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.

Best made plans and… weekly reflections 17

I had the best intentions after my last post to at least try and blog most of the daily challenges for OneDayMay but it just didn’t happen.

But as I always tell myself, no-one’s paying me to write here and it needs to stay fun 😉

The good news is I have posted for 25 of the 29 days so far which is actually excellent as some of the prompts were hard when my brain is tired at the end of the day.

Here’s the hashtag if you want to scroll through and catch up.

What else has been happening?

  • We’re in month 3 of working at the office two days a week. This is working really well for me – I have time to listen to a book while driving, I get to use my winter clothes after 3 years and I see people 🙂
  • I’ve finished 9 books so far for May; I think that’s where it will remain but I’m going to do my best to finish my current one too to round off on 10. Goodreads tells me that I’m 50% to my goal with exactly 50 books read so far. Something I’m doing (which I think is clever) is at the end of every month, I look through my list and identify my contenders for best books of 2022. I add these to a “collection” within my Kindle app. It’s great for two reasons: I can easily recommend books to others and I already know my shortlist for “best books of 2022”.
  • I’ve been absolutely delighted by autumn perhaps because I’ve been out and about to see colours! I have so many photos and videos of all the beautiful foliage around Johannesburg.

How was your May?

(I haven’t done my official monthly review yet so there may be more insights next week)

{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 😉

{Time} 3 things I do that help my productivity

I adored reading this blog post from Ramit Sethi. It’s one of my favourite blog posts of all time.

One of the main things that were insightful for me is that fundamentals are first, second is psychology and third are the details. Most people focus on the details when they actually need to start focussing on fundamentals.

Fundamentals are things like sleeping enough, psychology is being able to say no or set good boundaries, and the details are what type of notebook or app or calendaring system I use to plan my life.

In that post he actually says that we need to focus on those details only 10% of the time and I had an aha moment or two.

Because seeing the % split like that puts things in perspective, and also I’ve been subconsciously focussing on a lot of it already.

I thought it would be fun to share 1 thing in each of those areas that I do, and then you can share your things too.

Fundamentals

What I do: I sleep an average of 7 hrs 30 a night. You all know I diligently track my sleep because when I stop measuring, it all goes off track.

In this category we also have environment, soul care and exercise, in addition to managing your stress.

Psychology

What I do: I have very good boundaries and I know when to say yes and no.

Also in this category is knowing if you’re a time optimist or realist, and unplugging from social media when it starts being detrimental for you.

Those top two areas aren’t very exciting but they’re so very necessary.

Details

Well, you know I’m doing a hybrid this year of my bullet journal and my shining year planner. And then I added a gorgeous purple moleskine. My favourite pens are both Pentel energel and Pilot G2. Lately my absolute, super favourite pen is my metallic violet Pilot G2, which you have seen in almost all my instagram posts the last month or two 🙂

Over to you!

What do you think about the triad of productivity?

What are the things you do in each of those three areas? Very curious minds would love to know!

First published 21 Aug 2017

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?

{Delight} Celebrate minor holidays and anything else too!

Last month was Valentine’s Day so I set the table with a red table runner, red placemats, white plates and candles.

I made a pasta bolognaise for something red, we drank pink lemonade and had heart-shaped salted caramel chocolates for dessert.

It was easy and simple, but it made me and my family happy.

Ireland

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day. I haven’t figured out exactly what to do but I think this is the plan: green tablecloth and white plates, cucumber salad, pasta with basil pesto, creme soda-flavoured milk (Steri Stumpie for the South Africans) and apple yogurt from Parmalat for dessert.

And of course, I always wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. This year I will also be listening to Rachel’s Holiday, a Marian Keyes novel, on audio! Too fun.

Not the same thing, but related. Last week we bid a colleague farewell. When I heard that nothing had been planned, I tossed some cake forks and plates into a tote bag and, once at work, quickly dashed out to get a cake and some savoury eats. It really was not much effort but made a huge impact on her. I also got to thinking – why don’t I just keep those plates at work with some disposable forks, so that I can always be prepared for a celebration?!

Pre-Covid, I used to keep birthday candles in my work drawer to quickly pop them in a cake and sing Happy Birthday to colleagues. I don’t think we do that any more (!!) but the sentiment remains.

Celebrating is fun, even when low-key and can still be delightful.

My word of the year is delight, and celebrating these fun days makes me so happy.

Do you celebrate minor holidays? Please share some of your traditions.

The week that was…weekly reflections 10

  • This week was physically exhausting for me. I attended a client seminar which lasted most of the day when you consider driving to places plus two days in the office plus two school tours.
  • However, unlike last week, I feel like I succeeded in the home/ office balance and this is due to a very simple change: I put no deep work on my list for the two office days. Why was that so ground-breaking? Because I had zero expectations of myself other than meetings and people popping in and so on. And it meant I ended up each day feeling quite okay about my lack of output. Instead I told myself that my purpose on those days are simply to be present and connect, and attend meetings.
  • We had a lovely cold day on Wednesday – proper winter cold. Scarf and jacket cold. I loved it and am now eagerly anticipating the onset of winter.
  • So many friends had birthdays this week and it was lovely to send and give gifts to them.
  • As far as reading is concerned, I am still on my Scribd “freeze” (6 weeks already!) but I’ll have to join this week because our book club read must be read next weekend. This week I read A painted house by John Grisham and Hidden by Catherine McKenzie. Both were so good and I do recommend them.

What are you reading, wearing, watching?

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?

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