How I read 120 books last year

At our last book club meeting of the year, I mentioned that I’d probably reach about 120 books and the question came:

How on earth do you manage to read so many books?

It’s not rocket science but I thought I’d put it here just to remind myself too.

I set a goal (of 72) for the year

I’m a big goal setter and I honestly believe that without goals life is a lot less exciting 🙂

My reading goal means I need to read 6 books a month, that’s one every week but another two built in somewhere else. Just knowing that I have to get through a book a week means that I have a focus.

Have a good list of books to read

I admit, I took this one too far. At one point I had about 40-odd fiction and 20-odd non-fiction waiting for me.

But… you read a lot when you have a lot to read. If you have only 3 books you want to read, you’re going to drag out those 3 books.

It’s Pareto Principle in action – work expands to fill the time available for it.

I actually proved this in December – I could have read more than 8 but I knew I only needed to get to 8, so I slowed down when I got to 6 books for the month, and spaced out those last 2.

Use Audible or Overdrive for audio books

If you haven’t yet listened to an audible book, leave a note in the comments and I’ll send you my favourite one of all time 🙂

I easily get through one audible book a month, some months two. Truth be told I could get through about 4 audible books if I didn’t listen to as many podcasts as I do. One of my goals is to listen to just one more audible book every month.

For those that say they have a short commute, I have a 6-minute commute to my gym and my dance class, and I use those short distances to listen to essay-type books like Present over Perfect.

Use the library

You are much more likely to try books if there’s a low risk involved, in other words, you don’t have to pay for them. There are some books I dithered over, but when I saw they were available at the library, I had no hesitation in trying them. Granted, I did try books that weren’t for me, but I also found about 3 new-to-me authors, all at the library.

I use my physical library (I’ve been going to this one for 16 years; the librarians knew me waddling in while pregnant, and now they know my kids too) and last year I discovered Overdrive. Overdrive alone helped me read 23 of my 120 books. 

Use all those 5 and 10-minute blocks of time

If D and the kids are upstairs doing bedtime reading and I’m cleaning the kitchen/ packing my lunch, I listen to a book.

If I’m waiting in a queue or at the dentist, I pull out my phone, and read on the Kindle app. Non-fiction works best for these tiny blocks of time for me.

You know that if we all stopped scrolling Facebook or Instagram, we’d instantly be reading a book a week. Just saying.

Read books you really, really want to read

I abandoned 5 books in 2017. This is huge for me 🙂

However, you can read a book you really want to read in half the time of struggling to read something. This is different from books that are a hard read because they’re challenging your thinking (which is good for you!) vs books that are awful that you’re forcing yourself to read.

Also, in this same vein, don’t feel bad about the type of books you read. Granted, romance is not my thing, but if you want to read romance novels and nothing else, you go ahead 🙂

If you’re an Upholder, put “read” on your daily and weekly to-do lists

I started reading dramatically more books when I started adding a simple item – read a book – to my weekend to-do list. It became a fun task for me and was easy to then sit down and relax in the middle of the day, even while there was work to be done.

Surround yourself with readers

I haven’t ever had a problem reading a lot but I know for a lot of the ladies in the book club, just all of us talking about books and our Whatsapp group has pushed/ prodded/ encouraged all of them to read more.

Listen to readerly podcasts like What Should I read Next? and sign up to Modern Mrs Darcy’s blog where they discuss bookish things – it’s sure to keep your reading list full.

Bonus – I asked my husband if he had any tips for my readers and he rattled off 5 tips so quickly before the kids interrupted us that I think I need to do another blog post, just with his tips 🙂

(he is also an upholder but he leans to obliger so it may be more interesting to some of you :))

Now, did you reach your reading goal for 2017?

What did you do that made it happen?

Lessons learned while organising my photo albums

Recently I put an item on my to-do list which was to sort out my photo album drawer.

I honestly thought it would take about 30 minutes but it took forever, because photos! memories! Project Life! scrapbooks!

oh my word, what was I thinking? it always gets worse before it gets better

Granny and Kendra loved looking at the photo albums but how did all of that come out of just two drawers?!

 

This was part of the before. So not bad but I wanted full photo albums in one place and current ones in another space.

After – the complete photo albums

remember these?

After – the current albums and my “speciality” albums (my 40th, pics of friends, etc.)

Both drawers open …

So here’s the thing:

I thought I had excellent photo boundaries. I only print 4 photos per kid per month. And for Project Life, I print about 6 – 8 photos a month, which is really very little. You can read more about my process here.

Still…these children are 8 and my drawers are nearly full. And there’s a whole year – 15 months that is just missing. This is not a very big deal to me since that was actually our life at the time. I have very few pics once I went back to work after my maternity leave and then the pics pick up again later.

I’m now considering the number of photos I print and what I want to do going forward.

