The habit of reading… and the Four Tendencies

This picture is apt as it was indeed a “change your life” book.

A very kind colleague told me recently that I always inspire her to try new things to make her life better.

This time, I’d told her that by doing almost nothing anyone can get through at least one non-fiction book a month. This is true… using just 20 minutes a day. We are all scrolling Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. for way more time than that – why not take just 20 mins, set your timer and read something to stimulate your brain?!

This is how I read 32 nonfiction titles last year and how I’m already at 27 nonfiction titles this year, all by doing “nothing”. I will surpass 32 books this year, and very easily.

My 20 minutes of reading nonfiction every morning started as @gretchenrubin’s #read21in2021 and is such a good fit for me that I will probably do this forever as I’ve now found a way to get through so many nonfiction titles.

VERY IMPORTANT – the rest of the day (cooking, driving, bedtime reading) is mostly fiction; I tend to read about 60-70% fiction.

Do you want to read more nonfiction? If yes, try the 20-minute timer and tell me how it works for you.

Upholders love the regular scheduling of this hack, Obligers like the accountability of having to check in so please come back and tell me how you’re doing, Obligers. Questioners who feel that they want to read more might want to try it at whichever time of day makes sense for them, and Rebels? If you want to break the IG algorithm and shake up the endless scroll, this hack may suit you. You decide 🙃

PS If you want to follow me on Goodreads and see what I’m reading, invite me to be your friend.

PPS this book was a 5-start book for me

{Goals} So how am I doing with my own goals?

After last week’s post on how to do a half-year review, I have now finished my own half-year review. Let’s break this down with some concrete numbers and then move into the intangibles.

I set a certain number of goals every month and I track the progress at the end. According to my spreadsheet, I’m at 79% of my goals for the year – two months with 90-something, two months with 60-something and a month each with 70- and 80-something. That’s what resulted in the 79% average.

It feels accurate and like with life, some things go very well and others go very badly.

Things going very well:

  • My reading and fun stuff like photos. I have read so many fun and delightful books this year already and am above my target with 60 books to end June.
  • Sleep (I’m averaging 7:30 and a sleep score of 80) and exercise (in a good rhythm of 3 workouts per week – any more and other areas of my life fall over).
  • Work – I had a great performance discussion. This is especially nice since I’m in a new role.
  • Speaking of work, working at the office two days a week since March has been amazing for this extrovert. I am simply happier 🙂
  • Project Upgrade/ Fix. Things other than what I planned have jumped onto the list but the good things is since my project is top of mind, I’m attending to things quickly, even boring fixes like plumbing!
  • The kids seem to have settled well into Grade 7, both for academics, sports and friendships… just in time to go to high school next year 😉
  • We’ve had all the holidays we planned which is honestly surprising since I’m a) very fussy and b) disorganised this year.

Things going badly

  • #rest 22 in 2022 (I rate myself only at a 43% success because I only consciously rest 3 out of 7 days). As Sarah said on the BOBW podcast, I do rest very well by sleeping every night. I’m considering just…giving up!
  • Our laundry routine still needs lots of work. It feels like a small thing but it affects my weekends more than I’d like.
  • We have made 0% progress on renewing our passports or reapplying for the kids’ passports (we got about halfway just prior to 2020 lockdown).
  • I feel more anxious when out with the general public now that South Africa’s mask mandate has been removed.

What do I want for the second half of the year?

  • Better health
    1. I had two scary episodes of vertigo in the last three months; I was actually so sick at work one day it was awful.
    2. I’ve had full bloods done and I am nowhere near menopause yet but headaches, etc. I mean, honestly.
    3. I also have my mammogram scheduled for tomorrow and want to check one more thing with my doctor.
    4. I also need to keep my cholesterol in check; after two elevated reports, I went for proper blood tests and not only was the result good, but my LDL was low and my HDL was high. According to my goals list, I will check this quarterly.
    5. I also want to read/ follow a good menopause doctor – there are so many symptoms…. how do people know if it’s something else or a menopause symptom?
  • To make a good dent in my life admin – I need to upgrade my phone and I already have decision fatigue so I will put it off til I can’t anymore and then just decide 🙂
  • Get updated wills done

Now, I kind-of feel like I need to have a birthday party next month (also, my birthday’s on an actual Saturday this year!) but do I have the wherewithall to organise it?

So… how are you doing on your mid-year review? What has been working well for you? What do you need to change? What are you looking forward to?

{Goals} Here’s how you do your half-year review

I know I’m not the only one who is truly shocked that half the year has already elapsed.

