This is our Christmas pep talk

Despite all the gorgeous Instagram and Facebook posts that show beautifully decorated homes, delicious food and every family member being kind and loving, this Christmas perfection is not real life for a lot of people.

In my house, we still have disagreements, tantrums, children not listening or being ungrateful and me stressing about getting all the food warm at the same time.

I’m guessing you can relate to a little something. Maybe there’s a family member or two missing due to death, illness or just other plans this year. We spent one Christmas in the hospital with Kendra when the twins were two.

So I’m writing this quick blog as a pep talk to you and to me:

  1. Define just one thing you want from Christmas

Is it to sing a nice song at church? Is it to have Christmas mince pies and tea for dessert? Is it to spend time with your family? Is it to see the look on a child’s face when you’ve gifted them something they truly want? Or is it to open your To Marcia, From Marcia gift? 😉

(I want to go to church, focus on Jesus and sing my favourite song, O Holy Night. If this song is not on the rotation, I’m prepared because I have about 4 different versions that I like right on my phone!)

2. Remind yourself of the part you are there to play

Glennon Doyle once wrote on Instagram that when we imagine we’re the director of the play, then there’s the pressure and we feel like it’s up to us to make everything “perfect”. When we remind ourselves that we just have a bit part in the play that is Christmas (or any major holiday), we relax knowing that we only have a small part to play and we can then laugh at the Uncle that is drunk or saying inappropriate things, instead of taking it personally that they are Messing Up the Play.

Or something like that. You get the idea.

This has been very useful to me over the last couple of years as I tell myself my job is to do only x; it’s not up to me to make sure everyone has fun (although, as an enneagram 1, I can so easily take it all upon my shoulders).

3. Remind yourself that yes, it is the day we use to commemorate Jesus’s birth but it is still just a day.

Repeat after me, “nothing about today has to be perfect”. Jess Lively said that, I wrote it down and took a picture. Who made the rule that Christmas had to be perfect? Seriously, keep asking yourself that question.

A normal day has things that go well and things that don’t. The chicken takes longer to cook and everyone’s starving but the family member you worry about is particularly pleasant and non-combative.

4. Remember your personality and honour it

If you’re an extrovert, allow yourself the time to enjoy being with the people as this will energise you. If you’re an introvert, feel free to escape for 5 minutes to “tidy the kitchen” or “check on the kids”.

May I suggest this fantastic episode of Sorta Awesome where Meg Tietz and Gretchen Rubin talk about how the Four Tendencies show up for celebrations. I loved this episode so much. Gift yourself an hour and take a listen – it’s worth it.

and last but not least…

5. Stay off social media

You’ll just get depressed about the gifts you didn’t gift or receive, the food you didn’t cook, the family you didn’t spend time with and everyone else’s perfect kids.

I jump on Instagram for five minutes to post a Merry Christmas photo, and then I’m offline for the rest of the day except for phone calls to family.

Which of these tips resonated most with you? How do you remain calm and joyful over Christmas?

What I learned through writing every day in November

Many of you know that I chat to Beth, my accountability partner and friend, every week.

On Thursday 1 November, I’d only completed my personal goals from the previous week and no blog goals, which all involved writing.

On a whim, I mentioned to Beth that I wondered if I could still actually write every day. And right there and then, I decided to try.

You see years ago, for five years in a row, I blogged 324 or more times every year. For two of those years, I blogged every single day.

Also, here on Organising Queen, I’ve twice participated in the 31 days series – once I wrote about easy organising solutions, and the other time I wrote about having enough time.

It is never hard for me to write, especially if I know what I want to write about, so I thought I’d give it a bash again.

So what did I do differently and what have I learned?