Something that I’m thinking of for next year is to just print the 52 project photos of the kids together – that doesn’t cut down on the number but once I have ONE a week, I’m good.

But I will admit it is getting harder to get 4 decent pics of the kids every month. Maybe now is the time to get just one or two a month instead?

I haven’t finalised my thinking on this but I do know I need to cut down.

What do you do? Do you have any ideas for me?

PS I am not a fan of photobooks because of the expense, the time it takes to make them (when you’re not talented with graphic design) and the fact that you have to wait til the year is done to compile it. This way, I can keep up with my printing every 2 – 3 months, and it’s a 10-minute task to put the photos into the albums vs this big task I’ll be dreading every year. I do have photobooks from some old photoshoots.

Organising Queen’s best books of 2017

I finished off the year with 120 books read, 40 non-fiction (my highest non-fiction numbers ever!) and 80 fiction.

May all things in life be as neat 🙂

It was a really great reading year and I’ll tell you later this month how I vastly exceeded my reading goal for the year (167% of the goal).

But for now, I want to tell you about the best fiction and non-fiction I read in 2017.

Let’s start with non-fiction:

1. The Four Tendencies – Gretchen Rubin

The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People's Lives Better, Too) by [Rubin, Gretchen]

I wrote a bit about it here as it relates to me, an upholder. I’m telling you, upholder tightening is a real thing and I’m thrilled I now have the language to explain the things I do.

No matter your tendency, get this book. It is fabulous. You will learn about yourself and your family. My second biggest reason for loving it so much is understanding my kids better. (Dion and I are both upholders, but one of us leans to Questioner and the other to Obliger)

PS Her previous book, Better than Before, is on sale at the moment. I bought myself another copy because I bought the audible version the first time around.

2. Your Move – the underdog’s guide to building your business – Ramit Sethi

Your Move: The Underdog's Guide to Building Your Business by [Sethi, Ramit]

I love Ramit’s work and I really enjoyed this no-frills book on business.

His blog inspired this post of mine – 3 things I do to help my productivity.

PS you can see all my reviews on my Goodreads profile.

3. Born a Crime: And other stories – Trevor Noah

Born A Crime: And Other Stories by [Noah, Trevor]

Trevor Noah is South African but all I really knew about him (I’m not up to date with pop culture, as you know) was his TV ads for a cell phone provider.

This book was fascinating in all kinds of ways even to me, a South African.

I was educated, entertained, challenged and delighted by his narration of this book. Do yourself a favour and get it. If you’re concerned as I was that this would be too political, it’s not. It does challenge your thinking though.

Honorable mentions: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (one of my favourites ever but it already made my 2015 list!) and Reading People (Anne Bogel)

And now for the fiction:

  1. Truly Madly Guilty – Liane Moriarty

Product Details

This is the same author who wrote Big Little Lies. I love all her work but I truly was delighted with this one because I loved the characters. I loved it so much I’m planning to re-read it this year, this time on Audible 🙂

2. Every Last One – Anna Quindlen

Every Last One by [Quindlen, Anna]

Oh my gosh, this was such a beautiful book. My first by this author. Such detail to relationships and insights about people – just beautifully written in every way.

This year I read my first book by authors seemingly everyone has read – Anna Quindlen, Anne Tyler (Digging to America) and Maggie O’Farrell

I do want to say I abandoned 5 books this year which is AWESOME for me. This year I want to abandon them quicker.

3. A window opens – Elisabeth Egan

A Window Opens: A Novel by [Egan, Elisabeth]

Another new-to-me author and I loved this book. It was a book about normal life for married women with children and I can’t tell you what exactly I loved but just everything. I could not put it down.

Get it – you’ll be delighted.

Please share your top fiction and non-fiction reads with me.

And feel free to recommend books to me too in the women’s fiction, psychological thriller and memoir range. I’m also looking for a good memoir/ project book like this one.

PS Confession – while putting together this list and searching for links online, I actually bought 5 new books (!)

Yay – it’s annual review time!

The week between Christmas and New Year is, hands down, my favourite time of the year.

That’s because it’s the time I prepare my diary for the next year but, most of all, it’s because I finalise my year-end review and goal-setting for the next year.

Of course, you can do an annual review whenever you feel like it.

I do a review when it’s my birthday in August, and at the end of the year. The birthday one is more about my feelings and other such introspective things, while the end-of-the-year one is about all the other areas of my life.

A colleague of mine paid me the biggest compliment recently (she doesn’t even know it!) when she told me that of everyone she knows, I’m the only one she’s ever met who is this intentional about my goals.

It’s because I firmly believe that if you drift through life, there will be tons of things left undone simply because of lack of intention.

I don’t want that to be me.