If you don’t currently do a half-year review, I’d like to encourage you to at least think about how the first six months of 2022 have gone.

What went well? What worked?

You can think about both big things like relationships and small things like “I now do a Zumba class on a Wednesday evening instead of on a Tuesday, and that works really well for my schedule”

What didn’t go well? What’s not working?

Same story here. Maybe you tried to get a new job and didn’t get it? That’s possibly a bad example because I think any action is good as you’ve learned something from it.

Don’t dwell on the outcome but do acknowledge it.

What energised you?

Think about the things that brought you joy and gave you energy. Was it getting together with people? Was it the removal of the mask mandate? (fact- this gave me personally more anxiety but I heard from some friends that I’m an outlier) Was it hosting a party?

How is your word of the year working/ not working for you, and why?

Do you even remember the word you chose for 2022? If you do, great! Is that word still working for you? Why? How have you tried to live it during these last 6 months?

If your word is not working for you, for whatever the reason, consider this your big permission slip to change your word. Here’s how to choose a word of the year.

Are you doing any other annual projects? How are those going?

Maybe you’re doing a reading challenge? I’m doing Project Upgrade and trying journalling for the first time.

I hope that’s enough to prompt your thinking for now. I plan to write a newsletter later this week where I will share my half-year review. If you’re not on the list yet, here’s the link to sign up.

{Goals} Line-a-day – a different way of journalling

I’m not a fan of journalling… at all. But I do love a project where I can look back and see what I was up to at the same time last year, three years ago, seven years ago, etc.

An example is the photo challenges I participate in on Instagram with Susannah Conway.

The challenge has a hashtag, for instance #Aprillove2022 and then I usually add my own hashtag to each of my photos, like #marciasaprillove2021.

I love looking back and seeing how different each April has been for the last so many years.

Aside from Instagram journaling (a photo with a short caption, if any) is all I’ve ever been able to keep up with. I’m just not a writing in a journal every day kind of person.

I have been intrigued with line-a-day journals though.

I figured, “how hard can it be?” and so when I saw that a local stationery story carried a line of journals, I bought one.

I started mine on 17 January and so far, so good.

I am still not a daily journaller but I catch up every 3 days or so. The trick for me is:

  1. Keep the journal handy and in plain view (it lives on my desk and doesn’t get put away at all)
  2. Schedule time every weekend to catch up (some weeks I’ve caught up with a whole week in one sitting)
  3. Give myself permission to write just one sentence and only write more if I feel like it.
  4. Keep my phone handy throughout the day so I have some photos to prompt my memory.
  5. Let go of needing it to be insightful or cute (I tell myself that in a few years I’ll appreciate knowing that it rained for 5 solid days in Jhb – unusual for us at this time of year)

I’m still more of an Instagram journaller because I see the world in visuals but I figure that my three months a year with Susannah Conway is just going to have to do.

Are you a daily journaller? Would a line-a-day journal work for you?

PS Laura Tremaine has often said that bullets and lists work just as well as free form writing. I might resort to this method in the busier months 😉

{Goals} 2022 word of the year update – Q1

This year I chose a main word, delight, and two supporting words – balance and rest.

I’ve spoken enough about rest – how it wasn’t working and how I’m doing a reset.

But for now, let’s talk about the other two words.

I chose balance so that I would not work all the hours of every day and that my life would look more balanced. As my coaching client said so beautifully last year, I can enjoy my work without being consumed by it.

I set some specific actions for myself every week and month, and I’ve been sticking to them (#upholder). The other key thing is that I’m tracking my time. And yes, I ended the quarter on target for my work hours goal – yay!

As for delight, it has been just the thing to get me searching for moments of happiness on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

I set goals every month and some of them have to answer the question, “what can I do this month to bring more delight into my life?

  1. If I feel lazy about going to take the picture, I remind myself, “delight!” and go do it.
  2. If someone invites me to have a quick coffee or tea at the office, even though my to-do list is always long, I remind myself, “delight” and say yes.
  3. If I have a choice between two books, I ask myself, “what will delight me more at this time?” and choose that one.

I listened to three delightful audiobooks this quarter too and can I just put forward the case that if you enjoyed a book the first time round, you are going to probably love it even more on audio if the narration is good. The three books are Mary Jane, Daisy Jones and the Six, and Rachel’s Holiday.

And that’s my word of the year update!

How has your word of the year been working for you? Do you need a reset on your word? Do you need ideas to keep your word top of mind?

{Goals} 2022 Q1 resetting the rest challenge

I knew going in that #rest22in2022 was going to be the hardest challenge for me.

