed. Eat proper food (fruits and vegetables), drink enough water and get outside in nature (literally, go outside and stand there for 5 minutes to breathe).

Relax – to make less tense or anxious

  • Relax speaks to our mental or emotional states whereas rest above speaks to our physical states. This time of year is always stressful as everyone wants to get all their work done so tempers are frayed, people are impatient and good manners go out the window. I’ve been saying to myself “oh, it’s just covid” when I see behaviour that I know is not usual for work colleagues because I know I’ve not been my absolute best, sparkling self. Do you know that the Organising Queen herself double-booked two socials for the same time this weekend? I have no words but my friend was gracious to me!
  • Write down a few sentences that will help you relax about what you can and can’t control. I did this very thing the other day. I wrote down what God has called me to do (to do excellent work with the utmost of care, take good care of my clients, be courteous and professional and do my work as for Him) and I glance over at my bullet journal daily to remind myself that I’m not here to stress about anything because I’m just trying to get through a pandemic.
  • If you’re feeling anxious about Christmas, read this post – it’s your permission to do things your way, or not at all. One of my favourite Christmases ever was one where I said to Dion, “I don’t feel like doing anything so let’s just you and I do our own thing at home”. This was pre-kids and we ended up going to visit an uncle but it was still super low-key and wonderful! I really don’t even mind not seeing family this Christmas (I honestly think it will be safer all round!) but I know not everyone feels the same. Give yourself grace to feel what you need and do whatever is right for you.

3. Review – to make an assessment with the intention of making a change if necessary

  • You and I both know that you can make a change any time you feel like it. The questioners know this better than anyone else 🙂 We also know that the start of a new year is always an excellent time to change things that are no longer working for you.
  • There’s a step before making change though, and that is reviewing what’s working and what’s not. As you go about your days during the remainder of this month, I’d like to encourage you to keep the Let’s Do This workbook or your bullet journal handy. Every time you notice something, jot that down. What’s really working? What’s not working? Did you just have an insight? Write it down. What do you need to let go of? What’s bugging you that you need to change? And so on.
  • You’re being a detective in your own life, gathering evidence so that you can solve the mystery of being more intentional next year, at least in areas you can control 🙂

** I started off with 10 and I have 6 X 60-minute laser coaching slots at $50 each then they go up to their usual price of $60/ hour. I’d love you to book one of those sessions for us to talk about your life, do your review and set you up, ready for 2021. Email me! This is especially useful for the Obligers out there – accountability is the secret tool of your success.

Over to you – which of these three Rs is currently speaking to you most? Obey the nudge and take some action.


{mindset} What are the three things you need right now?

It’s already starting to feel like spring in Johannesburg and as we approach the new season, I thought this might be a good time to remind all of us (I love seasonal reminders) to think about 3 things daily, 3 things weekly and 3 things monthly that we need.

3 things daily

Every day I ask myself, “which 3 things do I need to or want to get done today?”

On Sunday, my three things were to update the budget, cook two meals and finish reading my book.

On a workday, it’s usually the most important work tasks and will sometimes include a load of laundry or making a phone call.

Is there a habit you want to build in daily? Name it and write down just one.

3 things weekly

Those of you who’ve been here a while know that I’m a weekly planner. I love weekly planning because if I have one terrible day full of work surprises or an unexpected headache, it doesn’t derail my entire week. I can get back on track and will usually get those things done another day.

I usually have 3 main weekly tasks – this week that was to 1) write a newsletter, 2) write a blog (this one!) and to 3) send out a final note to all the people on my interested list of the last EVER Four Tendencies workshop.

What are your weekly tasks? Is it to make a menu plan and shop for groceries, to make sure there’s enough clean clothes, to make a weekly phone call to a loved one?

I usually have house tasks, personal tasks and work tasks on my weekly list.

3 things monthly

I want to talk a little more about this because it’s about being honest with yourself. I’ve been working too much and I realised that I don’t seem to have an off switch, because the laptop’s right there….

 1. I need to consciously work at shutting off and not popping into my email to “quickly check things”. I’m going to have to set a reminder on my phone to stop working and perhaps pack the laptop away until I break the habit.

