Why are you so busy?


Years ago, 10 years to be exact, my friend, Beth, asked me the question, “why are you so busy?”

You see, I’d cram my weekly goals list so full of things and it’s amazing to me to think about now, but I’d actually get them all done.

But one day she asked me this question and do you know what I said?

“I think I’m trying to avoid the pain”.

The pain of infertility, of trying and trying to have kids, and this thing feeling and being completely out of my control.

Once I had that realisation, I slowed down a lot. It wouldn’t appear so to most people because I’ve always been a very driven person from my childhood, but a lot of slowing down happened. I even chose a word for the year, simplify, to help me focus on slowing down.

I think my default for not dealing with things is to get busy.

I’m now very conscious that when I feel like I need to do everything, it probably means I’m trying to avoid dealing with something emotional.

I then stop and ask myself, what am I trying to avoid?


So I’m going to ask you the same thing if you’re filling your life with non-life giving activities.

What’s really going on? Why are you so busy?

Marie Kondo said in her book that once your home is “tidy”, you then have no more space to avoid your big life decisions. I agree.

Gretchen Rubin says something along the same vein about a friend of hers: “I organised my fridge and now I can look for a new job”.

Are you occupying yourself with busyness (or social media or comparison envy) instead of dealing with your own big life issues?

Have a think and maybe you’ll also find that you’re avoiding something you need to deal with. If you’d like to work through some of these issues, I’d love to work with you. Check out the coaching options and email me when you’re ready.

Do you want to share? I’d love to hear more in the comments.

Let’s talk about deep clutter

I finished Gretchen Rubin’s book, Outer Order Inner Calm, a few months ago and while there’s not much new under the sun about organising, I do love her approach that not one size will fit all.

A concept that has stayed with me for a while now is the one about deep clutter.

In the book, she mentions that it’s easy to see messy people’s clutter. That’s called surface clutter.

However, many of us (I include myself here) have deep clutter and we don’t even realise it because it’s tucked away in a cupboard, sometimes even neatly organised.

Just because something is organised beautifully in your cupboard doesn’t mean it’s not clutter; it could be deep clutter. I immediately thought of all the pantries on Instagram that are gorgeous, yes. But I often wonder if people really eat all that food on a regular basis?

Or the beautifully organised rooms full of clothes… if those 17 pairs of jeans are not being used, that’s deep clutter.

She also mentioned that your things should move around your house. Example – if your dishes are in the sink, and then on the table, and then packed away, they’re all clearly being used, so are not clutter.

The dishes at the back of the cupboard that never move? Those dishes are probably deep clutter.

I was immediately inspired to use the stuff I love and the next time I gave my kids a snack, I used my fancy tapas bowls so they’d get an outing 🙂 And last night I dug out some dishes I used  to use regularly a few years ago. I still love them so I fed the kids on them and they loved feeling special.

Here’s your organising challenge:

  1. Check the back of your cupboards to unearth all the deep clutter.
  2. Either start using those things (yes, your fancy things may break – it’s okay) or donate them.
  3. Take a pic and post on Instagram; tag me so I’ll come see them

PS if you’re interested, my life admin list still has 9 items on it. I remain hopeful that I’ll be able to cross off 5 in the next week or so!

5 things I’ve learnt in the first 6 months of 2019

  1. I really love going on holidays. As it stands, we’re only now on our second holiday of the year. Usually we’re on holiday for the first week of the year, and then again in April/ May. This year the school holidays didn’t work to our advantage so we stayed put, and I reallllllllly felt the pressure in May and June.

2. I’ve met my goal and run four Four Tendencies workshops so far this year. I always knew I loved running workshops because it brings together many loves of my life – teaching, people, connecting and connecting dots for others, organising and stationery 🙂 However, I had forgotten exactly how much I love running workshops. After every single workshop, I’ve been on such a high for the entire evening. My remaining two workshop dates are: 7 September for the Five Love Languages, and 2 November for the Four Tendencies. Take 10% off if you come to both workshops.

