{time} How to get a head start on your day

There are many ways to have a great day. Having a good night’s sleep is one way but today I want to talk about how to get a head start on your day and feel like you’re winning before you even start.

Make a list the night before if you’re an owl, or make your list first thing in the morning if you’re a lark. I would also argue that if you make your list the night before, emptying your mind might help with good sleep too because you won’t be worrying about what you need to do. And we all know what an advocate I am for good sleep.

It sounds like a really simple thing to do and yes, it is simple, but it has huge impact.

If you’ve never tried it before, try making a to-do list for one week.

  • notice how you feel in the evening
  • notice how you feel in the morning already knowing what your priorities are

I always suggest no more than 6 things but if you’re new to list-making, try just 3.

(I put 6 things on my work list and 3 things on my personal list every week day, and they definitely live in separate places although I look at both lists throughout the day)

Remember if you do your 3 things every day, that’s 15 tasks over your work week. 15 is fantastic!

What might you put on your list?

Priorities. When I’m doing my weekly planning, I add my priorities/ weekly goals to my list (usually 6 – 7 per week). Last week, I had “write newsletter” on my list.

Scheduled plans. I count scheduled items as things too because otherwise I forget that I’m actually away from home for 90 minutes. For example, coaching appointments, exercise, friend dates, and so on. On Monday, I had Spanish dancing, write blog (this one) and finish book (I’m 87% through).

Fun things. Reading is the most common fun thing, but in the last week of the month, I also get to play with my goals. I’m working through a course now so that is one thing for five weeks.

Chores. I usually have a night of cooking every week when I’ll cook 2 – 3 meals, all at one time. On one evening twice a month, I update the budget.

reading

And….. some days I put a big, fat old line through all my items and write HEADACHE because that’s all that happened πŸ™

Do you make lists? If you don’t, will you try just for one week?

{goals} Monthly, weekly, daily goals – how they all fit together

I was looking through the blog’s archives for this post I’m about to write and honestly, I can’t even imagine why I haven’t written it yet!

SheilaJo, a recent participant on both of my workshops, asked me: how do you fit your monthly, weekly and daily goals all together?

Monthly goals

My monthly goals process is split up into three sections. I usually do all three sections over two evenings, the first evening being Goals Night and the second evening simply because I get carried away and it gets too late.

Here are the three sections:

  1. Monthly goals review – this is the big picture thinking about how the month went. Since I naturally want to dive into the detail, reflecting on the big questions first helps me to be a healthier version of myself.
  2. Tracking on my goals spreadsheet – I use roughly the same spreadsheet year after year (I think this is year 6) and I track the number of goals set and achieved, average sleep, steps, number of workouts, which friends I’ve seen, books I’ve read and their breakdown, etc. I also then check my Books Read Notebook and update anything I’ve missed. See this notebook in the 2019 or 2020 highlights on my bookstagram account.
  3. Setting goals for the month ahead – this is the fun part because the month stretches ahead, full of possibility πŸ™‚ I set clear, actionable goals in the categories of Family, Fun, Finances, Fitness, Friends, Four Tendencies/ Five Love Languages.

Weekly goals

My weekly goals happen in two stages.

  • On a Thursday night, Beth and I set goals with one another for the week ahead. I write these goals down in the Priorities section on my weekly plan (picture below).
  • I incorporate some of those goals into my weekend to-do list. When I do my weekly planning on a Sunday for the week ahead, I will then schedule the other items that still need to get done, and write them down on the actual day in my diary. This would also be the point at which I’d check on details, like if a friend and I had a “to be confirmed” plan, that’s when I’d send a quick message to make sure we’re still meeting, etc.

Daily goals

I don’t really do daily goals but I do have the scheduled appointments like Zumba, friend dates, coaching appointments, etc.

Based on how full my diary looks, I then will plan to do the other bits and pieces around my scheduled tasks. For example, I might do some photo editing (no thinking needed) on a night I do Zumba, but I’d probably only schedule the newsletter for another night and do nothing else (it’s a thinking task and has multiple pieces to its completion).