2. I also need to move more regularly; I do have my regular Zumba classes but I could easily add another class to the weekly schedule. I’m happier and calmer when I move my body.

3. Last but not least, I need to focus on what I can do, not what I can’t. I can’t run the workshops I ran last year, but I can run a virtual workshop. I can’t connect with people in person but I can coach on Skype and Zoom. I can’t go eat out at a restaurant like before (we are still being very careful, e.g. we went on my birthday), but I can try many, many recipes right here at home to experiment with ingredients and new flavours.

What do you need right now? 

Do you need to work on drinking more water, getting more sleep, having a set start and stop time for work, connecting with a real life friend instead of scrolling Instagram, switching the TV off at a decent hour every night…?

There’s something powerful about speaking it aloud to yourself or comment and I will see it.

{goals} 3 things to consider if you want to create a habit

We all thought that while we were in lockdown, we’d have all the time in the world for all the things we wanted to add to our lives. But we forgot that we’d need to work longer hours, guide our children with their schooling, cook, clean and do more laundry and dishes than we ever dreamed possible.

Sometimes it amazes me that even though I’ve been creating (and breaking!) habits for years and years, I still don’t think through and plan things properly when I want to create a new habit.

And yet, when I do take just a few minutes to plan, it works out so much better than just winging it.

Some habits are more long-term like creating an exercise habit, some are medium-term like working on a project consistently for a determined period (building a website or getting a writing project up and running) and others are for a short time like a month (the photo challenges I participate in on Instagram come to mind).

Think about a good habit you want to build. 

Let me now share 3 things to consider if you want to create a good habit in your life:
 

1. Frequency
What is a realistic frequency to consider?

For a new exercise habit, 2 – 3 times a week might work better at first in starting to build a sustainable habit. Decide what would be an easy enough frequency to incorporate into your existing life, not your fantasy life. It is easier to increase frequency later once a habit is already established than to find the motivation to start up again if you burn out from going too hard too soon.

2. Energy
When is my energy highest for this type of activity?

If you want to create more time to make delicious meals, consider your energy levels. You might be willing, able and excited on a Saturday afternoon, but not on Wednesday evening after a day of meetings. Consider also the different types of energies required for the various activities – writing a blog post or reading requires a different energy than exercising, for instance.

3. Pairing
Which activity already occuring regularly is something to which I can attach my new habit?

Susannah Conway’s August break is now upon us. It’s one of my favourite parts of the entire year because for my entire birthday month, I get to be mindful and introspective. My natural flow is to move forward quickly but I’m a better me when I slow down occasionally and reflect. When Susannah announced the challenge a few weeks ago, a commenter mentioned that she always starts and then forgets after a few days. I couldn’t help replying with a tip that works really well for me – I screenshot the prompts and save the picture as my lockscreen. Whenever I then reach for my phone, I see the prompt (pairing something good with something automatic) and I start thinking about what to post. I have another pairing habit later at night – when I have my evening cup of tea, before I start reading my book, I quickly post my prompt.

If you have a habit you want to create, might I suggest that you put just a few minutes of thinking into it so that you set yourself up for success. You can do it!

Bonus tip

It probably goes without saying but using your Tendency’s strategies for success will help you embed habits in your life. If you’re not sure of your Tendency, or you do know but you’re not sure how to use it with regards to successful habit formation, either come on the last workshop with me, or book a private Four Tendencies coaching session (currently $60 for 60 minutes).

{mindset} So many pandemic changes – part 2

We started talking about all the changes that we need to consider due to the pandemic last week. Read part 1 here.

And a huge disclaimer – I know that we are fortunate that our jobs have been secure thus far. If your income has been affected, I’m sorry – that completely sucks.

5. House/ external environment

I’ve told myself, since we’re not travelling, we might as well spend some of that money on our house so that we’re as comfortable and happy here as we can be.

To that end, I’ve had a handyman in to fix 6 little things, a plumber came to sort out some minor annoyances before they become big things, my garden is looking good for now (Jhb has no winter rainfall so the garden is decent) and my house is fairly deep-cleaned as my domestic worker is back for 40% of our pre-covid arrangement, which is actually why I can blog and am not cleaning!

