A life in rhythm vs a balanced life

One of my goals for this year is to (finally) finish reading the 10 physical books on my actual bookshelf – this one.

rainbow bookshelf

Therefore I need to be reading about two books a month to be done by the end of June. I had the goal set for the end of April but I realised that end of June is more realistic as I only have 2 – 3 slowish mornings a week to read, not the 7 I had in 2020 and 2021 when I read, in bed, every morning, without fail.

In January I finished Ikigai and Your Life in Rhythm.

Let’s talk about your life in rhythm by Bruce Miller

The part I loved the most talks about seasonal rhythms. These are both strict seasons like autumn and winter and also “the season of being an empty nester or new parent” or “the season of going into year-end or budgeting season. Accountants feel the end of tax season to a greater effect than those who are not in a finance field.

I was then inspired to use my own Let’s Do This workbook to note down what happens in my life seasonally.

Quarterly rhythms

birthday season – all four of us celebrate our birthdays in less than a month, my mother’s one is in that same month and my mother-in-law is less than a month earlier. Not exactly sure why but I also seem to have a lot of friends who also celebrate their birthdays in July and early August. This is probably why I do “birthday month” – it takes some of the pressure off me to “celebrate” and also it’s nicer to have friend dates to look forward to the whole of August.

actual winter – as long-time readers know, I love winter and my own rhythms also change then. I leave work earlier as I don’t like driving during loadshedding when it’s dark outside. I sleep more, easily a solid 7h30 on average daily (just checked my Fitbit stats and from June to Aug last year, I averaged 7h38 last year and 7h46 in 2022). We also usually take a beach holiday in winter which I love.

happy Marcia on a beach holiday in winter

other quarterly cycles – swopping my clothes around (this happens twice a year, once in April and then in around October), spring cleaning (September and December/ January are the big ones), beginning of the school year (the big fitting on and replacing of school shoes, clothes and takkies, and of course, buying all the school books).

Weekly rhythms

I’ve always found it helpful to think of my life in a weekly rather than a daily rhythm. Thinking daily makes me feel like I’m always behind but in a week, I feel like I generally get to what I want to do.

What are some of your weekly rhythms?

Well, there are things you do during the week (like work and your kids go to school) and then there are weekend things.

It’s helpful to think about what you like to get done and see where in the week that might fit.

Exercise

I like to have three sessions a week, at least two of them cardio. I realised when I did my January review that in trying to incorporate more stretch classes, I was robbing myself of cardio because I still only have those 3 sessions available every week. (More on this in my next newsletter) At least I realised this quickly.

Big chunks of reading

I read “bits” every day – 20 – 30 mins in the morning and about the same at night, and on the days I drive into the office, I have another 90 minutes of a fiction audiobook.

I also like what I call a big chunk of reading on the weekend, 3 – 4 glorious hours to immerse myself in a book. That is not going to just happen, so my preferred rhythm is a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

Household maintenance

I also menu plan after looking through the freezer (e.g. we are going to have a lot of chicken this week because there is too much in the freezer), update the shopping list and cook something in batch, most weeks.

I also like to tidy my bedroom and bathroom on the weekend to reset for the week ahead. No, the world will not fall apart if this is not done, but my brain is calmer if it is. #outerorderinnercalm

winter is the prettiest… especially framed by red cars

What I need to work on

Personal monthly rhythms

I am great with doing a goals review every month, updating my spreadsheets and setting goals for the new month. Here’s a post where I put it all together for you.

However, I never take into account my female cycles (and I should, because it does affect my energy levels and what I can do that week). I also want to start setting up regular maintenance days for colouring my hair. I’ve been winging it and do when it looks really bad but it would be nice to be a grown-up and actually schedule a regular weekend for “upkeep”.

If you want to rethink your goals and rhythms to take the seasons into account,Β use page 8 in my workbook:Β  Let’s Do This 2023 workbook (it’s free).

