{Covid-19} 5 things I love and 5 things I’ll miss about lockdown

As we close out this month, and there’s more talk of opening up, I thought I’d share my 3 lists of 5 things. Do join me. This is great for your own Covid-19 journalling 🙂 or your bullet journal.

5 things I miss (more here)

  1. Freedom
  2. Seeing friends face-to-face
  3. Going to the gym
  4. My dance classes
  5. Kids going to school

5 things I love

  1. No traffic going to work
  2. Not having to colour my hair
  3. Seeing the daily winter sunsets (I would usually still be at work or driving home)
  4. Everyone is doing their own laundry
  5. Seeing the kids relate to each other like they did when they were little

5 things I’m grateful for (more here)

  1. Zoom Zumba and our core group of workout buddies
  2. That my husband and kids love being at home (I think this family can take only one of me!)
  3. Audio books accompanying my cleaning
  4. Cooking healthy meals and using up everything so there’s no waste
  5. Excellent sleep (I’ve averaged 8 hours for the last two months)

What are some of the things you miss and love about lockdown?

PS if you want to do a monthly review, download your monthly review pack here

{Covid-19} GRACE to stay calm during a pandemic

I read somewhere that the secret to happiness is self-knowledge and relationships.

My tips to stay sane (personally) during this time are very simple and I asked myself a question I explore every year – what do I need to do daily to be my best self? This looks different for each person. Figure out what you need and do that. E.g. Dion is an introvert and an enneagram 5, and has been having an afternoon nap to replenish his energy.

Long-time readers will know I have a card in the front of my diary to remind me of what’s important for me – you can see that card here.

This morning on Instagram I saw on Melanie Dale‘s stories that she has something similar with an acronym, GRACE. I think she is also an extrovert 🙂

G – Gratitude – what are you grateful for?
R – Read – what have you read today (not about the virus!)?
A – Adapt – what do you need to do to adapt?
C – Create – what can you create?
E – Engage – who can you engage with?

Let’s use an example to work through this framework.

G – I’m grateful that I got to go out twice today (safely!), that I didn’t get lost on the way to book club (getting lost is my superpower!) and that we are all well and healthy.
R – I read for 30 minutes this morning and will read again for a couple of hours tonight.
A – we adapted by adding a Zoom call to our book club (other examples are me cooking favourite meals with substitute ingredients)
C – I’m creating right now as I type out this newsletter to you
E – I engaged at Zumba, at Weigh-Less and with my book club friends

Here’s to a great couple of weeks of nesting and connecting, and getting those cupboards sorted if you want 😉

If you look through this link, you’ll find tons of inspiration to play with Konmari concepts in your home 🙂

{Covid-19} Let’s be intentional about our at-home time

Let’s quickly talk about being intentional while the threat of Covid-19 continues. When I use the word intentional, I don’t mean productive unless that is what you want to be intentional about. The last thing I want to do is put you under pressure; I want to give you grace and a few tools to take this one day or week at a time.

While I’m a girl who loves a plan and to know what’s happening, I’ve decided to take it all one week at a time. It’s how I plan anyway and I’m reminding myself things change in an instant. I’m making a Three Things To Do Today list and that’s it. My three things usually have something physical/ creative, something productive and something connecting.

What would your Three Things list have on it?

Mentally

  • If you’re feeling anxious, stop and ask yourself, “what will make me feel less anxious?” If it’s something you can do something about, do it. Otherwise, severely restrict your social media and news time. I’m not an anxious person by nature and even I started feeling a tinge of anxiety, so I’ve been reducing my social media time.
  • Fill your head with affirmations (write them out on an index or Project Life card), encouraging podcasts and things that make you happy. Jennie Allen has a great book out (how timely!) called Get out of your head. I started the Bible plan a few days ago and so far, great!