Still, I thought I had it figured out but I realised after two months that I needed to reset what rest looked like for me.

I also saw an Instagram post on 7 types of rest, bookmarked it and when I had time, did a thorough review of why “rest” wasn’t working for me:

what was working?

  • weekend rest, probably because there’s more time
  • I can always default to reading because that is a daily habit

what was not working?

  • my workdays are generally too busy and yes, of course, I can find 22 minutes during the day but I really don’t want to move my end time beyond 5:45 – 6pm
  • I didn’t have a clear plan for busy workdays

Next, I reviewed the 7 types of rest:

  1. physical
  2. mental
  3. sensory
  4. creative
  5. emotional
  6. social
  7. spiritual

I then realised that I have 3 types of days and that I should identify some methods of rest that would work for each type of day so I have options.

My 3 types of days are:

  1. workdays, from home
  2. workdays, from the office
  3. weekend days

For example, during workdays at the office my social rest could be spending time with real, live people. During workdays at home, I can have physical rest by sleeping in and mental rest by taking short breaks during the day. During weekends, I can tap into each of those 4 rests except mental is not likely to happen.

Now that I have a plan, I’m going to intentionally incorporate these practices into my daily life.

Tell me, how has the #rest22in2022 challenge been working for you? Are you feeling more rested? Are you struggling with rest like I was?

{Goals} 2022 goals – a quarterly update

We’ve spoken a few times about setting quarterly goals which is a really nice way to take stock sooner than just every year and readjust your sails if necessary.

You might even like the idea of seasonal goals.

If you do set annual goals, now is a great time to reevaluate if you…

  • still want to continue as you have been doing
  • know what’s working well for you
  • haven’t even set goals for the year

When I took the time to write down what’s working well, what’s not going well and what I want to work on for the next quarter, I realised that things felt busy for a reason as a lot happened and went well. Here are some things I noted down:

  1. I read more than 30 books so far, and listened to a very fun audiobook at least once a month, like Mary Jane, Daisy Jones and the Six, and currently I’m listening to Rachel’s Holiday.
  2. We had four high school visits and we’re now ready to apply to high schools when the application portal opens.
  3. I’ve successfully carved out writing time every week (I’ve now had 12 weeks of successful writing time every Sunday).
  4. We took two family holidays – one just after Christmas til into the new year, and one during the March school holidays.
  5. The work from office transition is now going well and helping me to maintain reasonable work hours – yay!
  6. I started Spanish again this year and am loving it.
  7. I am up to date with Project Life from Sept 21 to Feb 22, am almost up to date on my holiday collages (two to go!) and enjoying my photography (delight is helping me!).

There are three things which have not gone well, one of which is friendship. I think that some of my friendships have fallen by the wayside. Some I feel inclined to tend and some I don’t. This is actually growth for me as in years past I’d take all the blame for any distance; now I realise that there are two parts to every relationship.

Still, I need to check that my friend dates are successfully scheduled now that the work-from-office situation is a hybrid one.

A few things I have as goals for the next quarter:

  1. check if my regular friend dates are still on the correct schedule and day
  2. send quarterly treats to my parents
  3. finish my collages
  4. apply to the high schools for both kids
  5. book next holiday!
  6. apply for passports!
  7. update my will (last one done when the kids were 7 months old)

How has the first quarter of 2022 been for you? Did you set goals? Are you going to start setting goals now? What worked well and what didn’t?

The week that was…weekly reflections 11

St. Patrick’s Day 2022 – Johannesburg

Well, that was a fun week – the first week my WFO/ WFH schedule went exactly to plan.

  • St. Patrick’s Day supper went off well. Johannesburg’s weather also played along and was grey, overcast and raining in the early morning.
  • I always listen to classical music when I’m writing because I can’t listen to words when I’m writing words, and yet I still need something to block out noise (in my head). Today I chose Tchaikovsky and I was reminded that the Chinese Dance from The Nutcracker Suite is a dance I’ve won prizes for before… in my youth. It’s so fun how a piece of music can take you right back to a memory in the past.
  • I had two bad nights of sleep. Usually I sleep very, very well and seldom wake once I’m asleep. This week, I woke in the early hours of the morning – one morning at 2 am and the other at 3 am. After an hour of tossing and turning, I got up and read my book, a much better and more restful idea than staring at the darkness, thinking.
  • Speaking of reading, I read A Dream of Italy by Nicky Pellegrino. If you haven’t read any of her books, (I think) they’re all set in Italy and the way she writes makes you want to jump on a plane and go visit immediately.
  • Again, Rachel by Marian Keyes arrived this week so I started listening to Rachel’s Holiday, the first one. It’s a 16-hour listening experience and I’m enjoying every single minute!
  • The work balance continues to go well except for Friday night but then again, I always try to clear as much as I can before I go on leave. Yes, I’m on leave and we are going away as the kids are also on school holidays.
  • I plan to write a lot, read a lot, reflect on the first three months of 2022 and see where a reset is needed, catch up on family phone calls, and connect with my little family.

