A goals reprieve – quarterly and seasonal goals

I wrote in this Instagram post “April is the new January”, partly as a joke but mostly because I really believe that any time you want to set goals is perfectly in order and just great. Please set any goals rather than no goals.

You know that I set annual, monthly and weekly goals so I’m firmly in the detailed goals camp.

However, today I’m talking to many of you who need permission to lighten up with your goals.

Maybe you want to set quarterly or seasonal goals instead?

Let me give you some ideas:

Quarterly goals

In my Let’s Do This workbook (you can still get it here) there’s a page for quarterly goals. I put this in the workbook originally because some things in my life (personal/ house/ holidays) happen very much in seasons.

For example, the first part of the third quarter of the year is all birthdays around here.

Can you think of what happens in your life in terms of quarters? Birthdays, work pressures, house projects, annual holidays? Perhaps if you set goals in quarters it would help you instead of making you feel overwhelmed?

Seasonal goals

We’ve all seen those summer lists on Pinterest and Instagram. I do some seasonal lists but definitely not summer (summer is not my favourite season as long-time readers know). I do make a Christmas list (which happens during our summer), autumn and winter lists though.

Here’s my current autumn list.

I find seasonal goals very helpful in reminding me to get to the things I do want to do, but if I don’t write them down and name them, they often go by forgotten.

E.g. in Spring, I always put jacaranda photowalks on my list. Our city is carpeted in purple blooms and it’s just gorgeous.

The co-host of the Best of Both Worlds podcast, Sarah, divided this year into quintiles (I had never heard of this before) but it made perfect sense because she was on maternity leave for the first two months of the year, and then the rest of the year is divided as she saw fit. Loved it – makes sense for her situation.

I re-read her post now as I’m writing this one, and I realized she combined the concept of quarters and seasons.  By the way, Sarah is an upholder 🙂

So try something different – grab a page or your bullet journal and write down a few autumn/ spring goals, or some 2nd quarter goals.

Has this helped you to reframe from the standard periods of annual and monthly goals?

Did you set some goals? 😉

The best book I read in March that’s still freaking me out

From Goodreads, in reverse order

March was a good reading month for me.

I finished reading 9 books, although my children told me that The Break by Marian Keyes was so long, it should count as two books 🙂

The breakdown was 6 fiction and 3 non-fiction.

My physical/ kindle/ audio ratio was 2/5/2.

But now, let me tell you about the best book I read last month.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova was a book club read, and in fact, it was on our list from last year, and I kept moving it forward on our list. I’m so, so glad we kept this book on because I loved it.

My standard practice is to read the book club read on the weekend before book club. I usually start on Friday night, and read Saturday and Sunday.

This time I knew it was difficult subject matter so I kept postponing my reading (!). I was cleaning, organizing, faffing, doing everything else possible but finally on Saturday night, I buckled down and started reading because I knew I needed to get on with it.

And I couldn’t put it down. It was utterly compelling, so authentic and real and just beautiful writing.

The reason I’m still freaking out about it? Because what do you have if you don’t have your mind… or words to communicate? Oh man!

I loved the narrative style because we could see the progression of her disease in her writing – it was all done so well.

I want to encourage everyone to read this book if you haven’t yet. Even if you’ve watched the movie (which I will now do!)  with my favourite Alec Baldwin (!) and Julianne Moore, do read the book. The writing is just beautiful. It is such a heartwarming story.

I also highly recommend this for a book club read. We had such a fantastic discussion – I loved it!

I actually gave it 4.5* because of how I didn’t really want to read it and the reading was hard in parts, but since Goodreads makes you have whole numbers, 5 it is, since it was much better than “just a 4”.

One of my favourite parts of book club is how we all rigorously debate our ratings.

This photo was taken on the Sunday night, when I was well hooked!

Have you read this book? What did you think?

What was the best book you read in March?

PS here is my book club post on Instagram

Let’s talk about groceries and spending

One of the 18 in 2018 items on my list is to analyse our grocery spend because it feels like it’s out of hand.

Notice I said “feels” because I don’t know for sure.

I’m hearing lots around these days about grocery spend, money stuff, and so on, and so I decided to use the impetus on the internet to get this exercise done for us, and cross off that item.

