My annual birthday review

I started doing a review of my year that was a few years ago. This typically happens on the first free weeknight after my birthday.

I make a cup of tea, grab my bullet journal and sit down at my desk to do some actual writing.

It’s actually not important how you do it; just that you do.

I prefer to write so that I’m not distracted by the internet, notifications, etc. but if you don’t have that problem, by all means just type out your answer.

An aside – there’s no magic time to do a life review; I just happen to think my birthday’s a good time to take stock, but you can do it tonight! Tomorrow! This weekend 🙂

Here’s a post I wrote about this before.

Me, at 43

Again, here are some of the questions I used this time, but listen to your heart and write the questions you feel you need to explore. If you don’t have a clue where to start, start with these questions:

  1. what worked well for me this year?
  2. what didn’t work well?
  3. what do I need to stop doing?
  4. are there any relationships I need to let go of?
  5. how am I living out my word of the year? do I need to choose a new word?
  6. how am I living out my values?
  7. what do I want to focus on in the year ahead?
  8. what am I grateful for?
  9. how do I want to feel this next year?
  10. what do I want to give myself this next year?

A few notes from my birthday review:

  1. I’m very happy with my current work rhythms because I mostly feel on top of things.
  2. Some of my biggest joys this year were from learning my enneagram number and taking the Discovering You and Exploring you courses with Your Enneagram Coach, and from doing the Four Tendencies deep dive course with Gretchen Rubin.
  3. I’m happy tending to my current friendships while leaving enough space for spontaneity.
  4. We’ve had three amazing family holidays this year.
  5. I read 111 books from one birthday to the next 😉
  6. I’ve chosen to let go of situations that I normally wouldn’t, because it just didn’t feel worth it any more.

And now I’m ready to tackle 44!

Have you done a birthday or life review lately? What were some of your highlights/ insights?

The kind of books I love to read

I’ve only read one book in this pic so far and didn’t really love it 😮

I mentioned in this post a few months ago that it’s quite life-changing when you know the types of books that don’t work for you; you can skip right over certain books and know they’re not for you even though many other people might love them!

In the same way that you should now what you don’t want to read – here’s my list – you should also know what you do want to read, so that others start to know your style and won’t miss the mark buying you books.

Funny story – last year and this year for my birthday, two different friends bought me books I’d already read and loved. They were quite disappointed that I’d read the books but I was thrilled because they got me!

I’m reading The Ensemble in this pic

So what do I love?

  1. A hopeful tone (a serious title can have either a depressing or hopeful tone) even if serious subject matter (e.g. Still Alice)
  2. Good relationship dynamics (anything Joanna Trollope)
  3. Project-based memoir
  4. Memoir that is not fan memoir (Lab Girl)
  5. Strong protagonists (there’s at least one in each of Liane Moriarty’s books)
  6. Non-fiction that is solid in concepts but still practical (I know how she does it)
  7. Contemporary fiction that is not soppy (The Ensemble)
  8. Most Irish fiction (Roisin Meaney – but here are my favourite authors)

Do tell – what kind of books do you love to read?

An aside – I was chatting to Dion about a book that sounds like the type of thing I would like, but then I said, “it does say the author was a winner of a Man Booker Prize so probably not”. You see, I also have the dubious honour of not liking Book Prize books or enjoying any Academy award-winning movies, except one (Crash) 🙂

And if you’re interested, here are the books I read in July.

Fiction/ Non-fiction

8/3

Physical/ Audible/ Kindle

3/1/7

It was a great reading month – I only had two books rated 3 stars. The rest were 4s and 4.5 stars.

For full details, friend me on Goodreads

What was the best book you read recently?

Give yourself grace

I’ve been so busy during Birthday Season (all four of our birthdays happen in a less-than-one-month period) that I’ve let some things slide.

I started thinking that I need to catch up and get up to date, and all those Upholder-type things, but I decided this morning to give myself grace and just let those self-imposed expectations go.

