The week that was…weekly reflections 8

sunset leaving gym

Hello friends!

Do you know what this blog post means? I’ve been carving out time and writing for at least an hour and 15 minutes every single weekend for the last two months.

I’m so proud of myself!

It’s what I wanted when I started off this year and it’s helpful to know that after two weird years, I can still create a weekly writing habit and stick to it.

This week is also the week…

  • I walked out of a Zumba class after only 20 minutes (unprepared instructor and way-too-loud music) but I was rewarded with a gorgeous sunset (yes, that’s the one in the pic)
  • I attended a conference where I once again realised that all across our industry we are facing the same stuff but handling it in different ways. At that same virtual conference, I vowed that I will definitely not attend a virtual event again because, as an extrovert, I was exhausted.
  • I finished the book club book, Friends like these by Kimberly McCreight, which was not great. Too many unlikeable characters and way too many things going on. I also finished Everything happens for a reason by Kate Bowler, which was outstanding. Do give it a listen.
  • we visited a school for Kendra and were given a tour by an amazing young lady, a grade 10 learner, who taught me so much about optimism and resilience. Some kids really have an amazing mindset at such a young age.
  • that was full of hard things in the world – wars, deaths of too-young children, anniversaries of deaths – and I am thankful that I was able to rest and rejuvenate, and be out and about to counteract two days of staring at a screen with very minimal interaction.

How was your week? And, dare I ask, how was February?

The week that was… weekly reflections 7

Alto 234 – the highest urban bar in Africa

  • Valentine’s Day seems so far away and yet it was only six days ago. I set a nice table, served red and pink food and bought everyone a chocolate that said “you’re awesome” πŸ™‚
  • One of my team is booked off sick for a month. It is serious so the time is absolutely necessary for recovery but I’ve had to step back in again when I’d just got used to letting go completely a month ago. One step forward, two steps back.
  • I am still on my self-imposed Scribd ban – 20 days and counting – I want to make it at least a month. During this time I’ve been reading library books, Libby books and books on my Kindle. It is always nice to get books read that are on your physical or digital shelves.
  • Speaking of books, this week I read E is for Evidence by Sue Grafton (the Kinsey Millhone series) and Everything happens for a reason by Kate Bowler, both of which were excellent. Connor read A Painted House by John Grisham. What are you reading?
  • I spent Friday afternoon with clients (an invite I accepted months ago) and it was just So Lovely to talk to people face to face, catch up and connect. The photo above was taken from the restaurant’s rooftop – gorgeous! Shout-out to the very enthusiastic and passionate parking attendant. I still smile thinking of him direct me to the correct parking area. What would the world be like if we were all so passionate about our jobs?!

What have you been up to this week? Did you do anything out of the ordinary?

This year’s challenge – to rest 22 in 2022

on a photowalk – these are very restful for me

I used Gretchen Rubin’s walk 20 in 2020 to simply track when during the month I got some exercise – around 12 times a month is standard for me as I have a 3 times a week habit.

Read 21 in 2021 was my most successful daily project – I chose to read 21 minutes from a non-fiction book (preferably on my shelves) and I made it. It was a great success and I cleared 32 books from my shelves and will continue until all my non-fiction is done!

I knew when Gretchen announced the rest 22 in 2022 challenge that it would be my hardest challenge yet – I am not given to rest and have battled with relaxing… always.

We are all different people and therefore, rest will mean different things to each of us. If you decide to do this project (some of you have already decided to join but remember, even if you haven’t yet decided, there’s no perfect time to start), just jump in.

Rest does not only mean sleeping. It might mean that for you, but it also might not.

As I thought about this challenge, I thought about what rest looks like for me:

  • lazy mornings in bed reading fiction (!) somehow feels very decadent
  • laying on my bed listening to an audiobook (and doing nothing else to use the time productively)
  • walking around my garden playing with my camera
  • actual napping (rare though this is)
  • going for a walk with my camera to capture things that delight my sense of sight
  • intentional watching TV (I am not a TV person but occasionally I find something I might want to watch, and that kind of watching is restful)
  • afternoon reading with a cup of tea

We’re one month in; how has my #rest22in2022 project been going?

Honestly, but not surprisingly, not as well as I expected.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll be familiar with my weekend to-do lists. Here’s another one. These lists have had a section called “relax” on them for years. This is quite intentional because I otherwise would busy myself with work and never give myself permission to “do nothing”.

Therefore, the weekends are easy for the #rest22 project.