A few bits of background:

  • We are a household of 4 – Dion, me, and our nearly 9-year-old twins. Most days, Connor now eats more than I do!
  • Our nanny is here every weekday and eats what we do for lunches (sandwiches and a piece of fruit) and the gardener is here one day but he doesn’t eat sandwiches so brings his own lunch.
  • The children grab a muffin or have a quick breakfast before school, take their school lunch with them, return home, have a small lunch/ snack and then supper.
  • I pack breakfast and lunch to take to work, and have supper at home.
  • D has breakfast at home, packs lunch for work and has supper at home too.
  • So we eat almost everything at home. All of that is considered grocery spend.
  • Cleaning products is also all “grocery” money as is toiletries for the kids. Specialised toiletries for the parents are for our own account, e.g. my shampoo, moisturizer, vitamins, etc.
  • We eat a lunch out on the weekends every second Sunday, and Dion and I have date afternoon once a month, but eating out comes out of its own budget. I don’t believe in takeaways so we never get food to eat at home unless for a very special occasion (Valentine’s Day).
  • I never waste food; I pack leftovers away and once a week we eat whatever’s there. No one is fussy in my house because the rule is “you cook for yourself if you get fussy”. I guess they hate cooking more 🙂
  • We shop weekly at Pick and Pay. I love the quality and I can get 98% of what I need. I have a tiny pantry. It’s smaller than at the previous house and I now consider it a game to use up all that food before buying more.

These are questions I’m asking of our household…

  1. what is our snacks vs real food ratio?
  2. are we shopping at too many stores? many people swear by this but that is precisely why the spend is astronomical, unless you are exceptionally self-disciplined and walk out with exactly what you wanted, and no more in quantity than you need. We have got into a habit of doing an “after church” stop at Checkers which is, on average, R300 a week. Thankfully we don’t go every week.
  3. have we used up all our food before buying more? Or are we lazy to get creative so we just keep buying?
  4. do I need to bring back a focused eat out of the freezer and pantry week every month?

What do you want me to talk about next in this series? 

Questions for you:

do you know what you spend on groceries? do you question whether it’s excessive or not? do you want to save money in this area or doesn’t it bother you?

PS The Frugal Girl writes a post every week on what we ate, what I spent. I love her blog – it’s mindful of money without being crazy over the top.

March recap and in-progress projects

Wow, this month was something else.

I haven’t been as overwhelmed with work in a long, long time as I have been this month.

Picture this – working on a Friday and telling yourself, I’m now up to date with last Monday’s work (almost two weeks behind). Basically that kind of thing times ten. As you know, I’m an ESTJ, enneagram 1, and an upholder, so you now know this being behind business doesn’t sit well with me at all.

I’m not out of the woodwork yet – who knows when that will happen? – but I set myself 5 mini work goals and I achieved those, so I’m feeling satisfied with some progress at least.

I’m planning to do exactly the same every month so that even though things are crazy, I can still feel somewhat accomplished. I’m also sleeping well and exercising to take care of my body, and of course, doing all my tricks.

exhausted and depleted!

On the whole, if I look at my entire life, not just work, it was still a good month, but it didn’t feel that way, largely because we spend so much time at work.

There were many life-giving things though – books read (more on this next week), house projects, connections with friends and family, and lots of fun. And at the risk of being superficial, I got my hair done and coloured this month, so that is awesome, if expensive!

Have you downloaded the monthly review sheet from my site yet? It has 6 questions and an “on a scale of 1 – 10, this month was a ____” to help you review your month.

You can write one word answers or a whole paragraph – it’s completely up to you.

You don’t even have to use the printable if you want; simply copy the questions into your bullet journal.

I honestly find it to be one of the most helpful tools I’ve ever created, and I want you to enjoy using it too. I’m focusing on a different question each month in these blog posts although I do the full review privately.

One of the questions on the printable is Do I have any in-progress projects?

This month my in-progress projects are:

  1. tons of work things (there is literally not one client who is completely up to date with everything). To that end, my mantra is “I let go of the need to be completely up to date, and to process all client requests according to my self-imposed, currently hugely unrealistic deadlines”)
  2. insurance claim for a leak in my house due to heavy storms a week ago
  3. getting us all into a new nanny schedule (we’ve reduced her hours)
  4. sell table, etc.
  5. weeding in garden!

