How to have healthy sleep

It’s no secret that I love my sleep.

I both enjoy sleep and I sleep well. Some of it is personality, I think, but I do think I have some very good sleep habits too.

Whenever I put up my sleep stats on Instagram, I always get so many direct messages from people who say things like, “oh that must be nice” and “how do you sleep so much?”.

Well, I sleep a lot because I’ve realised that when I’m tired I won’t be as productive as I will be when I’m rested. Because when I’m up after a good night’s sleep, I’m a machine 🙂

Sleep also has many other benefits like being good for your mental health, stress relief, immune system, heart, good for managing weight. In addition, and this is a big benefit, it’s good for your memory, and helps you focus and concentrate. I also heard Lisa Genova on a podcast say that deep sleep helps clear out brain waste which prevents Alzheimer’s.

Here are a few of my tips:

  1. Set a sleep goal. My goal is 7 hours 30 every night. I upgraded my Fitbit recently and while my Fitbit now gives me a sleep score, my sleep score is always better when I sleep more than 7h30.
  2. Sleep when you’re tired. Realise that when you’re tired, the very best thing you can do no matter how much work there is still to get done, is to actually sleep.
  3. Move your body. I sleep my best sleep on the days I have a good workout. It’s boring to say this but our mothers were onto something when they told us to go outside and play.
  4. Stop caffeine at lunch. This is not a problem for me, but I know many people who do not have good sleep habits when they have coffee after lunch. Dr Rangan Chatterjee, in his book, The 4 Pillar Plan, talks about how, at bedtime, about 25% of caffeine is still in our system. If you don’t sleep well, stop your coffee at 12 and see if it makes a difference.
  5. Avoid your phone before bed. Everyone gives me a hard time about this one but hey, if you want to sleep better, avoid your phone for a good 1 – 2 hours before bed. You can charge your phone at an outlet across the room. I charge mine next to my bed but it’s on the floor, face down, almost slipped under the bed. I also don’t look at Whatsapp after my phone goes dark (shortly after my work day ends). There is a downside to it but I’d rather have a few more messages in the morning than have restless or disrupted sleep.
  • How is your sleep on a scale of 1 – 10?
  • Do you have good sleep hygiene?
  • Do you spend time on your phone before bed?

If you want to work on these tips, all you have to do is start working on one at a time, track your sleep, and see how it is affected.

How to do a quick and effective half-year review

It might be that I’m such a big fan of reflecting and reviewing precisely because it doesn’t come naturally to me.

I recognise the process as valuable though which is why I take the time to do a half-year review every year.

Your review is only a 20 – 30 minute process but it will make you feel that you closed off the first half of the year and can focus afresh on the 6 months ahead.

What do you need?

  1. 20 – 30 minutes
  2. A drink of your choice – hot or cold
  3. Notebook/ bullet journal
  4. Pen

You could type into a computer or your phone but I recommend doing it with a pen and paper so that your brain slows down enough to process as you think through the questions.

Here are some questions to ask yourself. Use all, or just use the first 5 questions:

  1. What went well, and why?
  2. What could be better? How?
  3. What have you learned about yourself?
  4. What energised you? How can you bring more of this into your life?
  5. If you chose a word of the year, has it been guiding/ inspiring/ clarifying for you? How are you living out your word of the year? Do you need to change your word? Here’s your permission slip if you want to do that.
  6. Looking at your goals, have you made good progress and are you on track?
  7. Are there any goals you need to let go of? Let them go and be kind to yourself.
  8. Do you know why those goals were no longer motivating you?
  9. Looking forward… what are the 3 main things you want to focus on for the next 3 – 6 months?
  10. Do you have the necessary support? I would love to help you.

Reset and refresh sessions

  • I will send you a prep pack once I receive your payment which you work though and return to me 48 hours before your session so I can spend some time beforehand preparing.
  • We meet on Skype or Zoom, whichever option you prefer.
  • We will discuss what you want to keep in your life going forward and more importantly, what you want to let go of.
  • We might set new goals and develop action plans, or tweak existing goals to suit where you are right now.
  • My goal is that you leave the session encouraged, inspired and that you have clarity on the way forward.
  • The sessions are 60 minutes long and your investment in yourself is $75/ R1000 (previous clients get a discount!)
  • I encourage you to book another session in 6 months, but only if you think it will be helpful.
Contact me now to schedule your session. I work with clients all over the world so we will find a time that will work for your time zone.