I may be writing this only for me but I doubt it.

I think it’s meant for you too.

When you’re going through a busy season, let some of your commitments go. Don’t make yourself crazy trying to keep up. It’s good enough just to survive.

Here’s your permission slip.

Happy Sunday!

My monthly recap for July

I’m smack-bang in the middle of birthday season at the moment, so I’m not going to wait for the actual end-of-the-month before doing my monthly recap.

As an aside, can you see how this Upholder is breaking loose?! The Four Tendencies deep dive course really helped me to clarify why I do things and question whether I want to continue doing them. When I figure out Instagram TV, I’m going to do a little video on my learnings from the course.

Moving along.

Let’s talk about my highlights for July

1. Our family beach holiday. We were in Ballito for a week and I read 5 books, got to nap on the couch one afternoon, watched Wimbledon, and took many many walks on the boardwalk. Also, something weird happens to my body at the coast – I wake at 6.20 every day (I would wake at 9.00 if left to my own devices in Johannesburg)  – so I got to watch so many sunrises.

2. I’ve read 10 books thus far. I should finish on 12 for the month.

3. I crossed off something from the house to-do list which was to put in a shower in the kids’ bathroom. It came about in a really standard way for me which is I became irritated with having a messy bathroom every day when I got home from work as the kids used to use my shower. Dion and I are both very neat in our bedroom/ bathroom so I asked for a quote, changed the hardware out once and then paid the deposit and the shower was done.

4. I’ve done all the birthday planning. Two parties down, Dion’s birthday on Friday and mine on the 6th with a lunch on Sat 4th. Last year we had both the twins’ parties on the same weekend – mayhem – so this year we had 1 per weekend. Of course it feels like I’m entertaining for 4 straight weeks (which I am) but it’s been a whole lot more manageable. I’m only two parties in, but so far so good.

5. And for work, I survived the year-end madness 🙂 I was also up to date two days after returning from leave which is a feat that I’m particularly excited about.

Noteworthy mentions of the organising kind

  • I made updated travel lists and have put them in an A5 flipfile right down to which little travel pouch to use for my bedside table stuff. I’m super thrilled about this tiny little task that took about 10 minutes because now I don’t need to THINK every time I travel. I will just whip out my little flipfile and follow my lists.
  • We used Uber for our holiday again and it was great.
  • I ran a little giveaway on Instagram for Mandela Day and while I thought there’d be a lot more people putting up their hands for a free coaching session, I only had 4 takers, which means those 4 get 17 minutes each 🙂

Tell me about your highlights and organising mentions this month.

This is how we feel about beach holidays 😉

 

What painting my walls navy taught me



I’ve shared before about my house to-do list. This is a list that has all the things I want to get done in the house – not weekly jobs, but more cosmetic changes.

Some of the items on my list involved painting various areas upstairs, so I finally felt able to deal with the mess and I got some painters in.

They painted my study, Connor’s bedroom and the ceiling in our pyjama lounge.

At one point, Connor mentioned to me that he wanted his room blue. I’m not a fan of any “boring blues” as I call it so I told Connor that we’d have to have the perfect shade if his room were to go blue.

We settled on this very dark navy blue. I was a bit nervous because it was very dark but I felt like the room could take it because all our bedrooms are very light-filled the entire day.

To summarise, we painted Connor’s entire room navy blue (ceiling was white) and one wall in my study.

This is what I learned from painting the walls navy:

1. Trust my instincts

I wasn’t sure about the bold colour but I relied on past experience where I’d used bold colours and they all turned out fine. Most even turned out great 🙂

2. Nothing is irreversible

At least not with paint colour. I tell myself if I hate it, I can just paint it again. I had a situation perhaps 12 years ago where the paint colour did not look as good on my walls as it did on the paint swatch. I tried to love it for two weeks and then called the painter to come redo it. The good news is that I loved that new colour (Parsley) for 10 years 🙂

3. Take risks and be brave

I learnt a lot from The Nester about taking risks. She basically says things like “if you hate something anyway, try something new”. I’m all over this advice. Not that I hate white walls, but the point is to take chances. Our houses should be places where we feel safe…. safe to try new things and experiment.