I am thrilled that all the upstairs painting is done. The rooms spark joy every time I walk into them. This feeling is what I need to focus on when I think of the mess of painting!

What are your in-progress projects? House? Life? Personal?

Quarterly recap of my word of the year – FUN

these flowers look so fun to me

Since we’ve now finished three months of the year, I thought it would be fun (no pun intended!) to do a little recap of my word of the year.

Here’s where I wrote about why I chose the word “fun”.

Some fun things that have happened so far this year:

  • I participated in Gentle January on Instagram. This was such a great ease into the year after all the rah rah rah on the internet in December.
  • We went on a family holiday to the Drakensberg.
  • We had three book club meets that were SUPER fun. Interestingly, two of the books were not favourites read but the discussion around them and hearing from intelligent, funny women was what made it so much fun.
  • I loved listening to the audible version of The Happiness Project. So much fun!
  • I’m listening to more of the That Sounds Fun podcast. I particularly enjoyed her January rhythms series.

  • I participated in a Zumbathon a few weekends ago and I tried a new dance class which was great, but doesn’t work for my schedule. I would only be able to go to 20 minutes before I’d have to leave. Maybe I should just go for the 20 mins?
  • We’ve been watching The Amazing Race as a family every Wednesday for the last 4 weeks. This is huge, mainly for me, because I don’t watch any TV. None. As my husband jokes, I watch one movie a year and if I really break loose, two!
  • I’ve read 27 books thus far and should finish on about 29/ 30 as there’s a week of March left.
  • I got the painting done! That has been a lot of fun for me. I love taking risks in the house. Thank you, Nester.
  • And last but not least, I’ve had 19 socials and seen 34 friends in the 3 months (book club is the reason for the large second number).

What was your word for the year? How has that worked out for you this quarter?

these nests also look whimsical and fun to me

Let’s talk about my house’s to-do list

I’ve spoken before about how my house has its own to-do list. It was a very popular post actually – either my readers are curious or having a house to-do list is unusual?

Here’s that post I wrote nearly a year ago

I thought it was time for a little update.

When I was approaching the end of 2017, I looked over the list and realized we were moving SUPER slowly in closing those gaps.

I asked myself one question – what will make me feel really happy that is also fairly easy to execute on?

1.The answer was my floors. We didn’t have enough money saved to do everything I wanted, so we installed laminate flooring in our 3 small rooms and it was the best decision ever.

I love my floors. If you follow my OrganisingQueen Instagram feed, you’ll see my floors in many of the bullet journal or planner background pics.

I chose the colour, had to pay a bit more because they only had the more expensive wood in stock and I wanted it done within days, not in six weeks’ time.  Worth it! This is how I roll – I take a bit of time to decide to do something, but then I want it done yesterday 🙂

I flew to Cape Town on business for two days and my floors were installed while I was away.

2. And then we’re currently in the process of painting three rooms upstairs – my study and Connor’s room are both complete, and the pyjama lounge’s ceiling has been primed for painting… white!

I’ll share photos on Instagram and Instagram stories once it’s completely done next weekend.

As I write, the rooms are a mess (and I’m taking the3 opportunity to quietly dispose of junk) but I love how clean and fresh everything feels.

3. The other thing I really want to get done is to sell some furniture, especially my Oregon pine kitchen table and chairs. I still love it but it is about 30 cm too long for the space so it’s been in the pool room while I bought this new table.  That is going on my to-do list for autumn along with my search for the perfect armchair for our pyjama lounge.

I actually bought one last year, it wasn’t right for the space, and I had about 3 weeks of “pain” trying to return it and get refunded, so I’m a teensy bit scarred by that experience.

If you see a good reading chair around, do let me know!

Tell me about your house to-do list.

What’s on it, what have you managed to get off the list, and what are you currently looking for?

(I will keep an eye out for you too).

