{planning} 6 important things about monthly planning

Even if you’re not a goal-setter, monthly planning is a good way to start adding some structure to your life.

Why

You can plan your month such that events within your control are spread throughout the weeks.

You can find your optimum busy rhythm.

You can plan things like birthday presents and reserving book club books in advance.

When

I do my monthly planning either on the last day of the month (if I finish my goals review early) or otherwise on the first day of the month. I don’t feel late as I’ve glanced over the first few days to make sure nothing will fall through the cracks.

How

1. Add anchor events first (these are things that are already due to happen)

  1. Birthdays – do you need to buy a present, send a card or arrange to take someone for lunch or supper? Make a note of these action items.
  2. Socials – add in any fixed friend dates you may have, like a monthly book club, family get-togethers with extended family, or a standing tea or lunch with a friend. Do you have any action items you need to make a note of? E.g. do you need to buy the book club book or borrow it from the library?
  3. Any other anchor events – work meetings that might bleed into personal time, etc. I add my coaching client appointments here. Pre-covid, this is when I’d add all my business travel too as it would mean I’d need to get to bed early for early flights the next day.

2. Add in all the want-tos

  1. Exercise – if you’re a daily exerciser, this might be useless step but most people aren’t daily exercisers and need to plan out of the house time with spouses.
  2. Courses, workshops –it’s easy to schedule if it’s a once-off session. But what if it’s a self-paced course like my Discover Yourself course? When I sign up to an online course or workshop, I schedule time every week to make progress otherwise it’ll never get done. If you’ve purchased a course, have you actually done it? You might need to block out time once a week for an hour or two to work through the content.
  3. Catch-ups with friends – these are non-monthly standing appointments but you would like to arrange this time together.

3. Evaluate and answer these questions honestly

(you might not have a true idea when you first start but you’ll get better as you go along)

  1. Do your weeks look too busy?
  2. Are there some of those want-to items that would do better for you to move to another week instead?

4. Review your goals and add what you can to your non-busy weeks

Skip if you haven’t set any goals BUT I call goals anything you want to get done.

I set goals in 7 categories and for the purposes of this post, I’ll share the three goals I set in the Finance/ House category for March.

  1. Fumigator
  2. Make waterproofing decisions (the quote is way too much but I asked them to break down all the work into the 3 areas so we can do it in stages)
  3. Send canvas pic to my printer

My style is to put all 3 of these onto a house list and do the research and send out the emails all on one evening. An ideal evening would be after a vigorous exercise session like Zumba since I’ll be too tired to do anything else.

I should also write every week for my blog/ newsletter or if I’m creating a course. I usually have a night for writing every week and I like to couple that with something else computer-y like updating my budget or editing photos, etc.

5. Maintain and evaluate as you go through the month

As the weeks pass, notice how you feel at the end of each week.

Was the week too busy even though you thought it might be doable?

6. Speaking of energy…

I don’t like more than two evenings out (even if it’s at the gym) during the work week but I don’t feel it that much if those evenings are spread out – like a Monday and a Thursday. This is something I noticed while evaluating my weeks. I also don’t mind a Barre and Zumba class one night after the other, but I wouldn’t like two Zumba classes on subsequent evenings (too heavy on my body), or two coaching evenings in a row.

Do you need to change the order in which you plan according to your energy?

Do you do monthly planning? Is there anything else you add that helps you?

I work with clients in 30- or 60-minute time management sessions and show them how to translate their goals to quarterly, monthly and weekly action steps. We talk about the best method to get things done for their own personality type – there is “no once size fits all” approach. Send me an email and let’s schedule your session.

{time} What sparks joy with your time?

It’s important to me to regularly take stock so that I remain intentional about the choices I make around how to spend my time.

In Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (you can read about the physical aspects of tidying by clicking the button on the sidebar —–>>), she says that once your physical space is tidied, you start thinking through bigger issues in your life.

I found this true for me too as in 2014 I completed my tidying journey and after it was done, I started a new job and in 2015 I had a really transformative personal year, the year of enough.

Once you complete your physical spaces, you’ve trained your mind so you start thinking about each part of your life and whether it still sparks joy.

Today I’d like to talk more about sparking joy with your time.

