How to read more in 2020

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

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

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

  1. Have a compelling to-read list

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

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

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

2. Stop reading books you hate

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

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

3. Always keep a book with you

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

4. First read, then scroll

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

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

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

5. Join a book club

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

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

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

What do I want less of in 2020?

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

Stress

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

Unrealistic expectations

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

Complicated systems

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

Weight

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

Clothes I don’t like

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

What do you want less of in 2020?

A 2020 list with a difference – a lot more fun

Before we start, I have two questions for you:

This year I’m doing two lists – a standard list with normal (to me) goals and a fun list too, because I realise that I’m very serious and if I don’t intentionally plan for fun, it won’t just happen. I was especially inspired by my friend, Julia, who had a 19 in 2019 list full of super fun things.

I know this sounds crazy to the non-upholders but remember, discipline is an upholder’s freedom.

Onto the list…

  1. Have a lime milkshake
  2. Go for Milky Lane waffles (I have not had either of these two for more than 10 years) with all the syrups!
  3. Have a tea party for my friends (I’m not having a birthday lunch this year)
  4. Take Connor out for a supper date
  5. Take Kendra out for a supper date
  6. Make 3-ingredient scones with Kendra
  7. Pay for someone else’s groceries
  8. Volunteer to take someone’s photos
  9. Take a holiday outside South Africa
  10. Take the red city bus tour
  11. Teach a workshop using photography as a coaching tool (that sounds very boring but it would be super fun!) and then host a photo walk
  12. Go watch a fun, girly movie completely by myself
  13. Go play with my big camera on a walk once a month
  14. Go see a concert with Dion
  15. Time away with D
  16. Run a Four Tendencies workshop, for children
  17. Buy a dishwasher
  18. Go to Simply Asia with Angie
  19. Organise Dion’s desk (let’s be honest; this is going to be the MOST fun of all)
  20. Get a carpenter to do a cupboard/ shelf for the tumble dryer

Are you inspired yet? I know people who have made lists of places to eat in their city, other people have made lists of books to read or movies to watch, still others have made lists of friend dates. All of these are excellent ideas, or you can go the old-fashioned way of normal goals. I’ve done the best of both with two lists 🙂

What will you do? Care to share a couple of your goals with me?

PS I have done some fabulous start-of-year coaching sessions to help people strategise and set goals for the year. Contact me if you’d like to book a once-off 45-minute session for $50, or you can book a coaching package that suits your needs.

{planning} 3 things to do to prepare for 2020

1. Review 2019

Take your bullet journal or any piece of paper. Write these headings:

What went well?
What could have been better?
What have I learned?
What do I want to let go of as I move into 2020?

2. Anticipate 2020

What do you want more of in 2020?
How do you want to feel?
What do you want less of?
What do you want to learn? (I hope more about your tendency :))

3. Make a 20 in 2020 list

Here are a few ideas. Use one, some or none 🙂

1. Choose a few things you can get done fairly quickly (I had “buy a new watch” on my list this year; what about trying a new restaurant?)
2. Choose a few fun things just for you (I’m putting a course, Discern and Decide, on my list, as well as listening to the audio version of a favourite novel from 2018)
3. Choose a few things you can do with other people (go see a movie with the book club, go on a holiday, go hike a specific trail, etc.)
4. Choose a few necessary things (get rid of excess furniture, declutter your clothes, declutter excess kitchen stuff, etc.)
5. Choose a few stretch things (do a two-week eating reset, apply for a new job, finish a photobook)

Tip – if you have a good mix, it will feel satisfying when you get them done. If you’re on Instagram, click the hashtag #19in2019 to see what other people did this year, and to get ideas for next year.


Bonus – use the printables on my website

Let’s Do This 2020 – to close off 2019 and set some intentions for 2020. It’s free and the shortest quickest printable I’ve seen around. I know that some of these 20-page printables, while beautiful and useful, can seem like just one more enormous thing on your to-do list.

20in2020 list – this year, I designed a list specifically for each Tendency. Yes, there’s one for upholders, obligers, questioners and rebels. I would love you to download them, try them out and let me know how they work (or don’t!) for you. And then, post them to Instagram or Facebook and tag me – I’d love to see your lists and get some ideas.

Hope you found these tips useful to prepare for 2020!
Have you downloaded the free 20in2020 list yet?

{2019 review} What didn’t go well in 2019?

As important as it is to celebrate the wins of the year, it’s also important to look at things that didn’t go well so that you can either fix them going forward or go in a completely different direction.