I want to hear, “well done, good and faithful servant” and know that I’ve fulfilled my purpose in life.

Anyway, back to the process…

Some of the year-end thinking can be done as you go about your life (in the shower, while driving, etc.) but there comes a point when you actually need to sit down with a gorgeous pen and notebook, or with your laptop, and make the time to write things down.

There’s tremendous power in creating a sacred space for your thoughts, dreams, intentions and goals.

It’s also the perfect time to start the New Year with a clean slate – isn’t that appealing?

I book out a half day every year for exactly this purpose. If that’s not enough time (these things sometimes take a lot longer than you plan), I’ll take another half day.

For my birthday review, two hours is usually enough time for me to do the process justice.

Some of the things I’ll be thinking and writing about are:

  • my biggest accomplishments this year
  • things I definitely don’t want to repeat
  • the things I need to let go of – commitments, relationships, emotions
  • my word/ theme for next year
  • what my definition of success for the New Year will look like
  • and finally, the actual goal-setting

and so on

What about you? Have you created your sacred space yet for goal-setting?

PS remember to grab your free Let’s Do This workbook. I’ve also put a goals mindmap page and a lovely things to do list for all possible types of people out there – those who like their intentions more free-flowing and those who don’t want to think of it as goals.

A very Merry Christmas from my family to yours

Hope you have a peaceful day filled with love!

Readers’ favourite Organising Queen posts for 2017

This is a big post with lots of reading, guys. I love posts like this on other blogs and I usually stretch them out with numerous mugs of tea throughout the day 🙂

Let’s get to it – the favourite posts per month. And fun fact, each picture was taken in that specific month of the year, so enjoy Johannesburg (and Ballito, for July) through my lens 🙂

January

Word of the year recap and this year’s word

A bullet journal/ diary hybrid

What I learned in January

February

5 favourite posts about stationery

What I want more of this year

The annual filing that wasn’t 🙂

March

Free digital and audio books with Overdrive

How to write a friendship manifesto

Soul care vs self-care

April

My year of happy – April project goals

If it’s not serving you, let it go

 7 things about reading

May

Let’s talk about hygge (1)

My house has a to-do list

Your silent to-do list

June

Mental nourishment in the form of unplugging

What I learned in May

What’s in my handbag?

July

Getting motivated, Four Tendencies style

Creatives can’t get organised. Myth or truth?

Half-year review of my word of the year (give)

August

Your amazing habits

Do you suffer from perfectionism?

Lovely things to do this year

September

My 5 favourite posts about the goal-setting process (this is actually the most popular post of the year!)

How I do menu planning, and what I cook for my freezer

Why you should menu plan

October

Choosing your 2018 diary

How my whole planning system fits together

Good news – you get to choose

November

Technology and your tendency – work

Technology and your tendency – personal

Switching up what’s not working for you

Did you agree with these posts? Was there a favourite post that you want to highlight? Let me know. All of this influences some of the editorial content for next year.

The quick and dirty monthly review

Monthly reviews are one of my life rhythms that I didn’t think I needed, but I love doing so much.

They force me to slow down and reflect on what’s been, instead of just racing ahead to the next thing.

I’m the type of person that’s always looking forward and while that’s mostly good, at times, I know I need to stop and enjoy what I’ve accomplished first before moving forward.

My monthly review helps me do that.

Over the years I’ve refined my process, and I ask myself 6 questions that you can find on a free printable here.

Suzanne Moore interviewed me on her podcast and we spoke extensively about that monthly review form and my process. Listen in here on itunes or stitcher.

Some months I make my process even longer (when it’s been a particularly busy or eventful or stressful month and I need to unravel it) and sometimes I do the quick and dirty version.

The quick and dirty monthly review process

1.In my bullet journal, I write down 4 questions:

  • what went well this month?
  • what could have gone better?
  • what did I learn?
  • what do I need to let go of?

2. Then I go make a cup of tea or do something totally different (pack lunch bag/ set out clothes, etc.) This gives my brain time to start thinking about the month.

3. I then return to my bullet journal and answer those questions. Because I’ve given myself a chance to have a quick think, the writing it all out is easy when I return.

bonus questions

  • how did I live out my word of the year?
  • do I have any in-progress projects to be carried over?

 


Tell me. Do you do a monthly review? If not, I’d like to challenge you to do one this month and see how you enjoy the process (or not!). Let me know what happens 🙂

Switching up what’s not working for you

I’ve had a goal on my list since the beginning of the year, and that was to increase the amount of exercise I get in a week, in particular, to strengthen my core.

This was not happening despite wishing it were so. Imagine that.

Then my usual Zumba instructor had an operation and she was off for 6 Saturdays. One of those Saturdays we had a visiting lady do a Pound class.