  1. I set two daily reminders in my phone – one at 6 pm and another from 8 – 8.30 to come write. The 6pm reminder was to start thinking about what I want to write about. And the 8pm reminder was to actually sit down and write.
  2. I used a habits page (I have no idea where I found it – I’d printed off a whole year long ago and not used all of the monthly pages) to cross off my progress daily. I also recorded my progress on my Instagram stories every 3 – 5 days, or thereabouts.
  3. I was conscious about my “difficult days” – weekends when I’m too relaxed, and Tuesday nights when I’m exhausted from my two dance classes, and so I made sure to have something easy to write about on those days. This was a great idea.
  4. I brainstormed some topics at the start of the month. I ended up with 17 topics but as is often the case, I’ve since deleted about 5 that sounded far too boring even to me, and added a couple of others. I scanned my book notes from recent non-fiction I’ve read to see if there was anything I really wanted to blog about.
  5. The point was just to write, not to create beautiful blog posts. Some nights I just wrote; most of them I also added photos and tags for a blog post. Having my standards low meant that I actually got things done instead of obsessing about perfection.

A few notes:

I’m an Upholder on Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies framework so strategies that work REALLY well for me are clarity, scheduling, pairing and monitoring.

Clarity – I very clearly defined what “success” on this project would look like – actual writing on a keyboard for 15 minutes, and having my blog post ideas list

Scheduling – reminders in my phone

Pairing – I knew that at 6pm I’d be home from work but low energy, so the first reminder would go off while I was cooking or otherwise having a cup of tea with the kids (I could start thinking about my topic) and the second reminder was just after the kids went to bed (well, in theory)

Monitoring – I was checking off my list of blog post ideas as I completed writing, and also the occasional posting to Instagram stories, and my weekly accountability chat with Beth.

Any upholders out there? Did my approach resonate with you too?

How about the other tendencies? What would your approach have been for creating this new habit.

You can do the same for any habit you want to create either now or in the new year. I will help you clarify your tendency, and put structures in place during our coaching session.

Please contact me as soon as possible to schedule your coaching session as I only coach a limited number of sessions weekly.

How to have the best Christmas ever


I started reading all my old posts about Christmas and realised that I have actually said everything I want to say, so let me link to those posts.

Easy Christmas decorating

Lower your Christmas expectations especially with social media

The Christmas Card controversy

Keep Christmas simple but meaningful

Clever gift ideas for Christmas and throughout the year

and last but definitely not least, my favourite Christmas post ever!

Create the perfect Christmas… for you

What does the “best Christmas” look like for you?

Tell me all your questions and I’ll answer in the comments.

On being intentional with internet usage

I have spoken a little about this on my InstaStories but we are now on router number 5 in the last 7 months.

Our routers keep getting struck by lightning. We do have one of those lightning surge adaptors but, to be honest, when I follow the instructions on the pamphlet, the internet doesn’t work, so obviously something’s going wrong.  I then attach it how it makes sense to me (which is also incorrect).

After the last new router, I just decided I cannot go on like this so now I manually switch on the router and insert the phone cable every morning. And when I go to bed, I do the same thing in reverse.

When it starts raining and there’s lightning, we switch off everything and so far, so good – the router’s still working.

What this has done for me:

  1. Intentional living because when it does rain, I actually get real things done in the house instead of getting caught in an internet coma.
  2. Better sleep because of not scrolling a screen before bedtime
  3. More real reading at night especially as the evenings cool down because I just switch the internet off early realizing that I’m probably not going to want to get up later to switch it off.
  4. Less mindless scrolling in the mornings when I wake up and many mornings, I just grab my book to read and only switch on the internet an hour or so later because I have to physically get up and out of bed.

The only thing is – I often get to my phone and see 18 or 25 WhatsApp messages. I actually just get to those whenever because as you know, I’m not a big fan of responding to anything on demand 🙂

Is there anything currently in your life that is technically an inconvenience, but yet holds special positives too?

If you get sidetracked with your phone or computer…..

I know I’m not the only one who does this…

I get on my computer to, let’s say, write a blog post.

Thirty minutes later, I’ve read other people’s blogs, played with photos and done many other things but not actually written the blog post.

These days I have a simple trick that’s really helping me – I write a list of things I am allowed to do at the computer and keep it right in front of me.

Some of the items may be non-computer things like painting my nails if I need to wait for things like photos to download, which helps me to not go to feedly to read blogs while waiting 🙂

actual computer to-do list from last weekend

Try it – especially if you also get sidetracked and let me know how it works for you! This will obviously work just as well for your phone.

What are your computer tricks to keep you focused?