And of course, my biggest tip is this – I never put too much on one day. Spread out your goals over the week so you don’t get overwhelmed. That’s why God made a week with 7 days.

In terms of time, I spend about two hours a month (but I should time myself next week) on my monthly goals, Beth and I chat for 30 minutes (but probably 10 of those minutes are actual weekly goalsetting), and then I spend 20 minutes on my weekly planning, and less than a minute a day looking at my daily list and updating here and there.

That’s 120 + 30 + 30 + 30 + 30 = 240 mins a month which is about 8 minutes a day, a highly profitable use of my time because it yields hours of non-wastage πŸ™‚

Do you do monthly/ weekly/ daily goals planning? How much time do you spend?

{mindset} So many pandemic changes – part 2

We started talking about all the changes that we need to consider due to the pandemic last week. Read part 1 here.

And a huge disclaimer – I know that we are fortunate that our jobs have been secure thus far. If your income has been affected, I’m sorry – that completely sucks.

5. House/ external environment

I’ve told myself, since we’re not travelling, we might as well spend some of that money on our house so that we’re as comfortable and happy here as we can be.

To that end, I’ve had a handyman in to fix 6 little things, a plumber came to sort out some minor annoyances before they become big things, my garden is looking good for now (Jhb has no winter rainfall so the garden is decent) and my house is fairly deep-cleaned as my domestic worker is back for 40% of our pre-covid arrangement, which is actually why I can blog and am not cleaning!

We sealed some windows and had carpets replaced (two years later than I planned!) and now I just need a painter to come and paint my downstairs and I think we’ll be good for a while again.

More importantly than projects, we’ve moved things around in the house so that the entire space works better for this new C19 life. That couch on the left is no longer there – I needed it there for the workshops but since those are no longer happening, we’ve moved it upstairs to the pyjama lounge so the kids can relax near us while we’re working.

Zumba in my study

6. Exercising

In the beginning of the lockdown, exercise was a substitute as we waited for “things to return to normal”. Now that we realise this is how it’s going to be for a long time, and things are not going to return to normal for a long, long time, and we’re working from home so are far more sedentary, I have personally realised that I need to either get happy about my methods of exercise, or change them.

Zumba has been keeping me sane, I’ve found I really do not like ballet via Zoom though (I really do go for the whole sensory experience) and I love going for a walk to clear my head some evenings after work, especially now during autumn and winter. I’m under no illusion that when it gets too hot in Jhb, I’ll hate walking again and may have to do more Zumba classes, or maybe ballet will start looking exciting again πŸ˜‰

thank goodness for kindle books and scribd

7. Spending

Oh, this is a big one. I’ve had a couple of discussions on Instagram because I’m honestly fascinated by all these people who are saving money.

Yes, we’re not spending as much on petrol but our food has increased so, so much with all of us here all the time, snacking, eating, treating ourselves with food and the occasional takeaway.

We’ve had to upgrade our internet and with that comes an increased monthly expense – the speeds are not sufficient with two people working full-time, in meetings, and two children trying to also access the internet for their schooling.

I’m going to deal with clothes properly in a separate post but is there a need to buy clothes any more? I have to probably keep four work outfits for summer and four for winter, and even that is plenty. I have bought some clothes during the last four months – a sports bra, slippers and socks, so I clearly have enough clothes.

So what am I spending some money on? Scribd, Zumba, books and some toiletries.

Our repo rate (the rate that the banks loan money to people for houses) has dropped a number of times since lockdown to aid the economy. I’ve been sensible and increased our bond payments every time. I let the actual payment the bank requires go off on the 1st of the month, and then we pay in extra on the 14th. Let’s face it – things could change any day and it would be good to have a bit cushioned away for an emergency.

This photo was taken in February, and I’m so glad we made time to get together when we had the chance.

8. Socials

I would almost always rather meet up in person than spend time on a call, but calls and Teams/ Zoom meetings have been a delightful way to connect with my friends.

I do have some concern for some of my friendships because I’ll be honest – it does feel rather like I’m stoking an awful lot of friendship fires these days.