3. I’ve learned that boldness can increase the more you practise. My word of the year is BOLD because I suspected that if I wanted to run 5 workshops this year, I’d need boldness to put myself out there. Somewhere between workshop 3 and 4 I realised that I’m not scared to tell people about the workshops anymore. Not that I was scared, per se, but it felt a bit cringeworthy to put myself out there and say, “yes, come, you will benefit from doing this”. Honestly, a lot of it was reminding myself why I’m running these workshops. I actually sat with a journal and pen before workshop 3 and wrote down what people get from coming to the workshops. And then I think I spoke to people from a true place of wanting to help them. What is your word of the year, and how are you living it out this year?

4. I’ve also learned that I should definitely not tackle multiple house projects at the same time. In my defense, one went over by a month, one took two weeks longer than the other and the only one that worked exactly according to plan was the third one. Thank goodness those are all done, and now we save towards next year’s maintenance items. Isn’t it sad that house things are never done?!

5. My kids wrote their first set of exams just over a month ago. Well. As two upholder parents with questioner and rebel kids, I can say the entire experience has been a steep learning curve for all of us. We will definitely start setting clear expectations much earlier next time instead of leaving them to it for a few weeks by themselves. Upholders would take the exam timetable and work backwards and then diligently start studying; we’ve seen now that the other tendencies just don’t have that same way of responding to the expectation of studying. What’s your tendency, and how did you approach exams when you were at school or university?

What are some of the things you learned during the first half of 2019?

PS do you know, I’m still sometimes writing the year as 2018!

It’s half year review time!

Doing a review of the month, half year or year is a meditative practice for me because I’m so inclined to keep moving onto the next thing without stopping.

The half year, especially, is a chance for me to stop, acknowledge that I have accomplished some things and make some tweaks for the rest of the year ahead.

Let me do this with you, and then you can grab a cup of tea or coffee, and join me in your own half year review.

what went well?

  • I’ve run 4 X Four Tendencies workshops – I tweak a few things every time to make the workshop better – and I now have a kids’ quiz too. I also fully have my workshop mojo back.
  • We’ve waterproofed our roof and won’t have to think about that for 10 years. Our windows are sealed. We have blinds in our poolroom and bathrooms. We now have a slam-shut security door.
  • I’ve read over 50 books and we’ve had 6 fantastic book club discussions.
  • I’ve done some excellent work in my full-time job, had hard conversations that I needed to, and I’ve updated my CV (are you like me who keeps saying, “I really should update my CV” and then never do?).
  • Our kids have settled in nicely to grade 4. D and I are a bit more hands-on with the studying than we’d like to be as upholders, but we remain confident things will be better next time around.

what didn’t go well?

  • Too much money flowing out on all the house stuff. The money was there but too much makes me feel slightly anxious!
  • I would have liked one more family holiday but school holidays didn’t work in our favour this year.
  • I started caring too much about things outside of my control at work.

what do I need to let go of?

In an unprecedented twist (!), I am actually letting go of one of my #19in2019 goals. That’s because we did other (unplanned) house projects and so I’m letting go of one item on my list I had there instead. It’s all good because I exchanged one project for another.

what energised me?

I took a few extra dance classes when the opportunity presented itself. There’s an extra dance class on another weeknight. I can’t make it every week but when it works for all of us – kids and Dion – then I have gone, and it has been good to move more. Moving would be the fourth item on this list.

what do I need to change?

  • Be aware of upholder tightening, in particular with regards to my reading rules. If I want to read fiction during the week, especially during particularly stressful times at work when I need to escape, then I should do so.
  • Plan holidays more in advance.
  • Stop buying handbags! #sorrynotsorry

how’s my word of the year working for me?

Great. My word for the year is bold and it really has been a fabulous word for me. It is pushing me to say yes more and to step out when I feel inclined to retreat or take a back seat.

In a nutshell, my first half of the year has been a solid 8 out of 10. Much better in some areas but frustrating in others. Life, really 🙂 Much, much more good than bad.

Over to you! On a scale of 1 – 10, what is your rating for the first 6 months of the year? Care to share any of your high or lowlights?

My 5 best work hacks

Interestingly, I made a note in my bullet journal to write this post after hearing some work hacks on a podcast.

Of course, I thought that, as a full-time working mother, I should also talk about my own work hacks.

So here we go with mine, and I’d love to know about your own work hacks too.