We sealed some windows and had carpets replaced (two years later than I planned!) and now I just need a painter to come and paint my downstairs and I think we’ll be good for a while again.

More importantly than projects, we’ve moved things around in the house so that the entire space works better for this new C19 life. That couch on the left is no longer there – I needed it there for the workshops but since those are no longer happening, we’ve moved it upstairs to the pyjama lounge so the kids can relax near us while we’re working.

Zumba in my study

6. Exercising

In the beginning of the lockdown, exercise was a substitute as we waited for “things to return to normal”. Now that we realise this is how it’s going to be for a long time, and things are not going to return to normal for a long, long time, and we’re working from home so are far more sedentary, I have personally realised that I need to either get happy about my methods of exercise, or change them.

Zumba has been keeping me sane, I’ve found I really do not like ballet via Zoom though (I really do go for the whole sensory experience) and I love going for a walk to clear my head some evenings after work, especially now during autumn and winter. I’m under no illusion that when it gets too hot in Jhb, I’ll hate walking again and may have to do more Zumba classes, or maybe ballet will start looking exciting again 😉

thank goodness for kindle books and scribd

7. Spending

Oh, this is a big one. I’ve had a couple of discussions on Instagram because I’m honestly fascinated by all these people who are saving money.

Yes, we’re not spending as much on petrol but our food has increased so, so much with all of us here all the time, snacking, eating, treating ourselves with food and the occasional takeaway.

We’ve had to upgrade our internet and with that comes an increased monthly expense – the speeds are not sufficient with two people working full-time, in meetings, and two children trying to also access the internet for their schooling.

I’m going to deal with clothes properly in a separate post but is there a need to buy clothes any more? I have to probably keep four work outfits for summer and four for winter, and even that is plenty. I have bought some clothes during the last four months – a sports bra, slippers and socks, so I clearly have enough clothes.

So what am I spending some money on? Scribd, Zumba, books and some toiletries.

Our repo rate (the rate that the banks loan money to people for houses) has dropped a number of times since lockdown to aid the economy. I’ve been sensible and increased our bond payments every time. I let the actual payment the bank requires go off on the 1st of the month, and then we pay in extra on the 14th. Let’s face it – things could change any day and it would be good to have a bit cushioned away for an emergency.

This photo was taken in February, and I’m so glad we made time to get together when we had the chance.

8. Socials

I would almost always rather meet up in person than spend time on a call, but calls and Teams/ Zoom meetings have been a delightful way to connect with my friends.

I do have some concern for some of my friendships because I’ll be honest – it does feel rather like I’m stoking an awful lot of friendship fires these days.

Even our bookclub has taken a knock – the nice thing about not everyone pitching is that you can really connect better with the ones who are there (and this is what I tell myself). The bad thing is it is an anchor during the month to connect with many friends at one time and if those friends don’t pitch, I don’t always have the time or inclination (or, enneagram 1!) feel like it’s my job anymore to always be the gatherer. I’m not sure if anyone can relate?

Tell me, how has the pandemic affected these four areas of your life?

{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

{organising} Project – how I decluttered my 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 physical 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. (Edited – I ended up using a courier to send to 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? Does it spark joy? 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? Does this book spark joy? 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 like most parenting books).

Those tips helped me a whole lot. 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 have a look.

{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 – so, 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 additional 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. 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?

{planning} your ideal weekend routine and rhythms

We are all different personalities and therefore 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; they 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’ve heard of some couples who take time on a Friday night to plan for the week ahead. I do my planning in two stages – I plan the menu for the week ahead on a Friday night or Saturday morning and write out the shopping list, and then on a Sunday afternoon, I take 5 – 10 minutes to review and plan my schedule and to-dos for the week ahead. On very busy weekends, I might push the planning to a Monday night but I still like to 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?

{goals} 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 – x month 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 so 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.

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 first reading instead of scrolling.

If you’re having trouble focusing, set a timer for 20 minutes and just 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?

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