At Work

Think about the various parts of your workday/ week/ month/ quarter/ year. Which parts spark joy and which don’t?

I remember when I first did this exercise and noted down that there was a part of my job that I hated. When I drilled down and asked why, it was because of the type of client and the type of work I was doing for that client. Now the client wasn’t going anywhere and neither was I, so I had a conversation with this client where we brainstormed how we could change things for the better. Another meeting or two and while things weren’t sparking joy, there was no longer the extreme dread and boredom.

Now let’s talk about sparking joy.

Which parts of your work spark joy? Sometimes we don’t get to do these parts as often as we’d like but if we have the awareness, we can start to create time to do more of what brings us joy.

I identified that for me, I need to feel like I’m contributing by being creative with products, solutions, etc. but not by myself, in collaboration with my clients. A good day will have at least one such interaction so I try and arrange my week so I have multiple days of collaborating with clients because those sessions energise me most.

Over to you.

What sparks joy for you at work? What drains you at work? How can you add more of the first and reduce the second?

In your personal life

What sparks joy with your personal time?

I’ve heard from so many people during the pandemic that they will not be automatically signing up their kids to so many activities once life returns to normal. It turns out that rushing from one activity to the next on the weekend does not spark joy.

Does it spark joy for you to spend time with family? Or connecting with friends? Does it spark joy for you to be in service to others, like serving at a soup kitchen or volunteering at an orphanage?

And what about time by yourself? Does it spark joy for you to do hobbies when you’re by yourself, to journal, to spend time in nature, to clean or organise, or to exercise?

I’ve shared many times that the perfect ratio of personal time for me is out and about (by myself doing Zumba, spending time with friends or family, or running a few errands), getting stuff done (cooking, organising, cleaning or pottering) and relaxing (reading, playing with my photos and very rarely, watching a show for an hour). When my time is too full of one section, I feel frustrated but the perfect weekend is a blend of all three.

What sparks joy for you with your personal time? I’d love to hear in the comments!

{organising} 3 easy ways to create decluttering habits

When was the last time you had a good clear out?

Why should you even bother?

Like me, I’m fairly confident that you’re buying things or people are giving you things regularly.

I’m not even talking about being a shopper of unnecessary things.

  • When you replace your gym pants or sports bras, are you tossing out the old ones? If you pick up a couple of new T-shirts, are you just adding them into the pile or drawer?
  • When you buy a couple of new bowls, are you donating the old ones? I’m sure the old ones didn’t break?
  • When you buy two new body soaps to try, and you try them for your next couple of showers, are you using up the old ones first? Do you now have four open bottles in the shower? 😉

Decluttering your stuff helps you feel clearer mentally, and opens you up to blessings and abundance in your life, not only of the physical kind.

Here are a few ideas to create great decluttering habits:

Conscious decluttering before birthdays and Christmas

I do this mostly for the kids but for myself too if I have a birthday lunch. People will bring presents so you might as well create space for it all.

One in, one out rule

This rule is probably the most unexciting and yet the most effective constant form of decluttering I do. I keep a donate tub on my washing machine in the kitchen and I keep putting things in there. If I buy two new mugs, I look through the cupboard to find the two that spark the least joy. I do the same with clothes too.

Physical boundaries

This is another one of my favourites. Everything in my house has a place where it lives. And since my Konmari days (coming up on 7 years!), there is usually only one place, no longer three spaces all over the house, unless the item is used there. When the physical space is too small for the item (s), it’s time to reduce the number of items until the space is comfortable again.

What about Konmari?

I still recommend doing a Konmari-type decluttering if you can – the biggest use for me is that you get to see everything at the same time and it shocks you senseless so you’re never tempted to hoard as many items again. If you click through to that post, you’ll see all the vases. I’m pleased to tell you that I’ve not bought one extra vase since the time all those were decluttered – yay!

My suggestion:

  1. Give yourself a small task every day for a week (one kitchen drawer, the bathroom vanity, your T-shirts, etc.) and set your timer for 15 minutes while you declutter.
  2. It is addictive once you get going and find the momentum to move onto problematic areas.
  3. But remember, as the Home Edit girls say, you can either have the stuff or the space.