  1. I hold fast to my end-of-work-week routines

I wrote a whole post about this year. If you haven’t read that post, give it a read – I’ve been following that new work routine for more than 18 months, and it’s honestly, changed my work life.

2. I make a daily to-do list (also known as my Eat the Frog list)

This is linked to number 1, but not quite. I started a day recently with 3 meetings and only got back to my desk after lunch. I realised towards the end of the day that I was feeling unproductive. Do you know why? I ended up working in my inbox instead of on my to-do list.

3. I reply to emails straight after reading if I can, and then file/ delete immediately

This is one of my best hacks. It’s like the one-minute rule but for your inbox. When you’re in email process mode (in other words, dedicated email time), read and answer, and then file or delete (I have always been in love with the delete button). Not all emails can get done quickly but if they can be attended to quickly, do so.

4. I make an agenda for meetings and circulate beforehand (preferably in the meeting invite notes), and I send out action points afterwards

It’s always useful to know why you’re attending a meeting and what you want to get out of it. Linked to that point, I try to make the meeting shorter rather than longer, and if I know a meeting is likely to run over due to chit-chat, I schedule it before another hard-start one, so I have a legit excuse to leave.

5. As far as possible, schedule days for deep work and days for meetings

I currently have the option to work from home occasionally and I protect that time for deep work. I probably get done on a work-from-home day what I get done on two days at the office.

It does mean that when I’m in the office, I usually have many, many hours of meetings, but I find that I’m more productive on a weekly basis than having meetings scattered on every day during the week.

I’d love to know what your best work hacks are so I can also add some tips to my arsenal 🙂

Do leave your comments, big or small, I want to hear them all.

 

My dreadful iPhone screen time stats

When Apple introduced the screen time monitoring stats on the iPhone, at first I resisted for a month or so. I always wait until the last possible minute to upgrade because I don’t like my technology to change!

When I received my first week’s usage, I was horrified.

A few notes and insights, if you’re interested:

  • My time usage per day averaged about 5 hours a day with most of that time being spent on… Instagram.
  • I knew that I received many notifications daily. It turns out that number was 90 a day. WhatsApp notifications were more than double the next category, my calendar. I have no problem with my calendar notifying me because all of those notifications are self-imposed and, as you’ve read in my upholder posts, I use scheduling to basically run my life. The remainder of my notifications are all useful.
  •  Turns out I pick my phone up on average 100 times a day. That’s terrible. When you break it down it’s about 8 times an hour which is still bad, but then when I see that the two apps I use after I pick up my phone are WhatsApp (probably things I want to see) and podcasts (stopping, rewinding, looking for the next, etc.), that sounds about right, and not something I’m going to change very much.
  • This leads us to my most used apps – Instagram, Podcasts and WhatsApp. All consistent with what I said above. The thing is Instagram wins by a huge margin. A whopping 53% of all my screentime is spent on Instagram. Granted, I manage two accounts and post stories and so on, but still. Those 20 hours a week could have been spent reading 2 – 3 extra books.

  

Immediately afterwards, I decided to do what I could to reduce those hours.

  • I got into a good habit of closing apps immediately after using them. That helped a lot and reduced the phone usage down to high 3 hours – low 4 hours a day.
  • I was very conscious of all my social media time especially after I put a 1-hour limit on social media. Every single day of my life I exceed this limit (except when on holidays) but every time I tap “ignore for 15 minutes” I’m conscious that I’m now choosing to ignore my own self-imposed limits. #upholder
  • My pickups are now 60 a day after I turned off my Instagram notifications. I now also mute WhatsApp groups if I don’t need to hear all the chatter, which is most of the time.

What’s happening currently?

  • I still veer between an average of 4 and 5 hours of phone usage a day. In the weeks when I post a lot of talking stories on Instagram vs just pictures, my phone usage shoots up but that is not a true reflection as my upload time is super slow and I have to leave Instagram open and on stories to upload.
  • My lowest weekly stats ever have been when we’ve been on holiday and that’s because I’m reading a lot and there’s no wifi 🙂 In that week I only used my phone for podcasts while getting ready in the mornings, and while cooking, and to take photos and send the occasional photos to family. I averaged 2 hours that week and I was very, very proud of that 🙂 It’s nice to know I can use my phone less even if forced to do so through no wifi.