PS the very bright side of a slow-moving to-do list is that I checked our bond statement the other day and we’re now paying about 50% more than our minimum payment, and if we only just continue at this rate, we’ll cut off 5.5 years of our bond. Yay! My goal is still 8 years 🙂

This is how I make my house run smoothly

Life is such a whirlwind, isn’t it? If you’re anything like me, it often seems like the weeks go by in a blur of activity…and then it’s weekend again. Or the weekends go by so quickly and when Monday comes around, you feel like you’ve just started to relax and the week is upon you once again.

The problem with this is that we never have a sense of peace, calm and control. A feeling that we are directing the course of our own lives.

I’ve been going through a really hectic couple of months so I thought I’d share some of the systems I’ve set up to make our lives easier:

Household calendar
We have one household calendar in our kitchen where we mark off any commitments like church, school meetings, book club, socials, and so on. I also mark off the recycling pick-up days, when we buy electricity, and when the gardener needs to be paid.

I couple this with weekly planning. I look at my diary on a Sunday and put in my appointments for the week. I also add any tasks that I need or want to work on, like writing blogs, the newsletter and so on.

When you write down everything, and you see your calendar full of events, it’s easy to see where you need to cut back.

Menu planning
I love menu planning because it saves me time. When I say this to people, they think I’m crazy because “how can all that planning save you time?” It’s quite simple – it takes me about 10 to 15 minutes every Friday (if I’m on the ball) or Saturday and that planning saves me time from Monday to Friday, when I need it most. No more standing in front of the open fridge wondering what to make for supper.

The great thing is you can still be spontaneous within the plan. I plan meals for the working week but if I don’t feel like a particular meal that day, I change it around and cook another day’s meal. Like if it’s very hot and I planned to have baked potatoes with a topping, I may postpone that to another day and make a pasta salad instead.

Here’s a detailed look at why you should consider menu planning and  how I do menu planning

Regular decluttering and organising
I tackle 1 -2 areas in our home every weekend. Let’s face it – if we are constantly buying things and bringing them into our homes and lives, clutter is constantly building up unless we get rid of some of it. I agree with Konmari (here’s my take on the Konmari method) that you do a once-off thorough tidy, but if you’re buying things regularly, you need to declutter regularly. I’ve even taught the kids this principle with a glass of water and how it overflows if we keep pouring water in.

It doesn’t have to be a huge exercise. While you’re busy cooking or baking, you can sort out a cupboard or two. I have a tendency of burning rice and carrots so I stay in the kitchen whenever I cook these and use the time constructively to sort out a cupboard or drawer, plan my menus, write out my shopping list, etc.

When you factor in just 15 minutes’ decluttering and organising per space every weekend, you can easily maintain your home if it is already organised. Of course, if your house is nowhere near where you’d like it, I would suggest 15 minutes every day. Download 31 days of easy organising solutions for plenty of ideas.

See the little nook next to the door?

Launch pad
Do you know the place in your house where you dump your bags as you enter? Flylady calls this a launch pad. I like that term because it reminds me of action. We have a little nook just inside our front door that I use for our launch pad.

Mornings are one of the worst times in most families – you can’t find your keys, wallet, bag, etc. Frantic running around and screaming happens and that is just not fun.

The point is that we use our launch pads to ready ourselves for mornings. Every evening I pack my handbag and laptop, and they are left here. In the mornings all I do is grab and go. Literally once I leave the bedroom, I walk to the fridge to get my lunch bag, grab my keys on the way to the launch pad, get my bags and I’m out of there. Two minutes tops!

Over to you. Which systems can you implement to make your life easier this month?

 

If you get sidetracked with your phone or computer…..

I know I’m not the only one who does this…

I get on my computer to, let’s say, write a blog post.

Thirty minutes later, I’ve read other people’s blogs, played with photos and done many other things but not actually written the blog post.

These days I have a simple trick that’s really helping me – I write a list of things I am allowed to do at the computer and keep it right in front of me.

Some of the items may be non-computer things like painting my nails if I need to wait for things like photos to download, which helps me to not go to feedly to read blogs while waiting 🙂

actual computer to-do list from last weekend

Try it – especially if you also get sidetracked and let me know how it works for you! This will obviously work just as well for your phone.

What are your computer tricks to keep you focused?