How was your week? Have you started thinking about the tweaks you want to make going into the second quarter?

Monthly goals review – Feb 2022

Let’s walk through my monthly review together, shall we?

Here are my standard monthly review questions:

  1. what worked well?
  2. what’s not working and why?
  3. what energised me this month?
  4. what are my in-progress projects?
  5. how’s my word of the year working for me?

What worked well?

  • Reading – I stopped my Scribd membership for a month which means I used Libby and the actual physical library (4 books). I also read books on my Kindle (another 3 books) and two of the books on my bookshelf. At the time of writing this post, I haven’t finished the second physical book but I’m not rushing because I’m enjoying reading about personalities so much.
  • I did a Valentine’s supper for the family which they seemed to like, or maybe that was the chocolates for dessert 😉 I also saw my father in the flesh for the first time since Dec 2019.
  • I finished Project Life for December so last year is wrapped up but see in-progress projects below.
  • My work balance is holding surprisingly steady at not-crazy levels even though this was a hard month at work with lots of deadlines and staff off on extended sick leave.

What’s not working well, and why?

  • I still don’t feel like I have a good rhythm on the laundry situation. It feels like we need to do a load most days which I am loathe to do, but maybe that’s how we have to keep on top of it.
  • Our once-a-week cleaning service is still settling into its groove. I wouldn’t say it’s not working well, but maybe the rhythm needs to be more… clear. I should probably map something out on a big A4 piece of paper. It’s probably because I clean certain areas regularly and others as they need it 😮

What energised me?

  • Time spent with people – the client event last week, book club friends, other friends.
  • Listening to excellent audio books. This month I re-listened to Daisy Jones and the Six and it was 9 hours of pure delight. I want to listen to something truly outstanding every month. So far, 2/2 (Mary Jane and Daisy Jones).

What are my in-progress projects?

  • As I was wrapping up my December photos, I realised I am once again “behind” on my holiday collages. So I’ll be working on a collage every month besides my usual photo editing and Project Life. This will take me nearly the whole year to catch-up because I plan to go on 3 holidays this year too, but it’s a lovely “problem” to have as it helps me to remember happy holidays, play with images and listen to audio books or podcasts, all things I love.
  • Project Upgrade is going well and I finished three more upgrades for Feb – facecloths, kitchen cloths and the electric plug point in the lounge. I will only choose two for March because I’ll be back at the office two days a week and we’ll be on one week’s holiday – yay!
Delight

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

In a nutshell, really well so far. It’s helping me choose books for pleasure over obligation, and also stop things that are not at all delightful, like walking out of that Zumba class.

How was your month?

What worked, what didn’t work, what energised you and what are you working on?

The week that was…weekly reflections 8

sunset leaving gym

Hello friends!

Do you know what this blog post means? I’ve been carving out time and writing for at least an hour and 15 minutes every single weekend for the last two months.

I’m so proud of myself!

It’s what I wanted when I started off this year and it’s helpful to know that after two weird years, I can still create a weekly writing habit and stick to it.

This week is also the week…

  • I walked out of a Zumba class after only 20 minutes (unprepared instructor and way-too-loud music) but I was rewarded with a gorgeous sunset (yes, that’s the one in the pic)
  • I attended a conference where I once again realised that all across our industry we are facing the same stuff but handling it in different ways. At that same virtual conference, I vowed that I will definitely not attend a virtual event again because, as an extrovert, I was exhausted.
  • I finished the book club book, Friends like these by Kimberly McCreight, which was not great. Too many unlikeable characters and way too many things going on. I also finished Everything happens for a reason by Kate Bowler, which was outstanding. Do give it a listen.
  • we visited a school for Kendra and were given a tour by an amazing young lady, a grade 10 learner, who taught me so much about optimism and resilience. Some kids really have an amazing mindset at such a young age.
  • that was full of hard things in the world – wars, deaths of too-young children, anniversaries of deaths – and I am thankful that I was able to rest and rejuvenate, and be out and about to counteract two days of staring at a screen with very minimal interaction.

How was your week? And, dare I ask, how was February?

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