A post shared by Marcia Francois (@marcia0608) on

That pound class opened my mind to new possibilities and reminded me that I had a fitness goal I’d made exactly 0% progress in.

Another gym in my neighbourhood opened earlier this year, still in the same network. So I checked their classes and phoned them to see if I could try out a Barre180 class.

I tried the class, loved it and have been going ever since.

But that’s not the end of the story.

You see, I’ve been in a habit where we, as a family, go to the gym together every Saturday morning for years and years. I love the time together, that we’re prioritising fitness and health, and I still (two months in) miss going to gym with them. It’s complicated, but basically, there is no kids’ programme at the new gym and in order for me to go with them on a Sat and still go to my new one during the week would cost me a lot of money, which I just can’t justify.

I’m trying not to focus on the missing part too much, and I’m going for more walks with the kids 🙂

And the best thing is… two of my jackets can now close and my flexibility has increased such that I can easily touch the floor again. Yay.

Over to you.

Think back to the goals you wrote down at the start of the year. Are there any you’re completely stuck on? Do you need to shake things up?

Do you need a goals re-set? There’s still time to make inroads into a couple of your goals. If you need a goals brainstorm and strategy session, email me and let’s set that up on Skype or Facetime.

3 kinds of lists for your bullet journal

Do you know what I’m really excited about these days? It’s how bullet journalling has made it cool and trendy to write things down 🙂

When you write things down, it frees your mind for more big picture thinking and you don’t have to worry too much about the details because they’re written down so they’re not disappearing anywhere.

Here are 3 types of lists you could use to help manage your time effectively. You can make the lists in your bullet journal or download them from my website.

Master to-do list

1. Master list
This is a place for a “brain dump”, a place for ideas you might want to pursue in the future or possible projects you need to tackle.

You can work off one master list for months, like I do with my business or blogging ideas.

I also have a master list of things to do in the house. I write up a new list every year and I work on that list the entire year.

To-do list

2. To-do list
This list can be monthly, weekly or daily. I post a weekend to-do list to Instagram every weekend.

The difference between this list and the master list is that this one has a time deadline attached to it.

I have a monthly to-do list, which is really my monthly goals list. I keep this one with broad goals like go to the gym 8 – 12 times, a weekly to-do list with about 3-5 business tasks to get done and then my daily to-do list which spreads out those 5 tasks so that I have only 1 or so to do daily.

Sometimes 1 task is very big and takes a couple of days so I’ll leave a couple of smaller ones to do all on one day.

I want to caution you to only put a maximum of 6 items on your daily to-do list so you don’t become overwhelmed!

My checklist to live my best life

3. Checklist
This is a place with a list of items which you check/ tick off.

This list is ideal for anything you need to do regularly, like the order in which you do your photo backups, a list of weekly business tasks, travel checklist, shopping list, etc.

My favourite checklist used to be my “newsletter” checklist which walked me through a process of ensuring I repurposed every bit of the content I create. These days, the one above is my favourite checklist 🙂

Once you start using the correct list for the task at hand, you’ll be flying!

You can download a variety of lists in the free pack on my website.

Do you prefer to print out your lists or to write them into your bullet journal?

The Year of Living Danishly – a review

I know many of you are like me in that you love a good project. Even better when someone else does a great project and writes about it, right?

Examples of this genre that I love are The Happiness Project (for a few years after, some of my clients did their own happiness projects which I coached them through, and then I could re-live the book many times over – LOVE!!!), Happier at Home and the one I want to talk about today, The Year of Living Danishly.

In a nutshell, Helen Russell’s husband gets a job in Denmark at Lego (!), they go for the year. Helen is a journalist and during this year, she freelances while doing her Living Danishly project, one focus area each month. The Danes are known to be some of the happiest people in the world so the book explores that too – each person she interviews gets asked for their happiness score on a scale of 1 – 10.

I read the book through Audible and it was fabulous – the narrator is really, really good.

There’s a lot of talk about hygge – one of my favourite topics – because the Danes do this really well.

I wrote about hygge here and here, if you’d like to have a read.

The 10 concepts she explores in the book, and why Danes are so happy are:

  1. Trust more
  2. Live Hygge
  3. Use your body
  4. Address the aesthetics
  5. Streamline your options
  6. Be proud
  7. Value family
  8. Equal respect for equal work (I’d heard some of this research before from “Overwhelmed” – Brigid Schulte, a book I gave 5 stars)
  9. Play
  10. Share

I don’t want to say too much more, except if you’re going to read it, I recommend the audible version if you like a good English accent. However, if you’re not sure about audible, then get the kindle copy.

Hope you enjoy reading.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Which of the 10 do you most resonate with?

PS if you know of other similar project/ memoir-type books, do leave me a comment so I can check them out.

All links are affiliate – at no extra cost to you, I get a few cents for each book purchased via this blog

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