4. You may actually love change

I am not a huge lover of change. But when I decide to change, I usually love it. I realise I have control issues but go with me here. I didn’t think I’d love Connor’s navy room that much but I SUPER-DUPER love it! I also love my navy kitchen so much. It makes me smile daily, especially when it’s clean. If I didn’t take a chance on it (and it should have been green!), I would have had a boring beige kitchen (I can’t even imagine!).

What I want to do with this post is encourage you to take a risk in your home – paint something, move some furniture around, upcycle/ recycle something or buy something.

What will you do? And more importantly, what are you hoping it will show you?

Are you a time pessimist?

One of the main reasons many of us feel overwhelmed is because we’re not getting around to doing all we want to do, or we think we should be able to do more than we currently do.

I regularly meet women who think they should be able to work full-time, go to the gym 5 days a week, cook from scratch every day, spend hours reading with their kids every day and spend an hour a day on their own hobbies.

It’s not going to happen unless they don’t need much sleep.

A time optimist is someone who thinks they can do more in a specific period of time than an average person can realistically do.

I’ll confess – I’m often a time optimist in my personal life. Those weekend to-do lists with 15 tasks when I realistically am only going to be home a couple of hours on Saturday or Sunday? Time optimism.

It’s really strange since I’m usually a time realist in my work life:

– I know that things happen unexpectedly in the traffic so I need to leave extra time to get anywhere.
– I know that if I think I can see 5 people and sort out 5 issues in an hour, I’ll probably only be able to realistically do 3 or 4 because of other interruptions, people in meetings or on lunch, etc.
– I know that when arranging meetings, I have to be flexible so the most important agenda items are discussed in case we run out of time.

A time realist is realistic about how long things take and buffers in time when necessary.

Back to my time optimism though.

When I put 6 things on a list and therefore only manage two of them because I know full well I have a really busy day…I’m being a time optimist.

I think things will go quicker than they inevitably do, or that I’m Superwoman and can do those things quickly.

And yet I often tease my husband because he’s a true time optimist.

He always thinks he can get much more done on the weekends and is then disappointed when we only get to do one or two things.

The time pessimist thinks there’s never enough time to do anything – read, organise, do fun things – so doesn’t even try.

It’s no secret that there are many time pessimists all around. This is one of the reasons I wrote the book (31 Days of Enough Time) which you can get by following the links in my sidebar.

How about a few quick examples?

You have 15 minutes before a meeting.

Time optimist – “I can probably get 10 emails done if I do them really quickly”

Time realist – “I can answer 2 long emails or about 5 quick ones”

Time pessimist – “15 minutes? No point me starting an email. I’ll just get started and have to stop”

You’re invited to join a once-a-month book club.

Time optimist – “Great! I can probably read 4 books a month even though I only read 3 total last year, during my holidays”

Time realist – “If I set aside 20 minutes a day, I can easily get through a book every month. Sign me up”

Time pessimist – “No, thank you. I don’t have any time to read because I work and I have two kids. Yes, I’m on Facebook but that’s my relaxation time”

So, are you a time optimist, a time realist, or a time pessimist?

How can you become more of a time realist?

Books I read in June, the best book so far this year and one I don’t want to tell you about

In May I read 7 books and last month I read 8.

But best of all, I read two fabulous books.

Have I mentioned before that I consciously set my goal lower than last year? I wanted to feel like it was more fun – in other words, not feel like I need to get stuck into the next book 5 minutes after finishing the last one and also read longer books without concerning myself that it was taking days and days to read.