As for the weekdays, I have to consciously remember to choose something for that day. I had a week where I put a reminder in my phone to rest and that worked well. Why didn’t I continue? Absolutely no idea – I think it was because I finished the fiction book (Ask Again, Yes) and so I relaxed with the resting πŸ˜‰

In writing this post, I realised something – rest works well on the weekend because I plan for it. I need to plan for the workday rest too. I’ll put a timer in my phone and report back to let you know how that’s working.

Have you joined the #rest22in2022 challenge?

What have you defined as rest 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 πŸ™‚

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? πŸ˜‰

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.Β 

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!

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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?

{time} What sparks joy with your time?

It’s important to me to regularly take stock so that I remain intentional about the choices I make around how to spend my time.

In Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (you can read about the physical aspects of tidying by clicking the button on the sidebar —–>>), she says that once your physical space is tidied, you start thinking through bigger issues in your life.

I found this true for me too as in 2014 I completed my tidying journey and after it was done, I started a new job and in 2015 I had a really transformative personal year, the year of enough.

Once you complete your physical spaces, you’ve trained your mind so you start thinking about each part of your life and whether it still sparks joy.

Today I’d like to talk more about sparking joy with your time.

At Work

Think about the various parts of your workday/ week/ month/ quarter/ year. Which parts spark joy and which don’t?

I remember when I first did this exercise and noted down that there was a part of my job that I hated. When I drilled down and asked why, it was because of the type of client and the type of work I was doing for that client. Now the client wasn’t going anywhere and neither was I, so I had a conversation with this client where we brainstormed how we could change things for the better. Another meeting or two and while things weren’t sparking joy, there was no longer the extreme dread and boredom.

Now let’s talk about sparking joy.

Which parts of your work spark joy? Sometimes we don’t get to do these parts as often as we’d like but if we have the awareness, we can start to create time to do more of what brings us joy.

I identified that for me, I need to feel like I’m contributing by being creative with products, solutions, etc. but not by myself, in collaboration with my clients. A good day will have at least one such interaction so I try and arrange my week so I have multiple days of collaborating with clients because those sessions energise me most.

Over to you.

What sparks joy for you at work? What drains you at work? How can you add more of the first and reduce the second?

In your personal life

What sparks joy with your personal time?

I’ve heard from so many people during the pandemic that they will not be automatically signing up their kids to so many activities once life returns to normal. It turns out that rushing from one activity to the next on the weekend does not spark joy.

Does it spark joy for you to spend time with family? Or connecting with friends? Does it spark joy for you to be in service to others, like serving at a soup kitchen or volunteering at an orphanage?

And what about time by yourself? Does it spark joy for you to do hobbies when you’re by yourself, to journal, to spend time in nature, to clean or organise, or to exercise?

I’ve shared many times that the perfect ratio of personal time for me is out and about (by myself doing Zumba, spending time with friends or family, or running a few errands), getting stuff done (cooking, organising, cleaning or pottering) and relaxing (reading, playing with my photos and very rarely, watching a show for an hour). When my time is too full of one section, I feel frustrated but the perfect weekend is a blend of all three.

What sparks joy for you with your personal time? I’d love to hear in the comments!

{time} keep your weekends different

Are you still working from home?

A friend said the other day that her house has become the place she works, the place she relaxes, the place she goes to have restaurant food, and also the place she has holidays.

It’s so true for most of us which is why I like to feel that my weekends have a sense of being different to the weekdays.

During the week, I work a full day and then usually go to Zumba one weeknight evening. I also went to Barre last night for the first time since 10 March 2020. That class is now regular so I’ll continue to go. Other than that, I cook, read and write/ coach at night.

On a Friday night, I pack away my work notebook and laptop completely (charger cables and mouse too!) so that my bright yellow desk is ready for FUN things like playing with photos.

My weekends are very unstructured – I like to have a weekend to-do list with just a few anchor events (kids’ swimming and Zumba!) and lots of space for my own things.

I usually have some things to do around the house, some things in the study and some things to relax. You can read a more detailed account of my weekend planning here.

Why is this different? I have a very structured weekday routine so to have almost nothing planned on the weekend is bliss. I organise my holidays the same way!

I would also rather work late one or two nights than to pull out that laptop on a weekend. It feels more restorative to me to have zero work on the weekend so my head is clear.

Let’s talk about you.

What do your weekdays feel like? Can you build more of the opposite into your weekend so it feels different?

Maybe you work all alone during the week and on the weekend you want to connect with friends and family?

Try playing intentionally with your routines to make these pandemic times feel a little more normal.

How would you like your weekends to feel? Which elements would make them more ideal?

{goals} 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

** 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).

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