(while specifically writing, I like to set my iPhone timer for 15-minute blocks)

3 ways to Konmari your digital life

You all know I’m a big fan of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

And I know exactly why she calls it life-changing – because then you start thinking of every area of your life in terms of sparking joy.

I have on my list to write about Konmari-ing your to-dos but for today, I want to talk about Konmari-ing your digital life!

Because we can’t see digital clutter as obviously as we can see physical clutter, we often don’t realise it’s there but believe me, it’s still affecting you, especially with distraction and overwhelm.

When you open your inbox, you feel drained at the sight of all those emails, your computer runs slow because there’s so many photos on there and when you go into Instagram, you can’t believe how much some people post because you were on just this morning and your feed is full again.

Sound familiar?

Let’s look at 3 places where you can Konmari digitally and then add some joy into your life again:

1. Free printable downloads

We women like free things, don’t we? As a result, we download anything and everything we can find that’s for free. If it’s free, it’s got to be good, right?

Actually, it’s not all good. Not only are you cluttering up your computer but you can’t possibly use all the things that are out there because we now live in an information-overload society.

I’m not immune. At one point I had about 6 different grocery shopping lists on my computer, all of them free downloads.

What I do these days is honestly ask if I’m going to use something. If not, I don’t even download. And when I clear out my document folders, I ask myself if that cute printable really sparks joy. If not, I delete.

Also, here is your permission to delete my free stuff too if it no longer serves you. I know it works for me but we’re all different.

2. Emails and email notifications

My organizing clients need help with email more than any other thing in their office, and paper’s a close second. That’s because email’s so fast and because we don’t use it correctly.

Get familiar with the delete key (my favourite key on my physical and phone keyboard) and start deleting. Delete immediately once you’ve replied to an email and don’t file unless you absolutely have to. Sometimes you need to keep an attachment but not the email.

If you’re trying to save money or (as in my case) not buy books, unsubscribe from all the deals emails. If you really need to know about something, trust that it will still come your way (like through Instagram stories, in my case!)

Something I personally do is delete from and send quick replies “thanks for the payment” on my phone, but I answer emails that need longer responses from a computer.

Disable all the notifications from Facebook, Instagram and the like. I only get friend requests, messages and notes on my wall in my inbox. The rest I’ll see when I log on once a week or so. I’ve long disabled Facebook and Messenger from my phone – best decision ever.

Here again, decide on your comfort level for emails and make sure you process until you feel joy again. For me at work, that’s when I can view all my emails on one screen.

3. Instagram

How many people are you following on Instagram? Are you aware of how long you take to read all of those posts every day? Do you set a limit for yourself or is it only the upholders among us?

I’m as guilty as you are even though my Instagram use has shortened dramatically over the last two years.

Just this weekend, the same thing popped up from a number of people in my feed.

Stop scrolling through everyone else’s lives and run the race set before you – Christine Caine

Take some time to go through and declutter the feeds of those you tend to skim over. Get to know your comfort number. I still try to create before I consume any content but yes, it’s hard, especially when you’re tired.

I read another great quote on Lara Casey’s site last year – “idleness … is different than truly resting”. Often we tell ourselves that we’re resting but really, when we’re done scrolling Instagram, do we feel truly rested?

I feel like this is just the start of an Instagram conversation because I have More Thoughts but please tell me how you feel about Instagram.

What are your biggest battles? Do you use it to escape or when you’re bored? Or is it true inspiration, connection time with friends, or build your business time?

Your coaching challenge for this week should you take me up on it is to work on one of these three areas, and come tell me in the comments which you’ll do, and give us feedback when you’re done.

Lower your Christmas expectations

My family made a Christmas fun list sometime during November.

One of the things on the list (added by me) was to make Christmas cards. In years past we made them and it was a lovely pleasant activity.

Well. It appears those days are past.

We had one session of utter craziness that left none of us feeling peace and goodwill towards men, so I went to the shops and bought Christmas cards for my own sanity and peace of mind.

They had no problems writing in ready-made Christmas cards so that is what we did this year.

I had to lower my expectations, you see, or make the cards all by myself.

Of course that made me think about Christmas on the whole, and how, when we see all the Instagram and Facebook perfection of families crafting, baking, wrapping and decorating, we can start feeling resentful about our own real lives.