Physically

  • If you’re working from home, make sure you keep specific work hours, and stick to those hours. It’s so easy to work all the time and because you’re naturally going to let your home things bleed into work time, you may feel guilty. Don’t do this. Work hard during work time, and then switch off (yes, use a reminder on your phone!). If you want, track your work time so that there’s no guilt about switching off when your day is over. This is an excellent tool for obligers especially, but will also work for upholders and questioners.
  • Get outside in nature and go for a walk or run, just not with other people. Find a form of exercise because when you get moving, you’ll feel better. There are plenty of free things on the internet these days; one of my favourite ballerinas, Isabella Boylston, is doing ballet from her apartment. A yoga teacher I know is doing virtual yoga classes. All of these are win-win; exercise for you, and you’re supporting a small business/ Dancers Emergency Fund.
  • Get plenty of sleep. I know it’s hard but some easy sleep hygiene is to get off your phone early in the evening, read a relaxing (physical) book and stop drinking caffeine at lunch time.

Organising projects

  • A fellow twin mom, a little ahead of me in the game, shared on her Instagram how their family is going to play all the board games they own while they’re quarantined. They will then decide to declutter the games they no longer like. I think this is an excellent idea, don’t you?
  • You know all those things you wrote on your list at the beginning of the year? If they still matter to you, now is an excellent time to tackle them. Involve the kids! This book might help! Print out the list 4 “things I could do in 2020” so there’s no pressure on you, and see how you go. I love to hear feedback – let me know and tag me if you’re on Instagram.
  • Download your customised Tendency to-do list here

What are the things that you’ve found to work well for you?

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?

{time} DREAM method to organise time

time

D – Decide on the vision for your time

What do you want your day, week or life to look life? What do you want to include? More importantly, what don’t you want it to include?

R – Remove everything (for now)

When you remove everything non-essential from your schedule, you can see exactly what time you have to spend on the things that most matter to you.

2020 diary

E – Eliminate the non-important and non-urgent

Remember the important/ urgent matrix? Eliminate the non-important and non-urgent. You’ll find your time freed up to spend on important things.

A – Arrange your schedule in a way that works for you

We are all different and we therefore have different preferences and energy styles. If you’re a lark, go to gym in the morning or get up and do your reading then. If you’re a night owl, sleep in and do everything possible at night.

2020 diary

M – Maintain your priorities

  • Do a form of weekly planning on a fixed day every week and write down three priorities for work, personal and home (or whichever categories you prefer).
  • Use an Eat the Frog list daily to keep on track.
  • One in, one out – if you add a new commitment to your life, you probably need to remove one if you didn’t already have blocks of available time.
  • Keep your monthly calendar periodically to make sure your priorities are well-represented.

That’s it – that’s how you use your DREAM method to organise your time.

Does your time need a revamp? Do you find yourself busy but not filling your days with what matters to you?

You might want to consider booking a time makeover coaching session with me specifically dedicated to getting more of what matters to you in your days, weeks and months. Read more here.

Weekend routines and rhythms

We are all different personalities and need different rhythms for our weekends to feel like they were good ones.

What is important and consistent across personality types is for all of us to decide for ourselves what the components are that will make a weekend feel successful, and then incorporate those elements into our days.

This will also differ according to different times and life stages, e.g. in winter I cook more because that feels more life-giving to me, but in summer I only want to be in the kitchen a very short time.

Let’s look at some components of a successful weekend, shall we?

church – anchor event

1. Anchor events and scheduled activities

In this section, extroverts will typically want to have more time spent with other people where introverts will be happier by themselves.

I have at least three anchor events on most weekends – a tea with a friend after work on Fridays, Saturday morning Zumba and Sunday morning church. Those things are scheduled and in my diary, and can move, but probably won’t.

2. Downtime

We all need downtime, but what downtime looks like for you may differ to the next person.

Some people relax by reading on the couch; others relax by going for a long run. You do you.

3. Chores

Let’s face it – we all look forward to getting some nagging things off the to-do list and I, as an enneagram 1, like nothing more than to potter and set things in order in my home. The week is often for keeping the house ticking over and weekends are when I (and you) can devote a longer period of time to a little deeper cleaning or organising, like swopping summer and winter clothes, decluttering your kitchen cupboards, etc.

4. Planning

This only has to take 20 – 30 minutes but is so useful if done consistently. I know some couples who take time on a Friday night to plan for the week ahead. I do my planning in two stages – quickly on a Friday night or Saturday morning I plan the menu for the week ahead and write out the shopping list, and then on a Sunday afternoon, I take 5 – 10 minutes to review and plan for the week ahead. On very busy weekends, I might push the planning to a Monday night but I like to still get it done.