If you’d like accountability and guidance to finally get your spaces organised, please book a virtual organising session of your choice. Both sessions come with a follow-up action plan for you to implement. I’d love to help you get organised, whatever your style.

{planning} The joy of quarterly planning

I’ve been an annual planner for the last 25 years. Until last year and the lockdown. I felt quite despondent and hopeless until Gretchen Rubin suggested making a 19 for Covid-19 list. After I made my first one for 3 months and saw how well it worked for lockdown, I just kept making a new list every 3 months.

Annual planning

  1. You do the planning properly once and then you just implement.
  2. Because you have the long-term view, you tend to take seasonal fluctuations into account, e.g. you might want to take 2 – 3 holidays a year – one in autumn, one in spring and one at Christmas.
  3. It will take longer as you consider the entire 12 months.

Quarterly planning

  1. Because you’re only planning for 3 months, it’s often easier to do because the planning is for a shorter time.
  2. If you no longer want to do something or if something is not working, you can change your goals and planning for the next quarter. Yes, you can do this for annual planning but we often don’t. The mere fact that the planning is only for 3 months changes your mindset about sticking to something you’re not enjoying.
  3. Useful in these pandemic times where things change quickly (lockdown levels) and where we might need a change.

My quarterly planning process

Last year, I just wrote down 19 – 20 things willy-nilly the first time I did my quarterly planning, but the next two times, I wrote down goals in the main 7 areas of my life.

The more structured approach worked well for me so that is how I will continue to do things this year. Do the same if you like a bit of structure or just go wild and write down some things. I do suggest at least having one or two goals in each of the work, home and personal/ relationships category.

I make a mindmap on a page in my bullet journal, put branches for the various areas – family, friends, health and fitness, house/ finances, work (day job) and OrganisingQueen (night job – ha!) and play/ fun (my word of the year). Any of my planning (even for this blog post!) starts with a mindmap.

Hint – I like a branch for my word of the year so that I put concrete goals to make my word alive for me.

Do you think you’ll give quarterly planning a try? What are your categories?

PS I talked more about quarterly and seasonal goals here.

{mindset} Let’s talk about Five Nice Things, or even just one

I’m probably the last person ever to have a gratitude practice. Even the phrase “gratitude practice” sounds twee to me. I’m a grateful person – very much so – but I’m just not the type to write out a gratitude list every evening.

I saw on A Cup of Jo (do you read her blog?) that someone called it “five nice things” and the more casual name feels exactly right for me.

Today’s nice things are: a lovely rainy day, I got to take a walk in my garden and play with my camera, I made lunch for the kids (cheese quesadilla and an apple cut in 4) and they loved it, Dion bought us sushi and I had a good session of writing.

You don’t have to write down 5 things every day; make it feel right for you.

Even if you just notice kind things around you and little moments of delight, and are thankful for them, you’re on the right track.

I went to gym the other night. Those who have booked for classes are allowed to bypass the queue to get into the gym but there was such a long queue outside that I had a moment where I thought someone’s going to say something (gym people are very serious people!) if I jump the queue. Well, a staff member with a clipboard appeared as if by magic, checked my name on the list and told me to go straight in (“straight through the turnstiles”, she instructed). I was so grateful!

One more – I’d planned to run three errands during lunch one day in two opposite directions. Someone was coming out to give me a quote so I had to be back at the house in 30 minutes. I knew I couldn’t do both directions so I opted to do just the one. Well, lo and behold, the one store had what I needed (they hadn’t had it a few days earlier) at a better price so I didn’t need to run errand 3. I was delighted! I love crossing things off a list 😊 Small, nice things that make me happy.

Will you join me and notice a few nice things every day?

When you start noticing and being thankful for lovely things, the strangest thing happens – even more lovely things happen to you.

I made a printable for you – the five nice things list – it’s undated and you can start using it today. You haven’t “failed” if you forget a day but it does help to print it out and keep it visible. When it’s full, print another page and keep going. And a reminder to sign up for my newsletter here – thank you for helping me grow my list.

{Four Tendencies} How two upholders broke the rules and what this means for you

It’s no secret that I’m an upholder. What many people don’t know except the 200 that have been through the Four Tendencies workshops with me is that Dion is also an upholder.

He leans toward obliger and I lean toward questioner.