I’m here to relieve you from the expectations and help you to lower the bar.

christmas-best-009

Here’s how I’m lowering the bar this Christmas:

  1. I’m focusing on the things that make Christmas special for us and leaving behind everything else.
  2. We will go to church on Christmas morning to make sure that Jesus is our focus.
  3. I’ve long said that the way to have a happy holiday or event day (Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, Mother’s Day, etc.) is to stay completely off social media. I do like to post a picture in the morning but if I miss it, I’ll post one that night and that will be it.
  4. I’m only giving presents to a few people that I will be seeing. I remember years past when I’d buy/ make presents for so many friends and frantically try and see everyone. No thanks – that sounds like a headache rather than joy to me this year. I may change next year but we’ll see.
  5. Speaking of presents, I know what I want for my To Marcia From Marcia gift, but I can’t be bothered to go get it while the shops are crazy busy.
  6. The longer you think about things, the more you stress (in a lot of cases) so I’m not even thinking about food until I finish work on Thursday 🙂 Someone told me Woolworths is already running out of food and I said, “well, then we’ll make do somewhere else.
  7. It’s nice to have a Christmas fun list but treat it like a suggestion, not a must-do list. E.g. we have an item to have Christmas-themed doughnuts from Krispy Kreme. Well, it turns out no-one actually likes those doughnuts – they all want just the plain glazed ones 🙂 But… everyone wants to do far more baking than I feel able. So I’ve told them we will do two easy things and each child will bake with me once.

christmas-best-007

Last but not least, don’t feel pressured to feel emotions you don’t feel. If you’re not feeling utter joy, that’s okay. If you’re not feeling peace and goodwill towards your fellow man, that’s also okay. I have a feeling Jesus wasn’t all happy and smiley all the time too, so you’re in good company.

Decide what you want to feel this Christmas and focus on those desired feelings. And remember to communicate your needs to your family. There’s no rule that says you need to be around people for hours and hours on end.

Some of you are aghast at what I’m saying but it doesn’t mean you love your people any less if you want to escape and do something by yourself for a bit.

I once asked my friend Beth about an extended family holiday weekend they have every year. She wisely told me they realise they’re mostly introverts so no one feels bad to just go off and do their own thing for an hour or two throughout the day. Isn’t that insight great?

That’s what I want to leave you with today – know what you need, create the time for it and you’re sure to have a great Christmas day.

Does your inside always match whats going on around social media?

Where do you need to lower your Christmas expectations?

PS some clever gift ideas in case you’re stuck

Technology and your Tendency – part 2 (personal)

Technology in my personal life

I find that these days my behaviour seems “strange” or “weird” in such a highly connected world.

You see, I check Whatsapp, texts and personal emails when I want to, which is not all the time. And it seems to me that many other people respond to everything as it comes in.

I disable all notifications because I don’t want to be distracted from the task or activity at hand. This includes Instagram, Facebook is off my phone, and of course, Whatsapp, texts and email.

I don’t even keep the ringer on my phone on unless I expect a call, like if I’m expecting a delivery at home or a client to arrive. My Fitbit Flex2 vibrates when there’s an incoming call and yes, I do think about whether I want to answer or not 🙂

In South Africa, most people pay much more for texts than they do for Whatsapp, so 99.9% of people use whatsapp over texts. I get 300 texts free on my phone plan and so I try texting as much as possible. However, I never expect people to respond quickly unless something is truly urgent,  e.g. we’re meeting and you’re going to be late, or we’re meeting and the restaurant has closed (this has happened far too many times!) Interestingly, my nanny doesn’t get free texts so I text, she responds on Whatsapp, and so we go on our merry way 🙂

I find typing on a smart phone very cumbersome so my preference is to never do it 🙂 but when I do, I prefer short messages.

I love Whatsapp for groups. We have a book club group, a Bible reading group and one of my kids’ teachers has set up a group for their class notices. What I don’t love about Whatsapp is that feeling of being checked up on with the ticks going blue (this is something I only found out about in the last couple of months!). I then added a note to my profile saying I only check Whatsapp once a day, and to call if something is urgent.