So, what didn’t go well for me in 2019?

Weight and weight loss

I’m aware from my Oprah-watching days that even if nothing changes in terms of eating and exercise, we will put on 5 kg every decade because our metabolism slows down steadily as we age. I haven’t put on 5 kg this year but probably 2 kg, and these have been a very uncomfortable 2 kg. Before you get very confused, I’m a full 12 kg overweight but I’d be over-the-moon happy with losing 4 kg, and then another 5kg.

I’m currently trying to get into a regular habit of “eating for only 12 hours” and want to then move to 11 hours and hopefully rest with eating only within a 10-hour window. I heard a scientist on Dr Chatterjee’s podcast who made a lot of sense, so we’ll see.

Headaches

It might be the case for recency but it feels like I had more headaches from the heat this year. It is just not at all fun once it sets in, so I completely live inside my cold house for any temperatures of 28 C and above. I’m like a reverse cat, looking for cool places in my house to work.

Walks

I’m not even sure I went on 30 walks. For the last 4 years I’ve done 52 – 60 walks a year. There are a couple of reasons why: this has been an incredibly hot year and even thinking about getting outside makes me tense. I manage my 9am Zumba class by getting out, keeping well hydrated and getting straight back if the day is very hot, but anything in addition to that just feels like asking for (headache) trouble.

Photos

In 2019, we moved to a monthly family photo instead of weekly photos of the kids and occasionally of all of us. This was at Dion’s and Connor’s request and yes, there has been less moaning but it has honestly been quite soul-destroying seeing only iphone photos and very little photos of the kids, especially after we’d developed such good habits. Also, there has been a correlation in that because I’m no longer picking up the big camera on a weekly basis, I’m no longer picking up the big camera at all. I have already put a new goal on my list for next year – to schedule at least one photowalk a month with the big camera.

Care to share? What didn’t go well for you this year?

{2019 review} What went well in 2019?

I never used to like reflecting on anything really but it’s a part of my life I’ve really started to enjoy, not only having it done, but also the introspection part of it.

I particularly like monthly reflections, my birthday review and this, my annual review. I share that so that if you’re the same, you can take comfort from my initial discomfort and know that it’s a good thing to look back (however fleetingly!) and see how far you’ve come.

So, what went well this year?

Work rhythms

I’ve been in an excellent work rhythm for years now and I know how to manage the stressful parts of my job together with my personality. I do still have those moments because I’m human, but these days it takes me a day or two to get back to my preferred way of being rather than weeks like it used to.

A large part of this being on top of things is having my work from home day every week. There was a week recently where I had meetings the entire week and wasn’t able to work from home, and I could see how my deep work piled up.

My word of the year

I’ll talk properly about it in a post dedicated to the word, but I will say that BOLD has been an excellent and very timely word for me.

Book clubs and reading

I’ve always been a voracious reader and aside from a short reading slump this year (which I recognised because the same thing happened to me last year – could it be the time of year???), I’ve had a great reading year. Some months I abandoned all my rules and my sleep was interrupted as a result, but I read some great books, which I will also share in a separate post.

As for the book club, gosh, how I love my book club. We are in such a good place three years in. Dion suggested that it was because we are mainly obligers but actually we are the perfect ideal mix – 1 upholder, 1 rebel, 2 questioners and 4 obligers. We have good systems that work for proposing and veto-ing books, for hosting, etc. We’re reading good, discussable books and even if I don’t enjoy the book, I enjoy the discussion so much because I learn about the others’ points of view. It’s a truly life-giving intentional friend date that works really well and is still the highlight of my month.

This year, we also celebrated the first anniversary of Kids Book Club (such a creative name ;)). We are also in a good rhythm where this one is concerned. We have a core group of 3 sets of kids and another 2 sets of mostly regulars. I have a spreadsheet (of course!) for hosting so that we don’t always rely on the same people. The kids seem to like sharing their books because most of them want to go first and another mom, who was my kids’ amazing grade R teacher, came up with an excellent idea – first photos, then food 😉

Workshops

This year I ran 10 workshops with 75 people total: 8 Four Tendencies workshops, and 2 Five Love Languages workshops.

5 of those workshops were run at my home and 5 elsewhere: corporate offices, a hotel and someone’s home.

All were So Much Fun!

I can’t fully express how amazing it is to see people have realisations about their Tendencies and Love Languages right in front of me. It is amazing to have the privilege to be part of that and I can’t wait to welcome another 75 next year.