Which rhythms are easier for you, and which are more difficult? Annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly or daily?

{Time management} When you’re too busy to sort out urgent things

Did anyone notice that I haven’t posted for weeks? No? That’s okay.

My website (and this blog) has been down for at least a week and a half before I had the time and mental space to book someone to attend to it.

Two interesting facts:

  1. I don’t believe in the phrase “I don’t have time” – exhibit A, my book, 31 days of Enough Time.
  2. It is tremendous growth for me to not “freak out” about a website being down.

With regards to number 2 above, this has happened a couple of times over the last few years. In the before times, I’d immediately book a person to attend to it and would not rest until it was sorted.

This time, I looked at the error, thought I should be able to fix it (I do like the methodical part of playing with a website, and tinkering until things are just right.) but knew I didn’t have either the mental bandwidth or early evening time (trust me when I say you should not mess around with your website if your brain isn’t fully awake – this involves emails to web people that say “help – I messed up!”).

So I just left it until I had time to look at it.

I was able to fix one tiny thing but not the bigger issue so I hired that piece out.

And lo, here I am blogging again.

Time management literature says that fixing the website is a Quadrant 1 activity – important and urgent.

However, my Quadrant 2 activity was tending to my health (sleep, stress management by putting in extra work hours so I could sleep – yes, a circular argument, and exercise) first and then once calm, I could attend to that Quadrant 1 activity.

I shared all that to say this: sometimes the best thing to do is to invest the time necessary to make you feel calm, no matter what that looks like.

Sometimes work colleagues will be adamant in talking to me about shutting off their computers at exactly 5pm. I’m not saying this is wrong but I am questioning whether 30 extra minutes of work might give you a better evening’s rest and certainly, more rejuvenating sleep.

Just a little something to think about.

Are you investing enough time in Quadrant 2 of The Time Matrix?

Rest 22 in 2022 – my update

Last year Gretchen Rubin‘s challenge for her podcast listeners was to #rest22in2022.

rest 22 in 2022

Here’s my introductory post and how I thought it would go… and then here’s where I was assessing things after the first quarter. When I read those two posts I realise that 1) I really tried to be intentional about it and 2) keep evaluating what was working and what wasn’t.

Still, it was my worst project to date πŸ˜‰ and I gave up on it properly during the first week of May. For the rest of the year, I used the tracker to track my workouts so that I didn’t waste the paper!

Why was it so hard for me? Surely, as an upholder, I should have just scheduled my rest and got on with it.

Well, one of my coaching clients pointed something out to me – the idea of rest was too nebulous for me. Exactly right! I couldn’t quite get a handle on what it looked like for me and, if you’ve come on the Four Tendencies course/ had a coaching session with me, you know that upholders need clarity.

I didn’t have clarity.

When I decided to finally abandon the project, I told myself that I am sleeping well, I read daily and I do enough “restful” activities like spending time taking photos, connecting with friends, etc. and that will just have to do for rest. But no more tracking.

And so I could release the idea of doing #rest22in2022.

Tell me, because I know many of you are experts at resting, how did the year of rest work for you?

{Goals} So how am I doing with my own goals?

After last week’s post on how to do a half-year review, I have now finished my own half-year review. Let’s break this down with some concrete numbers and then move into the intangibles.

I set a certain number of goals every month and I track the progress at the end. According to my spreadsheet, I’m at 79% of my goals for the year – two months with 90-something, two months with 60-something and a month each with 70- and 80-something. That’s what resulted in the 79% average.

It feels accurate and like with life, some things go very well and others go very badly.