Even our bookclub has taken a knock – the nice thing about not everyone pitching is that you can really connect better with the ones who are there (and this is what I tell myself). The bad thing is it is an anchor during the month to connect with many friends at one time and if those friends don’t pitch, I don’t always have the time or inclination (or, enneagram 1!) feel like it’s my job anymore to always be the gatherer. I’m not sure if anyone can relate?

Tell me, how has the pandemic affected these four areas of your life?

{time} So many pandemic changes – part 1

I first started thinking about permanent pandemic changes when we had a meeting at work and our boss said that even when “all this is over”, we will only be required to come into the office once every two weeks.

(not wonderful news for an extrovert but I can decide and create my own amount of connection with other people, so not entirely a big deal)

A few weeks later in another virtual meeting, a colleague announced that she’d bought a second computer monitor to ease her work from home environment.

And then, on Instagram, a fellow organising friend said that they’d caved in and bought her husband a proper desk for the corner of the bedroom instead of making do with a dresser.

There are many thoughts that I have on this (I quickly jotted down 8 main categories) so I’m breaking up this post into two sections.

1. Work

If I’m only going into the office 1 out of every 10 days, as an extrovert, what will I need to do to keep sane? How much people time do I need? How will I connect with clients, colleagues and the greater company?

If you’re an introvert, you might be asking yourself, how do I get enough alone time with a house full of people all the day long? Am I doing what I need for my mental sanity?

2. Routines

Do I have good work from home routines? How will I ensure that I’m taking enough time off for rest and holidays? In pre-covid times, we were used to taking annual leave only to go away on an actual holiday. We all still need rest and relaxation. I write this on a day I’ve taken “annual leave” and I’m sat at the dining room table typing this blog post. I’ve also pottered around the house, listened to a book and podcast (and will do more of the same while I cook later) and supervised people installing new carpet upstairs.

I am going to make actual appointments every day at 5 so that I stop working – Zumba, ballet, friend dates, etc. I’ve also planned out some leave in August and September, and I already can’t wait.

3. Storage

I was tidying my Tupperware cupboards about a week ago and realised I have far too much (for reference, it’s all not real Tupperware, but plastic containers) for someone who is only going to an office once ever two weeks. So I’ve started to slowly let go. I always share my spinach with Nanny S (my family are not fans) and today I told her to put her half in a container and keep the container πŸ™‚ When things don’t fit, I immediately add to the donate pile. This slow and steady approach works for me, or you could also go Marie Kondo with your stuff (I did that 6 years ago).

One of my coaching clients, P, a Questioner – she came to both the 4T and the 5LL workshops last year and started coaching with me soon after that.

4. My workshops and coaching

I’ll admit it – it took me a good month to get my head around not having people in my house but now that I’ve run three virtual workshops, I’m completely there. I had to remind myself that in the old days, I regularly ran teleseminars (the parent of webinars) and loved them.

I do like having a month of workshops and then a break, and then another month and then a break, both in terms of preparation and Zoom payments.

I’ve always had a mostly virtual coaching practice so there’s been no change at all. If you’ve thought of coaching with me before, a low-cost, low-risk way to see if we’d be good together is to attend a workshop with me first.

My question to you is this: have you considered all the ways your life is changing and started to adapt to the changes? Let me know how, if at all, you’ve made changes in the above categories.

{goals} Word of the year – half year update

My word for this year is light.

It’ll probably give you a good idea of how things have been going if I tell you it took me a good 5 seconds to remember what my word is.

My word for 2020 is light – here’s where you can read more about how I chose it.

In 2020, I want to feel light…

  • physically – I need to lose 12 kgs
  • mentally – I want to let go of things quicker and not hold tight so long
  • emotionally – I want to lighten up with some things

I also want to look for the light more, in other words, get out my big camera and go make beautiful pictures. Honestly, I’ve gotten lazy and yet, it’s something that brings me such joy and delight.

So how has it been going?

Physically – yes, I am lighter but I’ve not lost 6 kg yet. Still, I really do celebrate my progress because I feel fine in my clothes again and that was the motivator for the goal. It would be nice to have a specific number milestone but I honestly have bigger things to worry about right now than reaching an arbitrary number.