On another note, I sometimes have friends email me to say “I sent you messages on Whatsapp but I see you haven’t read them” 🙂

That’s correct. I check my phone quickly once I arrive at work as an hour has elapsed… and then my phone goes back in my bag 🙂

On another note, I have in the past responded quickly to a message, and the friend was upset that my response wasn’t considered enough…that is exactly why I like to wait and take my time, and why I can’t respond when I’m at work. I will often think, “do people actually work at work?” Maybe I’m old-school but I don’t feel it fair to my employer to be on my phone when I’m supposed to be working 🙂

With email, I read them morning, noon and night but I only respond when I’m at a real keyboard so that I know I can type a proper response.

Image result for four tendencies picture

How the Four Tendencies plays into all of this technology

The Four Tendencies talks to how we respond to expectations, both inner and outer, which is perfect for this discussion.

Obligers

I asked Sarah in the instagram post if she was an Obliger since she felt pressure to respond to messages. She clarified that once she understood that texts didn’t necessarily mean she had to respond quickly and could treat them as email, they were now on her agenda and, as an Upholder, she’s much happier since. Awesome.

If you’re an Obliger, my guess is you’re the one quickly responding to texts/ whatsapps/ emails, etc.

Upholders

As I explained in way too many words above and in the previous post, I decided what role technology plays in my life (inner expectations), have told all friends/ family/ clients (outer expectations) and so I manage it all very nicely (in my view).

Upholders need clarity about a situation (usually inner) and then they’re good at following through.

Questioners

Questioners respond to inner and outer expectations as long as it makes sense for them to do so.

I would imagine that if a Questioner had to set up their technology boundaries, there would be a lot of why and who said so in their reasoning.

I checked my thinking with a Questioner colleague and she pretty much confirmed that she has (internal) rules for all technology and basically questions everything. Who said I need to respond to text messages? So she never responds to texts (that was news to me so I won’t be texting her :)) She doesn’t think Facebook is useful so has a profile but never goes there and loves Instagram for a few reasons so uses that extensively. She loves an empty inbox so works hard to keep it manageable all the time.

Rebels

Rebels reject both inner and outer expectations. I know they don’t like anyone or anything to be the boss of them, so they need to decide how they identify and then they will do accordingly.

Amanda, a Rebel, told me something interesting. Being good at her job is something she’s internalised so she’s great at email, keeping track of projects, and phone calls that are urgent. Please notice she decided this is who she is so it’s easy for her to manage.

I love what she told me about her personal life. She’s good at making meeting times, etc. Usually she plans to get back to emails and phone calls when she feels like it, but it takes a while, if ever, to feel like it. Brilliant! She feels like it more when the people are people she’s close to or care about. Again, she’s decided who the important people are, and those expectations she has no trouble meeting in a reasonable timeframe.

Thank you so much, Amanda, for emailing me.

And last but not least, there were some questions on the podcast:

Does a text imply urgency? (Well, as an Upholder leaning to Questioner, I do question if it actually is urgent first, but generally, it doesn’t imply urgency to me.)

Do you ever let your mind wander anymore? (I do, in my Barre180 class and when I go walking by myself or with the kids. When I shower, cook, clean or organise, I listen to podcasts and when I drive to work, I listen to audiobooks or podcasts)

Which social media fits your life best ( . . . or worst?) I love Instagram the most because it’s visual (I’m highly visual), I can say as little or as much as I want. I also find it to be a very positive environment.

Where is your mental white space? I like to think that I’ve designed a life where I have enough mental white space in my regular life. I only ever feel overwhelmed about once or twice a year, and that’s usually during very busy times at work.

Tell me what you think.

What role does technology play in your personal life? And if you haven’t mentioned it yet, what is your tendency?

Technology and your Tendency – part 1 (work)

I follow a podcast, Best of Both Worlds, that I recommend especially if you’re a full-time working mother who works at a workplace, not at home. Let’s face it – most podcasts (or most that I listen to) are hosted by either SAHMs or WAHMs whose time is a lot more flexible.

Sarah wanted a podcast that more represented her life so she started one (very Upholder-ish) with Laura.