(while specifically writing, I like to set my iPhone timer for 15-minute blocks)

How to be productive on a daily basis

We all have days when we’re not in our sweet spot of optimum productivity but my hope in sharing this post with you is that those days will be few and far in between the productive ones.

These are all things that have worked for me; even if just one of these tips helps you be more productive, I’ll consider the writing of this post worthwhile.

clock

Start your day with intention

When you start your day, decide how you want for it to go.

Do you need to make lots of decisions today? Do you need to just work and get things done? Do you need to connect with people and build relationships? Do you have to have hard conversations? (these are all aspects of a typical day for me)

Once you have the intention for the day, you might even want to dress for it. On a day of hard decisions/ conversations, I often wear red to the office 🙂

Always have a list

A list helps you focus on your priorities.It doesn’t have to be boring. Make it fun by using brightly coloured pens, write in fun notebooks or on a post-it note.

The reason we have a list is to help you focus.

If you only need to focus on two things today, then your list has two things. I suggest you only put 3 – 6 items on your list so that you’ll get through them. Your daily list is not the space for a brain dump – save the extraneous items for your master to-do list.

planner

Eat your frogs

Frogs are those things you find difficulty in doing. Eating the frog means doing those things first.

Usually these are things like dealing with the difficult client query first thing in the morning…

The point of eating the frog is this – even if your day goes pear-shaped, at least the important things got done early on.

Mix up rewards with work

For every x number of minutes you work, do something fun to relax.

I love tea. So I reward myself with a cup of tea (not every hour) after a block of really good work.

Taking that break refreshes you and gives you an energy burst.

You’ll have to experiment to find your optimum block of working time – mine is about 2 hours. I tried 45 minutes as I’d read all over the place and I’d always feel like I was just getting into the zone where things flow when it was time for a break. So I extended my work block and I am far more productive.

What are your tips to be productive?

Is this something you struggle with? Why?

When life throws you curveballs

A reader recently sent me a question asking what my suggestions were for her and for other readers who get thrown from their usual routines by life’s curveballs.

I think this is a great question because she’s right – we all have things that throw us off track:

  • busy time periods at work (month-end/ year-end/ closing out a project/ going live with other projects, etc.)
  • busy periods in our kids’ lives (concert week, recitals or plays)
  • any illness (usually means kids or parents not sleeping)
  • going on holiday (lovely to be away but re-entry can be tough)
  • any out-of-the-ordinary happening that messes with your routine

I’ll share with you my top 3 ways to get back on track:

  1. Lower my expectations

That seems counter-intuitive but it makes complete sense for any of us control freaks.

I know after returning from a holiday that it’s going to take about a week for things to return to our normal. There’s no sense in getting stressed every day because there are piles of undone laundry, no food in the fridge and kids who can’t wake up for school because they’re too tired.

This one step is the biggest creator of peace of mind in the home.

  1. Get back to my basics as quickly as possible

For me, that’s making a menu plan and making sure we have enough fruit and vegetables in the house. I can almost always cobble meals together from the freezer or pantry; it’s when there aren’t enough apples or carrots that I start to twitch. Food is important to me and the family, so this is one of my priorities.

In essence, start putting your routines in order. When we get back from a holiday, I start unpacking immediately because I can’t stand things laying around on the floors and I’ve trained the kids to do the same. They’ve unpacked their own suitcases for the last 3 years.

  1. How can I restore order in the quickest, painless way?

I could take one day, generally the Sunday afterwards, and do laundry non-stop, and while that would be quick, it is not painless for me! I choose to do a daily load until we’re caught up instead as we generally only do the laundry about 3 – 4 times a week. It ends up being just a day or two longer, but knowing that there’s a plan in place helps a lot to keep me at peace!

If doing laundry isn’t painful for you, you might as well get it done quickly.

I read a blog once where the mom used to go to a laundromat, use 6 machines and just get all the laundry done if they had a curveball or two thrown at them. She said she’d take a book, relax for two hours and leave with everything up to date. That actually sounds splendid.

To summarise, I’d give myself two weeks to get back to my routines. Decide what is most important to you, and start doing that thing immediately (as you saw above, unpacking and food for me!).

Then build on those initial steps until your routine – and peace of mind – is restored once again.

What are the basics you rely on to get back on track?

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