Mentally – the covid-19 pandemic has helped all of us let go of all the unimportant things, right?! I’ve had to pivot with my workshops and friend dates and all the out stuff I usually do, so I’m doing well here but….

Emotionally – well, this pandemic has been throwing me for a loop. I’ve cried more during the last almost 4 months (but nothing since 1 June!) but I’ve also experienced more love and connection from my family, which does add to that feeling of lightness of being.

One place I’m excelling at is looking for the light. I have been playing with my camera and iPhone, taking pictures of changing light, morning light, evening light, and as I suspected, it’s been bringing me such joy.

I have been bringing light (clarity) through my workshops, coaching, and speaking, hopefully, I haven’t been hiding my light and playing a smaller game.

If you’d like to experience the light of my workshops, there are 3 open workshops left this year – two Four Tendencies workshops, and one Five Love Languages workshop. Please book your place here.

I’ll give myself a 6/10 for my word of the year update, which feels like a 9/10 rating given the state of the world. I can do better though and this is my reminder to save my word on my lock screen to remind myself more during the next half of the year.

How has your 2020 word been working out for you? Has it been a good reminder? Have you been living it out? Have you forgotten your word?

{planning} introducing my 2020 diary

2020 diary

Compared to 2018’s back and forth on the subject of my 2019 diary, I am so pleased that this year there was none of that nonsense.

You can read about my 2019 diary here. Interestingly, it’s the most popular post in November 2018 of the 6 months since May 2018! And here are pictures of my 2019 diary in action on Instagram.

I saw all the diaries in my local bookshop, noticed a few that I liked but one stood out – this one. I thought about it for a few days and then went back to get it.

2020 diary

Things I love in a diary are:

  • goals page at the front, and one for each month
  • monthly events calendar at a glance
  • weekly format
  • not too big to carry around

This diary had all of these features and the best is that I’ve already played around with the same format in 2018, so I know it works for me.

I also like how it zips up so I can carry a thin bullet journal with me and zip the whole lot up so that it stays contained in my handbag.

2020 diary

For those who are new to me, I love a weekly planner because my brain thinks in weeks and no matter how pretty the daily planners are, I’d never use them as well as I use a weekly planner.

I also like that this diary has a prayer list if you’re so inclined (you can use it for your weekly intentions, which is almost the same thing!), your priorities for the week and the notes for the week section which I use for some of my weekend to-dos.

Perhaps this will be the year I’ll be able to restrict all my weekend to-dos to that one little section? πŸ™‚

2020 diary

I prepared my diary by adding dates, school terms, public holidays, etc. and I started my to-dos yesterday too.

Do you use a diary? Which one are you using this year?

Here’s a useful post to help you make decisions if you haven’t decided yet.

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 πŸ™‚ 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!

How my bullet journalling has changed over the last 3 years

I’m always fascinated by how things change in my own life and in other people’s, especially with regard to how we do things.

Today I want to talk about bullet journalling.

Yes, I’m still bullet journalling and to be honest, even when the craze ends, I’ll still be using a bullet journal simply because I was bullet journalling long before it became a thing. In those days, I just had a notebook I carried around with me for my lists πŸ™‚

I have noticed that the way I use my bullet journal changes according to the diary I have for that year.

This year I have a diary with lots of monthly goals space so I use my diary for my goals instead of the bullet journal. I still use my bullet journal for my monthly review though (you can download your monthly review free printable page here)

So which pages am I still using?

  1. Weekend to-do list
  2. WFM Daily to-do list (once a week)
  3. Podcast club notes (podcast club does not happen as often as it used to, though)
  4. list of blog posts to write (this is still a permanent page in my bullet journal)
  5. brainstorming specific blog posts or what needs to go in my monthly newsletter
  6. monthly project life photo planning (I do a mindmap and ask myself what happened that I want to remember, and then I look for a picture. It’s much less overwhelming than looking at 300 pics trying to whittle them down to 6)
  7. daily journalling from holidays, when they happen.
  8. People interested in the Four Tendencies workshop (I keep a list and update it after every workshop) – this has been a strange thing and I should write down some learnings after the workshop on 1 June happens.
  9. Life admin list – granted, at certain times of the year, this list is WILDLY busy but most months there are only one or two things on there at most, which is how I prefer it.