On this episode, they discuss the role of technology in their lives and ask some really great questions, both on Instagram and in the blog post:

My technology philosophy

  1. I’m a big Dr Phil fan (even though I last watched an episode when I was on maternity leave 8 years ago!) and because I believe that “you teach others how to treat you”, I believe that you need to communicate your preferences to the outside world.
  2. I also believe that if you respect your time, so will others. The reverse is also true. If you don’t respect your own time, why would others respect yours? If you’ve heard me speak, no doubt I’ve said this during my talk 🙂
  3. Design your life around priorities, and then let the other bits fill up your time. No surprise here.
  4. Technology is a tool so to my mind, that means I am still the master. I love technology – I love that I can FaceTime my friend in Dallas at the start of her day and the end of mine, and I love Whatsapp Audio for podcast club.

Technology at work

I work in a highly email culture. Even if I talk to a client about something, I have to follow it up with an email, and then save that email in a client folder on a shared drive.

This is life in a highly regulated industry and doesn’t bother me at all.

I don’t feel the need to have my work emails come through to my phone unless I’m at a seminar/ client meeting and therefore out of the office for more than say, two hours at a time.

Once I’m back in the office, I turn off those emails.

Then, when my out of office assistant is turned on, I specify that if something is urgent, to call or text me.

(to date, I’ve had maybe 10 messages and I’ve worked at this company for over 3 years)

I don’t mind texts/ Whatsapps from clients if I’m away from the office but as a means to chase up an email, I simply don’t respond. I will then respond to the client’s email in the usual manner (and I don’t even reference the Whatsapp).

Can you tell that I’m an Upholder yet? 🙂

I have a Questioner colleague who blocks clients once they whatsapp her. As she said to me, why would they want to do that if our official communication method is email or phone?

I will take work calls from 7:30 ish to about 6 – 6:30 if I know we’re working on something urgent. Otherwise I just don’t answer my phone.

I am very reliable, hardworking, etc. and very prompt so it’s never necessary to chase me up, and I think I’ve trained my clients to expect that I will get back to them as soon as I can.

I don’t make friends with people I work with on Facebook. I had some very inappropriate comments made about my Facebook activity many years ago by a work person so that’s it – I blocked, unfriended and unfollowed this person.

What is the role of technology in your life? How do you relate to it in a work context? And how do you see this linking up with your Tendency?

I love to talk about this stuff – please ask questions in the comments!

Part 2 will be published next week – if you know your tendency and especially if you’re a Rebel or a Questioner, please email me and tell me everything, if you’re so inclined. It will really help me flesh out my next post.

What I learned when I had no internet

My internet service provider gave notice to all its customers and, long story short, we went with a new one but cancelled during the cooling-off period due to terrible service. Signed up with another and we have wifi again 🙂

During this time, I could use data on my phone but it’s so, so expensive that I tried not to revert to my phone and just do without.

I learned so many things during the month:

  1. I slept a lot more. My average sleep time for September is 7 hrs 46 vs 7 hours 25 for August.
  2. Life was very quiet on the friendship front too. I realised I make quite a few whatsapp audio calls and also couldn’t Facetime with a friend I normally have a monthly date with.
  3. I read a lot more than I usually do. I read 13 books in September. My average is 10 books a month, but in August I only read 8.
  4. I got a lot of organising done in the house – my wardrobes, kids’ wardrobes, kitchen cupboards, etc. And much pottering!
  5. The photos were completely up to date. Absolutely up to date. I don’t think I’ve ever been that up to date before 🙂
  6. I learned that my cell phone provider offers a free Instagram day every 6 days, and free Facebook every 6 days too. Those were the days I scrolled a lot, and on other days I used data to get on Instagram to post, and then I got off.
  7. I downloaded podcasts at work to listen to in the car.

Of course, I’ve made up for all that non-wifi time but I’m very conscious now that when I choose to scroll Instagram, I’m choosing not to go for a walk, read, sleep or get stuff done on my list.

Have you had a period of non-internet time? What did you get done during that time?

Have you considered going phone-free every week or month?

PS I heard on a podcast about Andrea Lucado (Max Lucado’s daughter) who takes the weekend off social media every week. It feels quite radical and strangely freeing too 🙂

PPS there’s another person (whose name escapes me) who takes the last week of every month off!

Does the thought of going offline feel freeing or terrifying?

 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...