What’s next?

I’m still interested in reducing my phone usage in theory but the only app I really have a problem with is Instagram. I grab and scroll when I’m lazy or while I’m waiting for the kettle to boil, or while I’m thinking about an email… Mindless scrolling is so easy on Instagram.

I think I need to turn on my Downtime and make sure I adhere to it. It’s about getting more disciplined with Instagram, like posting my own photos early in the day, only checking at lunch quickly and then again quickly at night. Exactly as I do with email. It’s not like I do much of a “curated feed” so it should be easy to do once I decide what I want and how I will approach it.

We’re going on holiday in about 3 weeks which I think is the perfect time to break my bad Instagram habits.

Have any of you drastically reduced your Instagram or Screen Time usage? Please share your tips and tricks.

PS please note that I have no Facebook or Twitter usage. I feel very happy that I only have one vice 😉

 

 

 

How my bullet journalling has changed over the last 3 years

I’m always fascinated by how things change in my own life and in other people’s, especially with regard to how we do things.

Today I want to talk about bullet journalling.

Yes, I’m still bullet journalling and to be honest, even when the craze ends, I’ll still be using a bullet journal simply because I was bullet journalling long before it became a thing. In those days, I just had a notebook I carried around with me for my lists 🙂

I have noticed that the way I use my bullet journal changes according to the diary I have for that year.

This year I have a diary with lots of monthly goals space so I use my diary for my goals instead of the bullet journal. I still use my bullet journal for my monthly review though (you can download your monthly review free printable page here)

So which pages am I still using?

  1. Weekend to-do list
  2. WFM Daily to-do list (once a week)
  3. Podcast club notes (podcast club does not happen as often as it used to, though)
  4. list of blog posts to write (this is still a permanent page in my bullet journal)
  5. brainstorming specific blog posts or what needs to go in my monthly newsletter
  6. monthly project life photo planning (I do a mindmap and ask myself what happened that I want to remember, and then I look for a picture. It’s much less overwhelming than looking at 300 pics trying to whittle them down to 6)
  7. daily journalling from holidays, when they happen.
  8. People interested in the Four Tendencies workshop (I keep a list and update it after every workshop) – this has been a strange thing and I should write down some learnings after the workshop on 1 June happens.
  9. Life admin list – granted, at certain times of the year, this list is WILDLY busy but most months there are only one or two things on there at most, which is how I prefer it.

Are you still bullet journalling?

Which are your favourite pages in your bullet journal?

PS I have a separate bullet journal for all my reading. Read more about that one in this post.

How strong are your foundations?

Often when it feels like things are getting a bit out of control, I find that it’s useful to stop and take stock of my foundational basics:

1. Sleep
Are you sleeping enough? I’m constantly surprised by just how many people don’t sleep well and expect to function at top productivity. Our bodies weren’t designed to go on and on without enough rest. 

If you’re feeling sluggish or like your mind isn’t 100% sharp, try increasing your sleep by just 30 minutes a night. If you’re currently sleeping 5 hours a night, get to bed 30 minutes earlier. Don’t try to remember; use your phone and set a daily reminder. Once that new sleep number is your normal, increase it by another 30 minutes, until you get to at least 7 hours every night.

More tips: here and here

2. Food

If you follow me on Instagram, I’ve shared pictures when I pack my lunch bag at night. I might have mentioned this but I seriously hate packing my lunch. And no, I have no idea why! 

A few weeks ago, I said to Kendra (9) that I was dreading doing my lunch. She said, “but you don’t hate packing our lunches” and I said, “no, I don’t. I love doing yours“. You know what she said?

“Then just pretend you’re packing our lunches”.

Simple but profound. I’ve been pretending ever since and it is a game changer. It feels more fun and it’s getting done quicker 🙂

If you’re not yet sold on menu planning, have a read here. I love menu planning because I love knowing what I have available in the house, and when we *actually* do eat all those meals in the same week, I do the metaphorical happy dance 🙂

Thinking about food and what to cook/ eat/ prepare three times a day is exhausting (and mind-numbingly boring for me) so automate the process in order to free up your mental load.