Here are the 8 books I finished:

Fiction/ Non-fiction: 6/2

Physical/ Audible/ Kindle: 0 (how is this possible? I don’t know either!)/ 3/5

Two books received 5* from me on Goodreads:

  1. Three wishes by Liane Moriarty. This is my second reading of the book – this time I listened to it on Audible and LOVED it even more. Highly recommend especially if you have multiples but certainly not necessary.

2. The Ensemble – Aja Gabel

I certainly don’t want to gush and put you off the book but do yourself a favour and get this one. And then sink into it over a weekend with a day or so on either side. This book drew me in and would not let me go. I didn’t even want to leave my couch the entire weekend. It is utterly wonderful and the best book I’ve read thus far this year. I actually can’t believe this is her debut novel.

The Ensemble

And then a book I read while Dion was driving us back from our holiday in the Drakensberg… that I almost don’t want to tell you about (insert “shocked face” emoji here)

The life changing magic of not giving a f**k – Sarah Knight

I bought it on Amazon sale because I was intrigued enough but not willing to spend “proper book money” on it.

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k: How to stop spending time you don't have doing things you don't want to do with people you don't like (A No F*cks Given Guide) by [Knight, Sarah]

Here’s what I wrote on Goodreads:

I thought the actual concepts were really good. She gave good examples of the four areas – things, work (this section alone is worth the read!), friends, acquaintances and strangers, and family.

This book is going to be really, really useful for all obligers (on Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies framework).

However, my rating is lower due to the overuse of the f-word.

I didn’t find this book to be making fun of Marie Kondo’s book at all. The author and I are both huge fans of Marie’s method and her overall question, does this spark joy?

So, definitely if you’re an obliger and you don’t mind excessive use of the f-word, get it. It will empower you and help you to work with those inner vs outer expectations.

Now tell me, what was the best fiction and non-fiction you read this month? And seeing as we’re half way through the year, dare I ask – are you half way through your reading goal?

PS I first found out about The Ensemble on Modern Mrs Darcy’s Summer Reading Guide and it is the first of three books that I want to read this “summer” (it’s winter in South Africa ;)) I want to read 8 books overall but 3 of those before the end of August.

Here is my winter fun list if you’d like to take a look.

What a bullet journalling experiment taught me

A few months ago I decided to make a list of all the podcasts I listened to during that week.

I didn’t choose a particular week; it was simply a random week without any forethought.


At the end of the week, I totalled up the time spent listening and I had a big shock:

11 hrs 45 minutes

A few thoughts flashed through my mind:

  • I could have listened to 1 long fiction book or 1.5 non-fiction books.
  • I worked from home 3 days that week and about 3 hours a day is not unreasonable. I also listen to podcasts while tidying and organizing on the weekend.
  • Hmmm. What would happen if I tried some new things?

This is fascinating because I’m both the subject of the study and the scientist.

I also have a phone storage problem because I only have a 16 GB iPhone which means I have to delete photos off my phone twice a month. I actually don’t mind this because it keeps me in a good photo routine.

I also have to be diligent to only download one audio book at a time and only my subscribed podcasts.

Do you know what I decided as a result of all this thinking?

I unsubscribed from all but two podcasts.

No prizes if you guessed one of those podcasts is Happier with Gretchen Rubin. The other is the 5-word prayers daily with Lisa Whittle.

The other podcasts are still there but they’re below the subscription fold so I see them update but I only consciously download an episode when I’m ready to listen.

This decision…

1) freed me up because I don’t feel any podcast guilt (similar to Feedly guilt when you see 172 unread blog posts ;)) and in true upholder fashion,

2) I decide how much I want to listen to and when, and

3) if I don’t feel excitement about the episode, I don’t even download it. Before, the episodes would drop automatically and I’d feel almost compelled to listen immediately because of the aforementioned storage issue.

4) I’ve also listened to lot more audio books!

Yes, this post is about me listening to podcasts but it’s really about tracking behavior and making changes to align to your goals.