Meal tip Monday – how to plan for busy nights

Are you enjoying this focussed series? I didn’t want to announce it as such in case it brought up my inner rebel (!) but really, that’s what it is.

If you’ve missed the previous posts, here you go:

cook a double batch

know your style

Let’s talk about planning for busy nights. This might seem obvious but sometimes, and I know this is true for me, I’m planning the menu for the week without looking at my calendar. In South Africa, we have plenty of loadshedding at the moment. These tips work well for those nights too.

Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Check your calendar!
  2. Write in the nature of the busyness on your actual menu plan. For example, “late meeting/ 7pm Zumba/ school meeting, etc.”
  3. Think through if you have any freezer meals that will work and defrost them early.
  4. Alternatively, buy a rotisserie chicken on the weekend, heat it quickly and serve with rolls or crusty bread, and a salad. Chicken has the advantage of being good whether eaten hot or cold.
  • My Zumba nights are our standard “busy nights” on the menu as I arrive home at about 7:30.
  • For these nights I plan a “make your own ________ ” night. Burrito bowls work well because everyone helps themselves and the toppings can be prepared and set out beforehand.
  • Alternatively, I pop a complete meal in the oven and my family retrieves it via a timer and serves themselves. Any baked pasta or enchiladas is a good idea.

Which are your favourite tips for busy nights?

Meal tip Monday – Know yourself

One of the secrets to menu planning and meal success is to know yourself. But not only to know yourself, to accept yourself.

Let me give you a few examples:

  1. you might be a cook who likes leisurely weekend cooking sessions but hate the haste of weeknight cooking, or the opposite
  2. you might like the fact that you have to get a meal prepped and put on the table within 30 minutes because the torture is then done
  3. you might be a batch cook once a month and a heater-upper of food
  4. you might be an excellent assembler of random food (do you remember Cher in Mermaids?!)
  5. you might be an excellent orderer of food, or picker-up of convenience meals at the grocery store on the way home

Why is this important?

You know what works, you accept that this is who you are, and you remove decision fatigue thinking through options all the time.

I’ve shared before on the blog that my mother-in-law lives alone and hates cooking (although she’s good at it!) so she cooks four-portion meals for 5 nights every month, eats one and freezes the other three.

These meals change according to the seasons (soups and casseroles feature more in winter) but this system works really well for her.

She doesn’t concern herself with what other people are doing, or that others (like me) would be bored eating the same meal every Tuesday for a month. It works and that’s it.

I am a combination of a Saturday afternoon/ Monday evening leisure batch cook but I also like the competitiveness of getting a meal on the table in 30 minutes or less. I love variety (more on this later) so I like a combination of mixing up some freezer meals with one or two freshly cooked meals too.

The great thing is I know I’m never ever going to like cooking complicated meals so if I glance over a recipe, see that it’s complicated, I can swipe through with wild abandon. No, not for me.

What is your meal planning style? Have you accepted it yet?

I’m actually going through slight boredom with my meals at the moment. Any quick and easy winter meals that you recommend? I would love to hear because I’m tired of chilli con carne, curries and bolognaise. And if you have some tried and tested, easy chicken recipes, I would love those too.

Weekly planning – should you or shouldn’t you?

I started off with the question in the title because we are all different.

I can definitely say that weekly planning helps me in my life, but I recognise that we all prefer to do things in different ways.

If you’re very happy with your current non-weekly planning process, I’m delighted! However, if you feel like things could work a bit better here and there, then, as I always tell my coaching clients, test it and see. At the most, you’ve had two weeks that were more structured and a learning that the exact way you did it wasn’t optimal for you. But who knows? The opposite is also true – you might love something and never stop doing it (menu planning for me the last 15 years).

If you do decide you want to play with weekly planning, here are some ideas you can try planning:

  • meals (supper, or all meals) for 5 or 7 days – put down some ideas and pick from your list every day
  • exercise days – my gym requires that we book our classes to avoid capacity issues
  • connection time with family and friends
  • personal goals – like reading a book or working on your photos
  • house goals – organising your clothes
  • work/ side hustle projects

Please note all of these are just ideas – the thought of doing all of that might overwhelm you. Don’t let it. Pick what you want and leave the rest.

I know that Laura Vanderkam recommends one goal in three areas every week: work, personal, and relationships.