This generally means we understand each other well but there are still some points of contention as he will sometimes meet outer expectations over inner and I, of course, meet inner expectations first.

Our kids had one week’s holiday from school. I tried to book a beach holiday for this particular week and the agency we use told me that ALL the holiday units were booked. All of them.

That started me thinking. Our kids are at school only 3 times a week so could we not go on holiday the week schools went back instead? That’s what ended up happening after I convinced Dion that 1) we all needed a holiday 2) the kids are bright and will catch up and 3) low season rates.

We booked flights and accommodation and told nobody about our plans. Honestly, I was scared of having to explain why we were breaking the rules.

When I told a friend that I was planning to ask the teachers for the homework, she told me that I was crazy. “When you’re breaking the rules, you don’t ask for permission; you just do it”. She’s a questioner.

In the end, I just felt better doing things my way so I wrote emails to each class teacher and to the school, not asking for permission but stating the facts and sending an assurance that we would ensure the kids caught up on all their work.

That whole day I was twitchy inside (gosh, being an upholder is hard work!) until the kids came home. Both teachers replied and said a version of, “no problem; we’ve sent some work home”. 

And so we went on holiday, the kids did some homework (Kendra did a total of probably two hours over the week while Connor came home and did everything required that very day) and went back to school as if they’d been there all along.

Are you shocked? I would be. If you’d told me a year ago that I would take my kids out of school to go on holiday, I would never have believed you. And yet, this is one of the best decisions of the year.

I want to point out a few things about the Tendencies:

  1. It’s very useful to know why you behave the way you do (pandemic stress and the realisation that breaking a rule safely now and again is okay)
  2. It’s important to manage any stress/ anxiety in a way that works for your Tendency (writing to the teachers, ensuring the kids did their homework)
  3. I could absolutely not do this kind of thing regularly (this is year 6 of their schooling and the first time they have missed even one day of school) – upholders can seem rigid and inflexible as a result. This is true and absolutely fine with me 😉
  4. I asked the kids several times if they were worried about being away from school and missing work, and both my Questioner and Rebel said the same thing, “definitely not, Mummy. We’re on holiday!” My little rebel even said, “just relax, it’s all fine” 😉

I no longer offer Four Tendencies workshops but I do offer 1:1 Four Tendencies coaching which I’m starting to love even more. Read more about the Four Tendencies framework and how it will benefit you here. I have a special handbook to help you prepare beforehand, which means we then use your actual coaching time to talk and work through your particular challenges and goals. The ideal Four Tendencies private coaching session is 75 minutes long for $75, but if you have a smaller budget, I go right down to $50 for 50 minutes. Email me to book your place.

If you feel twitchy inside about anything (pandemic, kids going back to school, you going back to work, any relationship issues, etc.), consider these questions:

  1. what is my tendency? take the quiz here
  2. why do I feel this way as an upholder/ obliger/ questioner/ rebel?
  3. with my tendency in mind, what can I do to ease my level of stress/ anxiety?
  4. (if it’s a repeating event), what will I do differently next time so I have a better result?

{goals} my word of the year for 2021 – play

At the risk of stating the extreme obvious, 2020 was not an easy year for many of us.

As I was contemplating a word for 2021, nothing came to mind. Literally nothing.

I got busy tidying, decluttering and sorting papers as I do at the end of every year, and I found a printable from a course I did – one of those word cloud things.

A word jumped out at me – PLAYFUL.

And immediately I knew my word of the year was PLAY.

I’m not a naturally playful person and I feel that this word will help me not only have fun again but also be more playful in spirit. I considered having fun as my word again but I like to choose new words every year, at least for now.

Why play?

  • I love that it’s a verb which means I need to take action to make it happen.
  • I want to do some fun projects – I’ve already identified Superhero Photo, a course I did 9 years ago. I found all the emails the other day and they brought me such joy that I can’t wait to play along again. I’m an upholder so I will happily and successfully complete a project like this all on my own. And bonus – I get to play with my big camera again.
  • I also noticed that when I participate in Instagram challenges purely focussed on creativity and the actual photos instead of what the grid is supposed to look like or not, and your engagement levels, etc. (none of which I pay attention to but that inner critic is always reminding me of the shoulds), I’m so happy. I take pleasure in posting a picture of the day. If it ties in remotely to what’s happening in my life, I might write a sentence or two otherwise, just posting is so freeing.
  • I want to design and write a new workshop on personalities which definitely feels like play to me.
  • I’d also like everything to feel more like play than work – so to infuse a sense of play into things. How can I make this more playful? more fun? E.g. reading never feels like work but I do sometimes think, “hmm, I need to read a few more non-fiction books” and this year, I want everything to feel more playful.

