{time} Let’s talk about morning routines… and a peek into my own

Let’s start by talking about my morning routine and then we’ll talk about what you might want in a morning routine.

Sunrise

Why should we even have a morning routine?

A morning routine sets you up for the day ahead to ensure a successful day. Depending on your day, your morning routine might vary but I’d suggest that you’d need clothes, food and stuff for the day as the three components, no matter what you have on the agenda.

But let’s talk about my morning routine:

Work at office days

I wake up, shower, dress, grab my things and travel to work 🙂

Work from home day

This one is a little slower, by design.

I wake, play on my phone, read, and then shower, dress and go to work which is about 15 steps from my bedroom.

Work life

Weekend days

Saturdays – I roll out of bed, put on my gym clothes, brush my teeth and put on lipstick (always with the lipstick!), and go to gym.

Sundays – look exactly the same as the work at office days, except… I go to church

You’ll notice that there’s very little I do in the morning and that is very intentional; it’s because I’m not a morning person so I set up my life such that I don’t have to think very much in the morning.

If I had my way, no one would even talk to me much before 9 am.

I can do this because all my preparation happens in the evening.

work prep

What might you include in your morning routine?

  • Choosing clothes for yourself and your kids (your husband can choose his own clothes!)
  • Making lunch for yourself if you work outside the home (this might even be a good idea if you work from home so you eat a planned meal and don’t just grab something when you’re hungry)
  • Setting out anything that has to go with you (running errands on the way to or from work)
  • Setting out gym bag (if you exercise on the way to or from work)
  • Popping food in the slow cooker or defrosting meat

What is included in your morning routine that I haven’t even considered? Do you have a minimal routine like me because you’re also not a morning person?

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 end-of-work-week routines

My end-of-work-week routine is encouraging, motivating, intentional and lets me completely unwind every week.

Interested? Keep reading.

I’ve been doing this same routine for about 18 months now and it’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.

  1. Make a ta-da list for the week that’s just ended

I first heard of the concept of the Ta Da list on the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast. I tried it that week, it was fabulous but it took me a few weeks to make it a habit.

I have a job with lots of constantly moving parts which can make it feel like nothing is ever done. As a high J on Myers Briggs, I love the feeling of completion.

Writing this list makes me feel accomplished because I’m focussing on what did get done instead of what’s still up in the air.

2. Write down my goals for the week


This part helps me be intentional about what I want to get done in the week ahead.

We all know that you can get swept away by all the emails and requests from other people. This is not wrong; however, as an upholder, I also want to accomplish things that I decide are important.

Writing down goals for the week helps me keep the big picture in mind and keep moving on those important, but not necessarily urgent things. In time management literature, it’s the Quadrant 2 items.

3. Write Monday’s to-do list

Remember the Eat the Frog list?

This is typically a shorter list than my weekly goals because I’m focussing on the things that have to get done on that Monday.

I like to write this list after I’ve consulted my calendar for the day so that I can also prepare for any upcoming meetings.

The best thing about this list is that once I make it, I can completely unwind over the weekend and forget about work, knowing that I know exactly what I need to do once I flip open my notebook.

Which weekly systems have you put in place to help you with your work?

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?

Technology and your Tendency – part 1 (work)

I follow a podcast, Best of Both Worlds, that I recommend especially if you’re a full-time working mother who works at a workplace, not at home. Let’s face it – most podcasts (or most that I listen to) are hosted by either SAHMs or WAHMs whose time is a lot more flexible.

Sarah wanted a podcast that more represented her life so she started one (very Upholder-ish) with Laura.

