Let’s be intentional about our self-isolating 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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? ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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.ย 

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….ย  if you’re like me, once you’ve read the book,ย 

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.ย 

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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?

{time} Your ideal weekend

On a Monday a couple of weeks ago, a colleague at work asked me how my weekend was, as you do, and I said, “it was a really great weekend”.

“Oh,” they said, “tell me more”.

And then I realised that nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

I’d had a friend date on the Friday afternoon, hosted my kids’ book club, gone to Zumba and church, did some pottering around the house and read a book.

Kind-of standard things for me, but a really great weekend I realised because it had MY three ideal elements in the correct ratios.

  1. People/ out and about stuff
  2. Productivity
  3. Relaxation

It got me thinking that having a great weekend is completely within my control because I can control all of those components.

I’d been feeling a bit blah lately and when Dion and I unpacked my feelings, I realised I hadn’t had enough people time. As an extrovert, I’m energised by spending time with people.

My happy number is about 5 – 6 friend dates every month. Book club happens automatically and my friend dates are set up on a schedule, but when they get cancelled, I’m not upset (life happens) but I feel it later in this low energy state. What I need to do is then possibly reach out and just connect with a friend by phone.

We were at book club recently when one of our introvert members explained to two of us extroverts that it’s nothing personal but they just don’t feel the need to spend time with people. I must say, I was a bit surprised but I had an aha moment about friendship right there and then.

Over to you.

What does your ideal weekend look like? And are you an introvert or an extrovert? How does this play out in your weekend plans?

Your favourite posts of 2018

This is one of my favourite posts to do every year. I love having the statistics; I just dread the process of drudging through and compiling it all ๐Ÿ™‚

Some fun facts:

Over the last 365 days, we’ve had nearly 900 000 visits from 150 000 people.

Jan

Word of the year recap and my 2018 word

Organising Queen’s best books of 2017

How I read 120 books last yearย  (this post is my most popular post of the entire year – yes, I’m shocked)

Feb

3 ways to Konmari your digital life

What I want less of this year

On being moderate with fitness

March

What went well in February?

The book that changed how I view nature

Quarterly recap of my word of the year

April

Let’s talk about groceries and spending

How is your phone changing you?

What freedom means to me

May

You have more than enough time

Groceries experiment – feedback

What I’m bullet journaling these days

At this point in the year, I decided to do a little experiment. You see, I took the Deep Dive into the Four Tendencies course and the concept of Upholder Tightening really hit home.

Blogging twice a week was me being in the same spiral without considering if it was still what I wanted to do or if it was good for me.

I didn’t make any big announcement; I just quietly went from a Mon and Thurs posting schedule to Wednesdays. To date, not one person has said anything about this.

Because of the reduction in posts, these are the favourite post of the month from June.

June

What are your nos with books?

July

Are you a time pessimist?

Aug

My annual birthday review

Sept

Lovely limitations (if you’ve heard The Nester on podcasts lately, she has mentioned it a few times too)

Oct

On setting reading goals

November

Introducing my 2019 diary

Decemberย 

What I learned by writing every day in November

Were there any posts that surprised you? (there were for me – the book ones!) I’m also always surprised that the ones I like writing the most are not the most popular ones, but that’s par for the course.

Which was your favourite? What is your favourite type of post to read?

{living intentionally} 3 ways to experience the “selfish” joy of giving this year

I picked up the phrase “the selfish joy of giving” from reading Laura Vanderkam’s “All the money in the world” book a few months ago.

It immediately resonated with me. I have often said that I sign up for Santa Shoebox because there is nothing better than shopping for other kids because I don’t have to find a place for all that stuff.

Jokes aside, it’s so true. There is something that warms my own heart even more than the recipients’ hearts when I fill a Santa Shoebox.

She also mentioned some research thatย people are more happy from philanthropic endeavours than from spending on themselves.

This was my favourite chapter in the entire book and has stuck with me since.

I also want to highlight 3 ways for each of us to experience this selfish joy of giving the entire year, not just around Christmas.

  1. shopping for individual families rather than giving money
  • She mentions that this is probably not as effective a way to use the money, but it is always a popular way to give. I completely resonated with this. Years ago at my church, there was an appeal to buy a gift for a certain amount of money, wrap it and bring it in. We always enthusiastically participated. Then it changed to just donate the money and suddenly we stopped. It just wasn’t as fun anymore. People (me!) want to feel warm and fuzzy inside while they give.
  • 2. lots of little gifts of a small amount of money
  • She suggests that if you have the mindset of looking for ways to make the world better for $5 – $20 (for South Africans, I just thought R20 – R100), it’ll be a lot of fun for you. One year I put on my list to pay for the person’s stuff behind me. It was so fun and let’s be honest – I didn’t even miss the money (just think of it as tossing a few extra things in your basket at the till, only healthier!)
  • 3. something larger that you won’t feel
  • This is the most exciting part for me. I have visions of paying for science/ maths camps for 5 kids a year. I have a bias because I studied science. If you know of any in the Joburg area, tell me!
  • But how about starting small and sponsoring a prize for the 3 kids who read the most books in the foundation phase at school? I’m going to do this next year – I just need to chat to the principal and the librarian to get the okays, and really, it’s a couple of thousand rands for me but will make me (and the kids) so happy. When I mentioned this idea to my kids, they were really upset that they’ll not be eligible ๐Ÿ™‚
  • I’ve also thought about sponsoring a Bible college year for one person. These gifts, while larger, will not break my bank of Marcia (I know how to save and manage my money), but it might be just the thing to truly influence another person’s life, and I really want to be part of something bigger than just me.


Some other ideas I’ve heard from friends:

  1. One friend stopped doing Santa Shoebox and decided to buy something (I can’t remember if it was nappies or formula) on a monthly basis for a whole year. She’s not trying to solely fund the children’s home but she knows that every tin of Nan counts or Pampers. Whatever it was.
  2. Another friend buys hot dog rolls and sausages, prepares them and then drives around her suburb and surrounds handing out food to the beggars on the corner.
  3. Another friend makes cupcakes for all the old people at her nearest old aged home.
  4. I used to read a blog where the blogger ran amazon ads and used all that money (it’s really not a lot) to buy diapers for kids. What a great idea!

I support two World Vision kids from the Eastern Cape (I’m from the EC) but this kind of practical thing sounds like a lot of fun that I can do in addition to my monthly subscription. In fact, 2018 marks 20 years of me supporting a World Vision child.

If you’re looking for something meaningful to do, why don’t you purpose now to set aside a certain amount of money every month this year, and make a practical difference. And if you can’t give financially, there is always your time.

Can you think of some easy ideas to experience the joy of selfish giving?



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