So how am I going to keep this top of mind?

I make a folder on my computer every year called Marcia’s favourites. A few weeks ago I spent a few hours while listening to a book scrolling through about 5 years of my favourite photos. Some are favourites because the landscape or scenery is breathtaking. But many are favourites because of everyday delights, like the way the light reflected off something, or a beautiful flower or item found in an unexpected place, etc.

I then copied the photos that felt playful to me into a new folder called play, and I’ve made a collage which I printed and put in front of me on the wall in front of my desk to remind me daily of my word.

In previous years, I have had jewellery made like a ring or a necklace. Some of these items have been passed on, like the TRUST necklace that I passed onto a friend going through a divorce. I might still do this because I love wearing a reminder and it prompts conversation which is always nice.

I also recommend making an image with your word and saving it as your lock screen on your phone so you see it hundreds of times every day.

What is your word for 2021? How will you remind yourself of your word to keep it top of mind?

Can you believe this is year 13 of choosing a word?! Here is a full list of all my words over the years:

  • 2009 – simplify
  • 2010 – consolidate
  • 2011 – courage
  • 2012 – create
  • 2013 – trust
  • 2014 – shine
  • 2015 – enough
  • 2016 – joy
  • 2017 – give
  • 2018 – fun
  • 2019 – bold
  • 2020 – light
  • 2021 – play

{goals} It’s time to reflect and reset for 2021

In November 2018 I tried a new thing. I wanted to create a habit of writing every day and I thought I’d kick off my end-of-year reflections as part of that writing project. It worked really, really well. In just 15 minutes a day, I did my entire reflection of the year.

The best part of it all was that it was well before my usual time for reflection, the week after Christmas. This meant that I was calm, peaceful and in the right frame of mind to enjoy my holidays and look forward to the new year.

I loved that so much I repeated it last year with similar success.

I’m doing the same thing this year with my 2020 reflection. I’m also offering a bunch of people the same process via 1:1 coaching sessions and I would love you to join me for one of those sessions.

During our time together, we’re going to reflect on the year that’s (nearly) passed, get real about our season of life, explore our values and core desired feelings, and then when we’re connected to our purpose, we’re going to set some very loose goals for the next 3 months. I’m also going to teach you exactly what to do when you face obstacles (like Covid did with all of us this year) and how to still set yourself up for success.

Here are the details:

  • $60/ R800 for a 75-minute session
  • Decide if you prefer a weekday or weekend session and email me.
  • I’ll send you all available session times for a week or two, a Paypal invoice, Gmail invitation and the handbook.
  • You’ll send me your prep at least a day beforehand (so I can prepare) and we’ll meet to discuss and have an amazing session.

If you start your reflection early, you can relax and enjoy your Christmas/ New Year celebrations, knowing that you’re already set for 2021. This is the part I’m most looking forward to – the having it done and being able to relax and enjoy the festive season, no matter what that looks like.

My goal for this time together is that each person leaves our session with gratitude, clarity and hope for the year ahead.

Email me and I’ll book your place.

PS don’t forget to book your 75-minute 1:1 coaching session with me for only $60. I’ll send you a handbook, give you some prep to complete beforehand and we’ll talk through each of the sessions as they apply during your session.

{goals} 2020: let’s talk about the last quarter

This year’s felt like the newborn stage for me – in parts it’s flown and yet I have many times had to take it day by day to stay sane.

I see many sentiments like “let this year just end” and “can we please just get on with next year?”, and I get that. We all want to escape a year absolutely none of us expected and move on with our lives.

A lot of us are also exhausted from working too hard, or worrying too much, or having too many bills and not enough money, or a combination of all of the above.