Things going very well:

  • My reading and fun stuff like photos. I have read so many fun and delightful books this year already and am above my target with 60 books to end June.
  • Sleep (I’m averaging 7:30 and a sleep score of 80) and exercise (in a good rhythm of 3 workouts per week – any more and other areas of my life fall over).
  • Work – I had a great performance discussion. This is especially nice since I’m in a new role.
  • Speaking of work, working at the office two days a week since March has been amazing for this extrovert. I am simply happier πŸ™‚
  • Project Upgrade/ Fix. Things other than what I planned have jumped onto the list but the good things is since my project is top of mind, I’m attending to things quickly, even boring fixes like plumbing!
  • The kids seem to have settled well into Grade 7, both for academics, sports and friendships… just in time to go to high school next year πŸ˜‰
  • We’ve had all the holidays we planned which is honestly surprising since I’m a) very fussy and b) disorganised this year.

Things going badly

  • #rest 22 in 2022 (I rate myself only at a 43% success because I only consciously rest 3 out of 7 days). As Sarah said on the BOBW podcast, I do rest very well by sleeping every night. I’m considering just…giving up!
  • Our laundry routine still needs lots of work. It feels like a small thing but it affects my weekends more than I’d like.
  • We have made 0% progress on renewing our passports or reapplying for the kids’ passports (we got about halfway just prior to 2020 lockdown).
  • I feel more anxious when out with the general public now that South Africa’s mask mandate has been removed.

What do I want for the second half of the year?

  • Better health
    1. I had two scary episodes of vertigo in the last three months; I was actually so sick at work one day it was awful.
    2. I’ve had full bloods done and I am nowhere near menopause yet but headaches, etc. I mean, honestly.
    3. I also have my mammogram scheduled for tomorrow and want to check one more thing with my doctor.
    4. I also need to keep my cholesterol in check; after two elevated reports, I went for proper blood tests and not only was the result good, but my LDL was low and my HDL was high. According to my goals list, I will check this quarterly.
    5. I also want to read/ follow a good menopause doctor – there are so many symptoms…. how do people know if it’s something else or a menopause symptom?
  • To make a good dent in my life admin – I need to upgrade my phone and I already have decision fatigue so I will put it off til I can’t anymore and then just decide πŸ™‚
  • Get updated wills done

Now, I kind-of feel like I need to have a birthday party next month (also, my birthday’s on an actual Saturday this year!) but do I have the wherewithall to organise it?

So… how are you doing on your mid-year review? What has been working well for you? What do you need to change? What are you looking forward to?

{Goals} 2022 Q1 resetting the rest challenge

I knew going in that #rest22in2022 was going to be the hardest challenge for me.

Still, I thought I had it figured out but I realised after two months that I needed to reset what rest looked like for me.

I also saw an Instagram post on 7 types of rest, bookmarked it and when I had time, did a thorough review of why “rest” wasn’t working for me:

what was working?

  • weekend rest, probably because there’s more time
  • I can always default to reading because that is a daily habit

what was not working?

  • my workdays are generally too busy and yes, of course, I can find 22 minutes during the day but I really don’t want to move my end time beyond 5:45 – 6pm
  • I didn’t have a clear plan for busy workdays

Next, I reviewed the 7 types of rest:

  1. physical
  2. mental
  3. sensory
  4. creative
  5. emotional
  6. social
  7. spiritual

I then realised that I have 3 types of days and that I should identify some methods of rest that would work for each type of day so I have options.

My 3 types of days are:

  1. workdays, from home
  2. workdays, from the office
  3. weekend days

For example, during workdays at the office my social rest could be spending time with real, live people. During workdays at home, I can have physical rest by sleeping in and mental rest by taking short breaks during the day. During weekends, I can tap into each of those 4 rests except mental is not likely to happen.

Now that I have a plan, I’m going to intentionally incorporate these practices into my daily life.

Tell me, how has the #rest22in2022 challenge been working for you? Are you feeling more rested? Are you struggling with rest like I was?

The week that was…weekly reflections 11

St. Patrick’s Day 2022 – Johannesburg

Well, that was a fun week – the first week my WFO/ WFH schedule went exactly to plan.