3. Energy

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

This might seem like a “nice to think about” but I think it’s essential. Often in the past when I’ve mentioned to Dion that I feel like I’m in a funk, it’s because I’m not getting as much people time that I need as an extrovert.

I’ve since found that I need 5 one-on-one friend dates besides my two book clubs every month for my tank to feel full. I spread out those friend dates, at least one every week, and that works beautifully.

My husband is an introvert and if I see his energy flagging, I’ll rescue him by taking the kids to do something so he has alone time at home, or let him go do grocery shopping by himself. Granted, there are still people at the shops but he doesn’t have to talk all the time to two very chatty nine-year-olds.

These are foundational issues that, if attended to on a consistent basis, will definitely increase your happiness levels.

Leave a comment and let me know which one of these three foundational basics you’re going to prioritise for the next 1 – 3 months.

If you’d like to work with me, I do currently have 4 time makeover coaching spots available every month. Send me an email and let’s get you started.

Consider making a life admin list

On my #19in2019 list, I have a number of house maintenance items. I googled and had a number of people out to the house to see the work and provide quotes.

Do you know what a frustrating process this has been? You would assume people would want the work but I’ve had to call/ WhatsApp people three times to just come out, keep hounding them for the promised quote, and on and on. I’m much more bored by this state of affairs than you are, trust me 🙂

With all this back and forth, because I couldn’t keep it all in my head, I announced to Dion, “I think we need to make a Life Admin list”.

A life admin list is a fancy name I like to use for a master list that has all the things you need to get done listed on it.

So I made the list, took a photo of it and emailed it to my husband.

Interestingly, he said he felt overwhelmed when he first looked at it but I felt much calmer because the noise in my head was louder than the actual number of items on the page (only 10).

Does a big to-do list make you feel overwhelmed or calm because you can now see what needs to be done?

Here are some benefits to making a life admin list:

  1. you’ll get the noise out of your head
  2. you’ll easily be able to categorise items (phone calls, internet research, errands, etc.)
  3. you can prioritise and see which you feel able to attend to right now, both emotionally and financially
  4. you’ll feel able to tackle them in appropriate time blocks
  5. you can easily delegate/ make a separate Honey Do plea

I attended to 3 of those items fairly quickly: followed up on a start date for the one person who was actually professional in his dealings with us, sent a WhatsApp to another to say something like “thank you for your interest, but we’ve decided to go with someone else” and for the third, I emailed to accept the quotation and suggest a time for the work to happen. 

All that took about 5 minutes.

I share that not to wow you with my productivity, but to show you that we often make things much bigger in our heads than they need to be.

It’s exactly what a Power Hour could be used for. Just get on the phone and sort a few things out, or send a few quick emails. Once things are scheduled, that’s half the battle won.

I promise you – you can do it!

Hit REPLY and let me know when you make your Life Admin List. I’ve posted mine on Instagram; if you post yours too, use the #LifeAdminList and I’ll pop by to say hello.

5 things to keep in mind when organising your space

A few bullet points of encouragement for your organising projects this Spring/ Autumn:

  1. Small spaces count. Your one drawer matters as much as an entire room. Start small to motivate you to keep on going. I also suggest starting with a small space that will make a difference to you mentally or emotionally.
  2. Declutter first. I’ve been saying this for years and it’s still true. Any space is easier to work with once you get rid of stuff.
  3. Just start. Don’t overthink things – it doesn’t matter where you start, as long as you do.
  4. You can do anything for 15 minutes – Flylady. You can. Set your timer and start with one drawer, one pile of paper, one shelf. If you feel like continuing after the first 15 minutes are over, great. Go ahead. But if you want to stop there, that’s also good. You can start again tomorrow with another 15 minutes.
  5. Use what you have. This is my favourite thing about Marie Kondo – she’s not about buying pretty containers and storage boxes, but recommends shoe boxes or whatever you have laying around.

And finally remember, there’s no perfect time to get organised – now is a good a time as any.

I created a printable last year when I did Spring into Organising. It’s still available for my friends in the Northern Hemisphere. Download the attached printable and print it out. If you liked this post, please feel free to share it on your social media or with a friend.

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