On this episode, they discuss the role of technology in their lives and ask some really great questions, both on Instagram and in the blog post:

My technology philosophy

  1. I’m a big Dr Phil fan (even though I last watched an episode when I was on maternity leave 8 years ago!) and because I believe that “you teach others how to treat you”, I believe that you need to communicate your preferences to the outside world.
  2. I also believe that if you respect your time, so will others. The reverse is also true. If you don’t respect your own time, why would others respect yours? If you’ve heard me speak, no doubt I’ve said this during my talk 🙂
  3. Design your life around priorities, and then let the other bits fill up your time. No surprise here.
  4. Technology is a tool so to my mind, that means I am still the master. I love technology – I love that I can FaceTime my friend in Dallas at the start of her day and the end of mine, and I love Whatsapp Audio for podcast club.

Technology at work

I work in a highly email culture. Even if I talk to a client about something, I have to follow it up with an email, and then save that email in a client folder on a shared drive.

This is life in a highly regulated industry and doesn’t bother me at all.

I don’t feel the need to have my work emails come through to my phone unless I’m at a seminar/ client meeting and therefore out of the office for more than say, two hours at a time.

Once I’m back in the office, I turn off those emails.

Then, when my out of office assistant is turned on, I specify that if something is urgent, to call or text me.

(to date, I’ve had maybe 10 messages and I’ve worked at this company for over 3 years)

I don’t mind texts/ Whatsapps from clients if I’m away from the office but as a means to chase up an email, I simply don’t respond. I will then respond to the client’s email in the usual manner (and I don’t even reference the Whatsapp).

Can you tell that I’m an Upholder yet? 🙂

I have a Questioner colleague who blocks clients once they whatsapp her. As she said to me, why would they want to do that if our official communication method is email or phone?

I will take work calls from 7:30 ish to about 6 – 6:30 if I know we’re working on something urgent. Otherwise I just don’t answer my phone.

I am very reliable, hardworking, etc. and very prompt so it’s never necessary to chase me up, and I think I’ve trained my clients to expect that I will get back to them as soon as I can.

I don’t make friends with people I work with on Facebook. I had some very inappropriate comments made about my Facebook activity many years ago by a work person so that’s it – I blocked, unfriended and unfollowed this person.

What is the role of technology in your life? How do you relate to it in a work context? And how do you see this linking up with your Tendency?

I love to talk about this stuff – please ask questions in the comments!

Part 2 will be published next week – if you know your tendency and especially if you’re a Rebel or a Questioner, please email me and tell me everything, if you’re so inclined. It will really help me flesh out my next post.

Choosing your 2018 diary

August, as well as being my birthday month, is also the best bookshop month ever.

It’s when the new diaries start appearing.

I’m very clearly a paper-embracing gal and I love a paper diary, but I have had lots of back and forth within myself on which diary to buy for next year.

If you’re on my newsletter list (if not, sign up here), I wrote about this when I sent out the mid-month newsletter.

Here are a couple of questions that might help you decide on your 2018 diary:

Am I a J or a P on Myers Briggs?

This is a fun one to start with and I’ll tell you why. Js actually use their diaries; Ps like the idea of using a diary but they don’t. If you’re someone who stops using a diary by mid- or end-Jan, are you perhaps a P?

(take the test here)

Do I prefer the A6, A5 or A4 size?

Is your diary going to stay on a desk, in which case you can get a big, hefty one, or if you intend to carry your diary around with you,  you may want to opt for a smaller size no matter how much you love the bigger one.

Do I like a daily, weekly or monthly planner?

I’ve seen very few monthly planners (literally just a month at a time with maybe a picture on the top), a fair number of weekly planners and tons of daily planners.

Is everyone really a daily planner? If you are, please tell me.

Then, the fun part, if you’re a weekly planner like I am

Do you need it to start on a Monday or a Sunday, or does that not matter? Do you prefer a vertical or horizontal layout?

I saw a lovely Joyce Meyer daily diary with a weekly review layout just before each week starts. I was this close to getting it 🙂

Do you need space for notes in your regular planning, at the back of the diary or not at all?

Yes, yes and yes again for me (see the Legami planner above). I do know that some people don’t need note space.

Do you like a month-at-a-glance page before the month starts? Do you need a goals page?