I need to get out once a day at least or else I get cabin fever 😉 but other than that, I like to both relax and get things done around the house every weekend. This goes out the window if I have a heat headache but if I’m well, that sounds like the perfect weekend for me.

I’m flexible around my loose plan (typical upholder!) but I do need those first three components to be present, and I feel like I’m winning for the next week too if I get my planning done.

What are the components for you to feel like you’ve had a successful weekend?

My secret superpower for getting so much done

Recently I posted a screenshot on my Instagram stories showing my sleep stats. This one, in fact.

I had a flurry of direct messages from people commenting that they couldn’t believe I sleep so much. How is it possible to sleep 9.5 hours?!

Well, it’s easy if you set your environment up for good sleep (no screens before bed, cool bedclothes, dark room, etc.). I’ve always slept well, ever since I was a child, and most importantly, I believe that sleeping so well is the reason I have such a lot of energy and can get so many things done.

On the other hand, it’s also why, when my twins were newborns, I felt so out of sorts. It’s because I wasn’t sleeping. The minute those two started sleeping better at 10 months it was like the sun shone brightly again 🙂 because my brain was clear!

When I start working with a new time management coaching client, I always check their sleep habits first. Sleep is so important and even if you’re not aware of it, your body needs good sleep to function well and you need to be well-rested to be most productive and effective. If you’re not well-rested, you’ll find yourself with fuzzy thinking and a brain that can’t focus on a task for very long.

We work with small goals until they’re sleeping at least 7 hours a night, and then we start working on goals. It works because it’s easy to get things done when you’re sleeping well.

I know that it seems counter-intuitive to go sleep instead of working more, but I’ve proven it so many times in my and others’ lives that if you go sleep, you’ll get your list of things done much quicker the following day because you’re rested. I have often said, “I feel like a new woman” when I tackle that to-do list and get things done from a base of good, uninterrupted sleep.

Try it and see. Sleep might very well be your superpower too 😉

Interestingly, I heard from two different sources that there is only a really tiny percentage of humans who need less than 6 hours a night, and how to tell if you’re one of these is that you never feel drowsy outside those 6 hours and you don’t need caffeine or other substances to get you going.

How many hours do you sleep per night, on average? Do you feel rested and energised in the mornings, or do you feel you need to work on your sleep?

PS My goal has been 7 hours 30 per night for years and years; this year it’s 7 hours 45 and I’m at 7 hours 42.

How I use a master to-do list to prevent overwhelm

master list

Let’s talk about the difference between a master list and a daily to-do list.

People often confuse the two which is the exact reason they experience overwhelm. I would also feel overwhelmed if I saw 30 items every day but not if I only see 5 or 6 items.

  1. I make a master to-do list of what I call Life Admin every so often. This list has things around the house, projects, financial things, medical appointments, etc.
  2. Here’s the trick – I keep this list on my desk so it’s visible at all times.
  3. Every week I put one or two of these things on my weekly list – to be done either during the week (if it’s time-specific or dependent on other people) or on the weekend (usually self-imposed and needing only my input).
  4. When I complete the item, I cross it out with a highlighter. As I progress through the list, more and more items get crossed off which feels very satisfying for this upholder.
  5. I then rewrite the list when the list of undone items is less than half the list, or it’s a new month (I love the fresh slate of a new month).

I mentioned above that I have a master list for my life admin. I also have one for all my clients at my full-time job (in Excel) and I suppose you could call my To Blog list a master list too 🙂

If you don’t already use a master to-do list, I encourage you to try one. There is a satisfaction in knowing that you can take a month, two months even to get to all your things, but that you only need to do just as many as you want to, every couple of days or weeks.

Do you use a master list? What do you have master lists for?

How to read more in 2020

If you’ve been reading around here or follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I’m a big reader. (I even started a bookstagram account late last year – marciareadsalot).

I read 97 books in 2016, 120 books in 2017, 112 books in 2018 and I finished on 108 books last year.

I hover around the 100 books a year mark consistently, and thought I’d share 5 ways that we can all read more. It’s not like I do nothing but read (I’m a full-time employee, parent to twins, wife, friend and coach/ speaker/ workshop facilitator) but I do prioritise my reading.