So I think it’s time that I had a reframe. I’d love if you’d join me too. I’ll share one thought for each question to give you an idea. Write out the prompts in longhand, use the notes app in your phone or maybe talk it through with a friend.

  1. What do I want for this last quarter of the year?

I want to continue with my reading streak (I reached my goal on the weekend), I want to eat better again so I can get to a certain number (nowhere near my actual physical goal, just a mental goal) and I want to start slowly integrating back into the “new normal” of getting out and about.

2. Is there anything I want to start doing?

I had these two things on my original 20 in 2020 list and I can do them so I should. I have started just one session of Emily P Freeman’s Discern and Decide course (it was a pre-order bonus when her book, The Next Right Thing, released last year) and I want to finish that. I also want to read The Path Between Us, an enneagram book on relationships by Suzanne Stabile, that I also bought last year.

3. How do I want to feel at the end of the year?

Like I survived this period with grace, determination and my sanity intact. If my relationships are as good as they were or better, I’ll consider that a bonus.

4. Are there any projects I’ve started that I can finish well?

Yes, I want to run two sessions of a new workshop I’m yet to name but will help us all end this year well (whatever well looks like for you) and prepare for next year. It’s going to be the equivalent of a large part of my end-of-the-year coaching sessions but so much cheaper.

5. Is there anything I need to finalise or end for my own emotional and mental comfort?

Well, had I written this blog last week, I’d have talked about ballet. I did it though – I’ve been dithering and yet I knew I was not comfortable going back anytime soon (in fact this revelation came to me while doing session 1 of Discern and Decide). So I wrote the owner an email last week and formally resigned. I can always go back but at least she’s not left wondering about me.

Bonus – if it feels right for you and you want to make a list of 3 for the next three months, go ahead. I wrote more about quarterly goals here.

And remember, it can be as small as drinking 2 L of water a day or reading for just 20 minutes a day. It doesn’t have to be “write a book” 🙂

Who of you are joining me for the workshop on 21 November? Book your place now. It’ll be $29/ R450 but there’s be a discount for the early birds until 7 November!

If you prefer to work through these things privately in a 1:1 session, I’m offering the same content in a 75-minute coaching session for just $50. This will be for a limited time only until mid-December.

PS this is post number 2000 on this blog! Wow! 😮

{organising} for spring according to your personality

It’s spring in Johannesburg and many of us like to do some spring cleaning. I like to do cleaning throughout the year otherwise the thought of all that deep cleaning will probably drive me deep into a book never to emerge.

I do love organising though and there’s a bit of cleaning involved there.

But whether you prefer cleaning or organising, there’s a way to approach it to suit your Tendency.

Let’s go through the Four Tendencies. If you’re not sure of your Tendency, take the quiz here.

Upholder

Think about your home. What do you want to do and why? Make a list of the things that you feel like tackling over the next month, keep it visible, schedule a couple of tasks into your diary/ calendar (actually, block out the time in your weekly schedule) and attack your list as planned.

Obliger

Which areas are important for your family to function well? If you’re not sure, ask them. Then announce your plans to them and to a friend who will hold you accountable. Block out the time and go for it. Bonus tip – follow a few cleaning accounts on Instagram (@jottiesjournal and @lynsey_queenofclean) for inspiration but remember that watching Instagram stories will not get your own house organised.

Questioner

First figure out why you want to do what you want. If you want to declutter spaces, first ask yourself why a space matters to you and what is important to you about that space. Once you get really clear on your why, you’ll be able to start and stay the course. Questioners get demotivated when they can’t see the point of doing something.

Rebel

If it’s important to you to have a clean and/ or organised home, then go for it in your own way. Do not follow any of the plans you see on Instagram or Pinterest. Definitely don’t sign up for one of those monthly challenges with a different section every month, or if you do, jump around and do as you feel like you want. Perhaps have a cleaning caddy handy and, as the mood strikes, clean or organise whatever you feel like doing, in your own way.

I would love to know what your Tendency is and if this helped you in getting your head into spring cleaning/ organising gear.

I also offer 1:1 Four Tendencies coaching sessions where we talk about your Tendency and more importantly figure out how to harness it to address any challenges you currently experience in your home, personal or work life. $60 for a one-hour session. Book your session now.

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