I like to have an overview of the month, preferably in a block layout, not just lines running down the page, and of course I like a goals page.

What about other features that will make you like your diary more?

Do you like a bright diary or something that won’t stand out? Do you need a pen loop? Do you like perforation so you can mark where you are in the diary? Do you like a bookmark? Do you prefer hardcover or softcover?

Which of the options above do you definitely know you need?

So many things to think about! I could be very happy with 3 different diaries 🙂 and hopefully, I’ll be able to make my final choice soon (confession, I’ve bought one but I haven’t opened it because I’m not sure… I don’t want them to sell out though)

PS I asked my husband (high J!) and these are his diary preferences:

  • neutral colour (but I convinced him to get a nice blue!)
  • daily planner with times going into the evening
  • month at a view
  • notes page

How do I control all the paper?

One of the most popular questions I get is this:

How do I control all the paper?

I understand this question completely because I have a big yellow desk and when I get lazy, that’s the first area that goes out of control for me too.

The first thing you have to do is make decisions on what next for every piece of paper. I like using a timer because I’m naturally competitive (anyone relate?) and that inspires me to take action, and quickly too!

Before you start, gather the following items:

1. a timer (use the timer on your phone)
2. wastepaper basket
3. brightly coloured pen (I like a nice thick red gel pen)
4. notebook and/ or planner
5. post-it notes (the originals, not the cheap stuff)

Right, now you’re set!

There are only four actions you’re allowed to do once you’ve looked at each piece of paper. Don’t take longer than 30 seconds to scan the page.

1. Dump it

Throw it in the bin. The more ruthless you are, the less you have to file. Win-win!

If you only need one piece of information, write it down straight in your notebook or diary, and then throw the piece of paper away. Some of you are hyperventilating – you’ll be okay.

2. Delegate it

If someone else has to attend to it (husband needs to phone), write the action on the paper itself or on a post-it note and put that in a separate pile.

3. File it

Please do yourself a favour and only put paper in this pile if you absolutely need to reference it again. Just a quick statistic before you add anything to that pile… only 20% of filed papers are ever referenced again. Ahem.

Use your post-it pad for different categories. For example, when I’m doing my weekly paper sorting session, I use Household, Marcia, Dion and Kids as my categories.

4. Do it

Here I apply the two-minute rule. If you can do it in two minutes or less, do it right there and then. When I say “do it”, I mean either action it or schedule it to action later.

For example, if you’re working on your papers at 10 pm and need to make an appointment, you can’t phone right there and then, so write it on tomorrow’s to-do list or add it to your phone as a reminder. That’s within two minutes and it counts.

There you have it – the only four things to do with paper. If you stick to making decisions and taking action continually, your paper will be beautifully organised in no time at all. But remember, there’s no shame in the paper getting out of control now and again.

Is paper an area in your life that you battle with?

Is it the decision-making part, the sheer volume, the fact that you’re scared you may need it again? Tell me more.

Creatives can’t get organised. Myth or truth?

It’s true that creative people need different ways to organise themselves because traditional methods usually don’t work too well for them.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to organising; in fact, since each person is unique, each person’s organising system should also be different.

Let’s look at four areas to organise yourself for success:

  1. Attitude
    It’s a myth that creative people can’t work in a structured environment. On the contrary, having a bit of structure in your life actually enables you to be even more creative and to do better work.

A few years ago, a client emailed to tell me how she’s been energised and has been creating beautiful things again.

What was the difference in her life? We’d worked on organising her office space and within the new-found order, she could be creative once again.

Stop telling yourself that you can’t be organised; rather tell yourself that you organise yourself in non-traditional ways.

  1. Schedule
    Traditionally, we’ve all been told to work according to the clock. I’m telling you to work with your energy cycles; don’t try to battle them.

If you know that you go through a bit of a slump around lunch time, maybe that’s when you want to run errands or exercise to give yourself an energy boost.