  • St. Patrick’s Day supper went off well. Johannesburg’s weather also played along and was grey, overcast and raining in the early morning.
  • I always listen to classical music when I’m writing because I can’t listen to words when I’m writing words, and yet I still need something to block out noise (in my head). Today I chose Tchaikovsky and I was reminded that the Chinese Dance from The Nutcracker Suite is a dance I’ve won prizes for before… in my youth. It’s so fun how a piece of music can take you right back to a memory in the past.
  • I had two bad nights of sleep. Usually I sleep very, very well and seldom wake once I’m asleep. This week, I woke in the early hours of the morning – one morning at 2 am and the other at 3 am. After an hour of tossing and turning, I got up and read my book, a much better and more restful idea than staring at the darkness, thinking.
  • Speaking of reading, I read A Dream of Italy by Nicky Pellegrino. If you haven’t read any of her books, (I think) they’re all set in Italy and the way she writes makes you want to jump on a plane and go visit immediately.
  • Again, Rachel by Marian Keyes arrived this week so I started listening to Rachel’s Holiday, the first one. It’s a 16-hour listening experience and I’m enjoying every single minute!
  • The work balance continues to go well except for Friday night but then again, I always try to clear as much as I can before I go on leave. Yes, I’m on leave and we are going away as the kids are also on school holidays.
  • I plan to write a lot, read a lot, reflect on the first three months of 2022 and see where a reset is needed, catch up on family phone calls, and connect with my little family.

How was your week? Have you started thinking about the tweaks you want to make going into the second quarter?

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?

How to have healthy sleep

It’s no secret that I love my sleep.

I both enjoy sleep and I sleep well. Some of it is personality, I think, but I do think I have some very good sleep habits too.

Whenever I put up my sleep stats on Instagram, I always get so many direct messages from people who say things like, “oh that must be nice” and “how do you sleep so much?”.

Well, I sleep a lot because I’ve realised that when I’m tired I won’t be as productive as I will be when I’m rested. Because when I’m up after a good night’s sleep, I’m a machine πŸ™‚

Sleep also has many other benefits like being good for your mental health, stress relief, immune system, heart, good for managing weight. In addition, and this is a big benefit, it’s good for your memory, and helps you focus and concentrate. I also heard Lisa Genova on a podcast say that deep sleep helps clear out brain waste which prevents Alzheimer’s.

Here are a few of my tips:

  1. Set a sleep goal. My goal is 7 hours 30 every night. I upgraded my Fitbit recently and while my Fitbit now gives me a sleep score, my sleep score is always better when I sleep more than 7h30.
  2. Sleep when you’re tired. Realise that when you’re tired, the very best thing you can do no matter how much work there is still to get done, is to actually sleep.
  3. Move your body. I sleep my best sleep on the days I have a good workout. It’s boring to say this but our mothers were onto something when they told us to go outside and play.
  4. Stop caffeine at lunch. This is not a problem for me, but I know many people who do not have good sleep habits when they have coffee after lunch. Dr Rangan Chatterjee, in his book, The 4 Pillar Plan, talks about how, at bedtime, about 25% of caffeine is still in our system. If you don’t sleep well, stop your coffee at 12 and see if it makes a difference.
  5. Avoid your phone before bed. Everyone gives me a hard time about this one but hey, if you want to sleep better, avoid your phone for a good 1 – 2 hours before bed. You can charge your phone at an outlet across the room. I charge mine next to my bed but it’s on the floor, face down, almost slipped under the bed. I also don’t look at Whatsapp after my phone goes dark (shortly after my work day ends). There is a downside to it but I’d rather have a few more messages in the morning than have restless or disrupted sleep.
  • How is your sleep on a scale of 1 – 10?
  • Do you have good sleep hygiene?
  • Do you spend time on your phone before bed?

If you want to work on these tips, all you have to do is start working on one at a time, track your sleep, and see how it is affected.

{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.


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