It would be remiss of me not to let you know that the first workshop date for next year has already been set: Saturday 8 Feb 2020. Mark your calendar, pay your deposit and come, let’s have some fun together.

One of my goals for next year is to run a Four Tendencies workshop for kids – I’m thinking April, so let me know if your want your schoolgoing child to attend. There will be student pricing available.

Friends

My scheduled friend dates are still working out well as is my friends spreadsheet. I got to see 3 Cape Town friends I’m not usually able to see on a Cape Town trip in October and it filled my love tank. I’m already on 90 friend connections for the year; could I make 100?

Workouts

I have a very regular habit going on of Zumba every Saturday, my Spanish dance class every Monday and Barre 180 on most Tuesdays. The Barre class is the one I’m most likely to miss if I need to, due to work, but still, I’ve already clocked 101 workouts, and hope to finish the year close to 120.

Sleep

My sleep has also been excellent this year. I will definitely end off higher than last year’s average of 7 hr 35 and am hoping for my best sleep year yet 🙂 Only I can get excited about that because my sleep used to be much less when I first started tracking it.

What went well for *you* this year?

{reflect} November…and how the Four Tendencies approach a monthly review

Just think about it – this is the last mini review of the month because the next monthly review is actually a big annual review. I can’t wait! If you’re not on my mailing list, make sure you’re on because I’m going to be sending out the 2020 goals planner during the first two weeks of December.

As I always say, even if you’re not the type of person who takes out a pen and bullet journal/ diary, I recommend you take 5 – 10 minutes just to think about how the month played out.

reflect

If December is generally busier for you as it is for most of us, feel free to start your annual review sooner.

Let’s talk about monthly reviews from each of the Four Tendencies’ viewpoints:

Upholder

Wants a clear framework of questions to reflect on and if built into their habits/ schedule, will go ahead and do the monthly review every month.

Obliger

Probably thinks it’s a good idea but won’t get to it every month unless a coach or friend holds them accountable. Obligers, consider me your friendly coach.

Questioner

Will review if they see the benefit for themselves and feels like the effort is worthwhile, but will not wait for the last or first day of the month.

Rebel

If the rebel feels inclined to do a review, will do it in the way, shape or form that they see fit, certainly not what I suggest in this post. It’s your choice, Rebels!

For those who would like some ideas of questions to ponder, here are some of my favourites:

  1. what went well this month?
  2. what did not go well?
  3. what energised me?
  4. what have I learned?
  5. how can I bring more fun into my life? or where do I need to be more serious?
  6. which projects do I need to let go?
  7. am I living out my word of the year? Do I already have an inkling for a word or theme of 2020?

Even if you just do the first 2 – 4, that’s a really good start to round off the month and step into the last month of the decade (!) on a good, solid note.

I don’t mind confessing that I’ve been reflecting on the year so that I have plenty of time, and so that it’s not all squeezed into the week after Christmas.

Do you do a monthly reflection? Did the Four Tendencies questions help you to understand yourself and those around you better?

PS The next Four Tendencies workshop will be held in Jhb on Saturday 8 Feb 2020. If you’re not local, I also do Four Tendencies coaching via Skype/ FaceTime.

5 things I’ve learnt in the first 6 months of 2019

  1. I really love going on holidays. As it stands, we’re only now on our second holiday of the year. Usually we’re on holiday for the first week of the year, and then again in April/ May. This year the school holidays didn’t work to our advantage so we stayed put, and I reallllllllly felt the pressure in May and June.

2. I’ve met my goal and run four Four Tendencies workshops so far this year. I always knew I loved running workshops because it brings together many loves of my life – teaching, people, connecting and connecting dots for others, organising and stationery 🙂 However, I had forgotten exactly how much I love running workshops. After every single workshop, I’ve been on such a high for the entire evening. My remaining two workshop dates are: 7 September for the Five Love Languages, and 2 November for the Four Tendencies. Take 10% off if you come to both workshops.

3. I’ve learned that boldness can increase the more you practise. My word of the year is BOLD because I suspected that if I wanted to run 5 workshops this year, I’d need boldness to put myself out there. Somewhere between workshop 3 and 4 I realised that I’m not scared to tell people about the workshops anymore. Not that I was scared, per se, but it felt a bit cringeworthy to put myself out there and say, “yes, come, you will benefit from doing this”. Honestly, a lot of it was reminding myself why I’m running these workshops. I actually sat with a journal and pen before workshop 3 and wrote down what people get from coming to the workshops. And then I think I spoke to people from a true place of wanting to help them. What is your word of the year, and how are you living it out this year?