  1. Have a compelling to-read list

If you only have boring books on your list, you’ll be less inclined to pick up a book and read. Therefore, decide what you like to read and add some fun books (for you) to your list.

If you can’t wait to read a book, there’s a very high possibility you’ll read faster, and thus read more books.

Tip – I create a To read – January collection within my Kindle so that I always have a great list of books to pick from. If I own the physical copy, I download the sample, and leave that in the collection so I remember what I wanted to read.

2. Stop reading books you hate

This ties into number 1 above. If you are not enjoying a book, stop wasting your reading time and pick up a book you want to read instead.

Did you know that you don’t have to finish every book you start? Please start freely abandoning books. I abandoned 7 books this year (yay!) – the faster I abandon, the more I can read 🙂

3. Always keep a book with you

Even if you don’t keep a physical book with you, have an audio or Kindle book on your phone. I like to keep a non-fiction book on my phone that I can read a short piece when I have a few moments. Things that work very well are essay-type books, or 100 days to …… or 365 days of …………..-type books too.

4. First read, then scroll

I realised that I was grabbing my phone in the mornings instead of my book, so a couple of mornings I didn’t switch on the wifi for a whole hour while I read instead. I nearly finished my book just from reading first instead of scrolling.

If you’re having trouble focusing, set a timer for 20 minutes and start reading. 20 minutes is the perfect time for a non-fiction read, and I guarantee that if you give a work of fiction 20 minutes, you’ll get into it enough to either continue or abandon.

I also want to point out my blog post from a few years ago where I recognised that with the 4 – 5 hours of phone time I have a day, I could easily read a non-fiction book once a week. See why you and I are not reading more books.

5. Join a book club

Most of the population are obligers and as Gretchen Rubin says, if you’re an obliger and you want to read more books, join a book club. A friend told me on instagram that she had a terrible reading year (14 books). She is an obliger so i suggested a book club. She is in a book club but they each read a different book. As a Four Tendencies facilitator, I’d suggest she join a book club where they all read the same book. My own book club reads the same book and we are mostly Obligers, with some Questioners, one Rebel and me, the Upholder, and this works very well for the Obligers.

Joining a book club is one way to read more and it’s a fantastic way to also build intentional friendships.

Are you reading more or less than you were a few years ago? How do you make sure you’re reading a lot?

What do I want less of in 2020?

When I start reflecting on this question, the answer is not just the opposite of what I want more of. Instead, I’m challenging myself to really think about things that I can control and take concrete action steps to create in my life.

Stress

Most of my stress this year resulted from worrying about whether the workshops would fill, especially in the beginning, but also stress about work that I absolutely could not control.

Unrealistic expectations

Granted, I placed many of these expectations upon myself, but I also felt that some clients had unrealistic expectations regarding timelines. This is a great time of year to remind myself that I can only control myself, do my best and then let go (here’s where my word’s going to be so useful).

Complicated systems

I generally like to keep things simple, but sometimes in trying out different planning tools or ways of doing things, I have tended to complicate matters that don’t have to be complicated at all. This year I have 1 diary, 1 bullet journal for lists and notes, and 1 master to-do list which I’ll review weekly. If you’re interested, let me know in the comments and I’ll write more about that.

Weight

I have some ideas where I can change things. I tried a few things this year but they were mostly unsuccessful. It’s clear I probably have to invest in Weigh-Less completely and not just tell myself, “oh, I know how to eat properly”. I do, but doing it by myself is not working as well as I’d like so I need to do something different. There’s a tension between realising that I’m no longer 25 and also not just giving into the middle-age spread. I already contacted the WL group leader and told her I’ll return as soon as there’s a “no rejoin fee” special which should be soon 🙂

Clothes I don’t like

I recorded some instastories a few months ago because I realised that I’m in jeans 4 days out of every week and yet my wardrobe looks like I wear work clothes 5 days a week instead of just 3. I need to fix that and keep only the things that fit well, make me feel good and that suit my present lifestyle. I’ve already made a start – every time I find something in my wardrobe I’m not wild about, out it goes.

What do you want less of in 2020?

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