If you design websites and you know that you’re most creative at midnight, then design your websites at midnight  Who made the rule that you have to start working at 8am?

  1. To-do list
    Scrap the to-do list. Yes, you read that correctly. The to-do list may set you up for failure especially when you feel you’re not getting things done.

Rather use an Eat the Frog list. This list helps you be more flexible so you only need to get the most important things done. My clients are always a bit shocked when I tell them, “the fewer items you have on your list, the better it is”. Just make sure those are truly important things on your list.

  1. Workspace
    When you can find your equipment and supplies easily, your valuable energy is used for actual creativity and not wasted on looking for things.

It’s so important to have your workspace set up according to your organising style. Are you a visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner? Are you a paper or electronic person? Maybe the reason you can’t seem to get your papers organised is because you’re actually an electronic person.

I’ve had clients with very messy offices whose computers are perfectly organised, and vice versa. It’s so important to play to your strengths.

My friend, Suzanne, admitted on the podcast that she hadn’t been creating because her workspace was too messy. She then took up my challenge to organise her environment so she could create again. Look at these fantastic results!

My challenge to you
Check your attitude and start telling yourself you can get more productive once you organise according to your style.

Tag me on instagram to come see your workspaces and creative environments. I can’t wait to see.

Are you creative? What are your particular challenges with regard to your workspace?

PS I wrote about my space to create on the blog before.

I’m on the So Suzy Podcast

Is anybody out there still reading from 10 years ago?

If yes, you may remember my organising buddy, Suzanne Moore.

Suzanne and I both blogged about organising way back in the day when people still commented on blogs. Ah, it was a glorious time back then.

We even met up in Scotland in 2008 and spent 3 wonderful days together in Stirling. Here’s my favourite photo of the two of us at Loch Lomond.

Suzanne also had a podcast back then called Let’s Talk Organizing but nobody knew very much about podcasts back then.

Anyway, Suzanne invited me onto her new podcast and, after some wrangling (what could I possibly have to say?!), I accepted her kind invitation and it was So Much Fun.

Please go and listen at any of these links

iTunes

iHeart Radio

Stitcher

Go have a read and let me know what you think 🙂

Suzanne’s instagram

 

5 steps to a tidy study

I seem to have “tidy study” on my to-do list every week so I decided to go back to basics and share those basics with you too.

Here are the 5 steps I’m following to my organised home office:

1. Have a plan and make the rules clear to all those who use it
Do not allow anything in there that doesn’t belong. Decide what the space is used for and only keep items relating to that purpose there.

My kids can use the table in the study but they need to take their stuff out afterwards.

2. Divide the space into zones
There may be a children’s desk for homework and school projects, a reading corner, the filing area and a computer desk. It is easier to keep the study organised and neat when you know where everything should go, e.g. books should only be in the reading corner and not on every desk.

No-one but me uses my actual computer desk because the crafting area is my big, green table.

3. Store items where they are used
If two people use the study, then have a wastepaper basket at each desk. And have two sets of staplers, scissors, etc. This will prevent your stuff going “missing” from your area. Have a punch and file tabs wherever you do your filing, if you like to file.

4. Batch routine tasks
Keep all items that you need to file together so that you file 5 pieces of paper at once. Make all your telephone calls at the same time. Write out all greeting cards and wrap gifts for a month at a time. Your friends and family will feel loved and cared for, and you will feel accomplished!

5. Tidy your study every day
Take just 5 minutes and do a quick tidy-up of the desk when you’re finished working every day. Throw trash away, make neat piles of paper if they’re in-progress (label with post-it notes), put pens and pencils back in the holder and take cups and glasses to the kitchen.

This is where I slack because I often forget to leave 5 minutes to tidy up on the evenings I’m on my computer.

When you keep things under control on a daily basis, it is easy to maintain the order of an organised space.

Do you have a routine to keep your office space neat and tidy? Or does it not matter to you?



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