4. I’ve also learned that I should definitely not tackle multiple house projects at the same time. In my defense, one went over by a month, one took two weeks longer than the other and the only one that worked exactly according to plan was the third one. Thank goodness those are all done, and now we save towards next year’s maintenance items. Isn’t it sad that house things are never done?!

5. My kids wrote their first set of exams just over a month ago. Well. As two upholder parents with questioner and rebel kids, I can say the entire experience has been a steep learning curve for all of us. We will definitely start setting clear expectations much earlier next time instead of leaving them to it for a few weeks by themselves. Upholders would take the exam timetable and work backwards and then diligently start studying; we’ve seen now that the other tendencies just don’t have that same way of responding to the expectation of studying. What’s your tendency, and how did you approach exams when you were at school or university?

What are some of the things you learned during the first half of 2019?

PS do you know, I’m still sometimes writing the year as 2018!

It’s half year review time!

Doing a review of the month, half year or year is a meditative practice for me because I’m so inclined to keep moving onto the next thing without stopping.

The half year, especially, is a chance for me to stop, acknowledge that I have accomplished some things and make some tweaks for the rest of the year ahead.

Let me do this with you, and then you can grab a cup of tea or coffee, and join me in your own half year review.

what went well?

  • I’ve run 4 X Four Tendencies workshops – I tweak a few things every time to make the workshop better – and I now have a kids’ quiz too. I also fully have my workshop mojo back.
  • We’ve waterproofed our roof and won’t have to think about that for 10 years. Our windows are sealed. We have blinds in our poolroom and bathrooms. We now have a slam-shut security door.
  • I’ve read over 50 books and we’ve had 6 fantastic book club discussions.
  • I’ve done some excellent work in my full-time job, had hard conversations that I needed to, and I’ve updated my CV (are you like me who keeps saying, “I really should update my CV” and then never do?).
  • Our kids have settled in nicely to grade 4. D and I are a bit more hands-on with the studying than we’d like to be as upholders, but we remain confident things will be better next time around.

what didn’t go well?

  • Too much money flowing out on all the house stuff. The money was there but too much makes me feel slightly anxious!
  • I would have liked one more family holiday but school holidays didn’t work in our favour this year.
  • I started caring too much about things outside of my control at work.

what do I need to let go of?

In an unprecedented twist (!), I am actually letting go of one of my #19in2019 goals. That’s because we did other (unplanned) house projects and so I’m letting go of one item on my list I had there instead. It’s all good because I exchanged one project for another.

what energised me?

I took a few extra dance classes when the opportunity presented itself. There’s an extra dance class on another weeknight. I can’t make it every week but when it works for all of us – kids and Dion – then I have gone, and it has been good to move more. Moving would be the fourth item on this list.

what do I need to change?

  • Be aware of upholder tightening, in particular with regards to my reading rules. If I want to read fiction during the week, especially during particularly stressful times at work when I need to escape, then I should do so.
  • Plan holidays more in advance.
  • Stop buying handbags! #sorrynotsorry

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

Great. My word for the year is bold and it really has been a fabulous word for me. It is pushing me to say yes more and to step out when I feel inclined to retreat or take a back seat.

In a nutshell, my first half of the year has been a solid 8 out of 10. Much better in some areas but frustrating in others. Life, really 🙂 Much, much more good than bad.

Over to you! On a scale of 1 – 10, what is your rating for the first 6 months of the year? Care to share any of your high or lowlights?

Update on The Four Tendencies workshops


Well, friends, I’ve now run 3 workshops and I’m enjoying them so much. My last workshop was a full one with 10 participants – 7 obligers, 1 questioner and 2 rebels. I also had my youngest participant who was only 19 years old. Don’t you wish you’d known at 19 what you know about yourself today?!

I’m also keeping a careful eye on the stats because so far, my stats are different to Gretchen’s survey. I wonder if that is due to the South African slant? 🙂 I have had way more than the 41% obligers but interestingly, my upholder % is far less.

As you know, one of my #19in2019 goals is to run 4 of these workshops, so that’s 75% done. 

Registration is now open for the next Jhb workshop on Saturday, 1 June. Check out the testimonials and reserve your place.

Use code FRIEND to get R50 off each of your tickets when you register two or more people. Bring a friend, spouse, sister, mom…

Here’s the link to read more to see if it’s something you’re interested in, and then to reserve your places. Space is limited to just 10 people, and this is the last in-person workshop this year – don’t miss out.

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