I have a few questions for you:

Have you ever tracked your time for a day or week? You’ll be surprised how much time you spend doing mindless tasks.

What have you learned as a result?

Is there something niggling at you? perhaps you spend too much time on Facebook or Instagram?

(our pastor said something this weekend that has stuck with me – people spend approximately 4 hours a day on social media, and other people are making money from those same people scrolling their feeds. Wow!)

A small thing that made all the difference

A few months ago, to my utter surprise, I finished ALL my weekly goals and got my daily to-dos done without much striving.

Do you know what the difference was?

I worked from home 3 times that week and left my diary and goals notebook open on my desk all the time.

How is that a big deal, you ask?

I agree!

I didn’t think it was a big deal either but clearly it is.

Seeing my goals and to-dos visible on a daily basis without having to open notebooks and take them from my bag or box on my other desk made the difference.

I generally pack up and clear everything all the time which means I’m not reminded unless I consciously open the notebook and look at the page.

The reason I don’t do it all the time is that our nanny is in and out of my study, and when Dion works from home, he lets the kids into the study (I don’t let them play in here – this is a workspace).

I’ve since thought of a solution. I can simply ask the nanny to sweep and mop on one day every week and not go into the study on the other days.

That way, I can leave my stuff open and visible without privacy concerns.

I shared this story with you because you may not be getting to your goals just because you’re forgetting them.

A tech-y way to do the same is to take a picture and save it as your lock screen on your phone. Change this every week/ month. Or type into your notes and save the notes screenshot as your lock screen.

There are ways to keep our goals visible and front-of-mind; we just have to be a bit intentional.

Has this helped give you ideas?

How do you remember your weekly goals?

What’s your organising style?

“You’re either born organised or you’re not”.

Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

I do believe that there are those of us who are naturally more structured and organised but I also know that anyone can learn how to organise or to improve their organising skills.

Interestingly, many professional organisers were once disorganised and learnt the skills in order to better manage their own homes and lives.

As for me, I do have a natural bend towards organising (I think this is mostly because I’m a J on the Myers-Briggs) but honestly, I figured a lot of things out once I had my own home. And I certainly developed my love for decluttering when we started moving house and I didn’t want to pay to move things I didn’t value anymore.

The key to organise your life effectively is to know your style so you can adapt any system to work with you, and not against you.

Today I want to talk about one particular facet of personality – structured versus unstructured organising.

It’s important to note that both of those descriptors are ways of organising yourself: you can organise yourself in a structured manner or in an unstructured manner. Unstructured people are not disorganised; they just prefer to organise themselves in an unstructured manner.

Structured

These are people who like clear goals and deadlines, they prefer closure, they love planning and following that plan.

Unstructured

These are people who feel trapped by deadlines, they are spontaneous and like lots of freedom and flexibility.

The really quick way I like to identify my clients’ styles is to ask them two questions:

1. do you work best with piles or files of paper?

Generally speaking, unstructured people work with piles of paper while structured people like files. Digitally, unstructured people have all their files in My Documents folders and structured people use (many) folders.

2. do you use the planning tools you buy or download?

This is a key indicator for me. If the person is a paper person (like I am), they probably have a diary. Do you actually use that diary or do you simply like the idea of having a diary? Open yours now and have a look… Digitally, do you merely download cool productivity apps or do you actually use them?

Of course, within those two really broad categories, there is a ton of variation.

I’m clearly structured but I’m a 7 in that I don’t lean very far across the scale. I love files but I keep them very sparse and thin. And electronically, I have one app I use… quite thoroughly, but only on a weekly basis. That’s the most structured I want to be.

Why is it important to know your style?

1. You’ll stop wasting money on tools that don’t work for you.
2. You can enjoy the freedom of being exactly who you are.
3. You can use your time more effectively.

Over to you.

Do you organise yourself in a structured or unstructured manner? What will you start or stop doing as a result of this knowledge?

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