Are you still bullet journalling?

Which are your favourite pages in your bullet journal?

PS I have a separate bullet journal for all my reading. Read more about that one in this post.

Declare a day for annual planning

I read on Sarah’s blog where she said she wished we could have an International Planning Holiday where we would all take out our new diaries, transfer information and get all transitioned out of the old and into the new one.

Well, I was agreeing with her as I read and then I realised… I already do this!

My international planning holiday is not on a specific day, but does fall within a specific week of the year – the week between Christmas and New Year.

I love this week and have referred to it in the past as the best time of the year.

This is how I do my annual planning day:

  1. I choose a day during that week (26 – 31 December) where I do not have any socials planned because there’s nothing worse than feeling rushed. It’s usually on the 27th or 28th, but has been as late as the first week of January some years.
  2. I ensure that I have a good block of 2 – 3 hours to work on my diary. I have, in the past, gone to a coffee shop to do this planning work uninterrupted.
  3. I make sure I have all my gel pens and highlighters handy, as well as post-it notes (the proper stuff, not the cheap sticky notes) and washi tape.
  4. I write all the important dates in my new diary, and transfer in any other important information, like passwords. Don’t judge – it works for me.
  5. I write in all the school terms, both in my monthly view, and during the actual weeks.
  6. I get January all set up with scheduled dates, friend plans, etc.
  7. Lastly, I move some lists to my new bullet journal (like life admin, blog post ideas, etc.) or the notepaper in my diary, if there is notepaper, like the years I’ve bought an 18-month diary, but only started during the actual calendar year.

Important to note:

I may not have set goals by this time, or chosen my word of the year, but I do think it’s important (for me, anyway) to at least feel somewhat in control by having the week-to-week aspect of my life set up.

Do you declare a day for annual planning? Why don’t you block out the two hours right now to prepare your 2019 diary?

What a bullet journalling experiment taught me

A few months ago I decided to make a list of all the podcasts I listened to during that week.

I didn’t choose a particular week; it was simply a random week without any forethought.


At the end of the week, I totalled up the time spent listening and I had a big shock:

11 hrs 45 minutes

A few thoughts flashed through my mind:

  • I could have listened to 1 long fiction book or 1.5 non-fiction books.
  • I worked from home 3 days that week and about 3 hours a day is not unreasonable. I also listen to podcasts while tidying and organizing on the weekend.
  • Hmmm. What would happen if I tried some new things?

This is fascinating because I’m both the subject of the study and the scientist.

I also have a phone storage problem because I only have a 16 GB iPhone which means I have to delete photos off my phone twice a month. I actually don’t mind this because it keeps me in a good photo routine.

I also have to be diligent to only download one audio book at a time and only my subscribed podcasts.

Do you know what I decided as a result of all this thinking?

I unsubscribed from all but two podcasts.

No prizes if you guessed one of those podcasts is Happier with Gretchen Rubin. The other is the 5-word prayers daily with Lisa Whittle.

The other podcasts are still there but they’re below the subscription fold so I see them update but I only consciously download an episode when I’m ready to listen.

This decision…

1) freed me up because I don’t feel any podcast guilt (similar to Feedly guilt when you see 172 unread blog posts ;)) and in true upholder fashion,

2) I decide how much I want to listen to and when, and

3) if I don’t feel excitement about the episode, I don’t even download it. Before, the episodes would drop automatically and I’d feel almost compelled to listen immediately because of the aforementioned storage issue.

4) I’ve also listened to lot more audio books!

Yes, this post is about me listening to podcasts but it’s really about tracking behavior and making changes to align to your goals.

I have a few questions for you:

Have you ever tracked your time for a day or week? You’ll be surprised how much time you spend doing mindless tasks.

What have you learned as a result?

Is there something niggling at you? perhaps you spend too much time on Facebook or Instagram?

(our pastor said something this weekend that has stuck with me – people spend approximately 4 hours a day on social media, and other people are making money from those same people scrolling their feeds. Wow!)



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