If you don’t like those three categories, choose your own 😉

Who’s ready to try weekly planning? Which categories are important to you?

Other posts on weekly planning:

{Mindset} Establish your personal policies, or decide once

A few months ago on the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast (episode 296 – 21 October 2020), one of the topics was about establishing a personal policy. I loved this podcast episode because it was a reminder to me that

  • I have personal policies
  • I’m happier when I heed them
  • We all have some things we do that make sense to us

It reminded me of the Lazy Genius, Kendra Adachi’s book, The Lazy Genius Way, which I read and loved last year.

One of her principles is to Decide Once.

Decide once is setting a personal policy.

In Lazy Genius language, I decided once that I don’t attend baby showers so it’s an easy decision when I receive an invite to politely decline the invite.

About a month ago, Kendra put up a post inviting people to post how they decide once. The 1744 comments are GOLD. A couple that I love are:

one lady does all phone calls on Thursday mornings only. Genius – you don’t have to have phone dread because you know you’ll take care of things on Thursdays.

another lady changes her contact lenses every time she gets her monthlies so she doesn’t have to remember.

some people have the same gift they give to teachers or for new baby gifts.

The reason I like personal policies is because I love boundaries.

I like people boundaries and I like things boundaries.

Some people boundaries:

  • I don’t attend baby showers. I buy a gift but I hate all the ladies playing silly games (at least that’s how it goes around here).
  • During Covid, I will only meet up with people outside. All book clubs are outside or on Zoom, and when people have come over, we’re outside too.
  • My kids can only have playdates on Friday afternoons. It’s a set time for them so they don’t have to ask continually “can X come over?” They know Friday is the day and arrange their schedules accordingly.

Some things boundaries:

  • If something doesn’t fit in the space, it’s time to declutter until the things fit comfortably again.
  • I decided once what I wanted to save every month, set up an automatic payment and I don’t have to think about it again. When my salary increases, I increase the payment a bit, but that’s the extent of my thinking about money.
  • I have a standard bring-along to a meal if we are invited over to friends. I say, “I’ll bring a chicken” and I bring a rotisserie chicken from a nearby bakery. I also get them to cut it up for me so it’s easy to just arrange on a platter.

Over to you:

Can you name some of your personal policies?

If you honestly don’t have any, where could you incorporate a couple to make your life run more smoothly?

{time} 3 different ways to think about time

Time is so precious. We’ve also all been at different points of the time continuum during the pandemic. Some of us have felt like we have plenty of time to indulge in hobbies; others (me!) are working all the hours just to keep up.

This is not an article on how to create more time but it is meant to provide some food for thought on how you currently are spending your time:

1. What are your top time priorities?

Yes, the answer to this question changes from life stage to life stage and most definitely during the pandemic. My top three priorities have been my own and my family’s health (both physical and mental), managing my work responsibilities and retaining a semblance of myself with things that are fun for me. Included are eating, sleeping, managing stress, and exercising well. I don’t sleep well if I worry too much about work and I’m not in a great space mentally if I don’t also do fun things for me, so they all tie together.

Can you identify your top time priorities?

If we’re not intentional about our time and how we spend it, I promise you others will fill it up with their priorities. Interestingly, these two things are almost never the same. See full caption from Instagram here.


2. Is your time spent in alignment with those priorities?

If you look over your week or month, does your time spent look like you’re prioritising the correct things? It’s okay if it doesn’t currently align, but at least you now have the awareness.

How will you know that things are not aligned? You can’t find anything in your schedule that aligns with your priorities. Maybe you do find your priorities on your schedule but there’s not enough time allocated, e.g. exercise or hobbies or fun? What are you dreaming about at night? That’s also a signal you’re not dealing with things during your waking hours.

Where do you feel out of alignment?


3. Which time statement do you find yourself saying to yourself or others? Consider these two sentence pairs.

a) I have to
…. feels like you have no choice while I get to…. feels like you have made the choice to do it. The second statement is more empowering.

Example: I have to make the kids’ lunches (sounds like a chore) vs I get to make the kids’ lunches (feels to me like an act of service/ love). Another very relevant one during Covid: I have to work late (you have no choice in the matter)  vs I get to work late (I have the luxury of no commute so I can put in an extra hour or two occasionally).

b) I don’t have time feels disempowering while it’s not a priority for me right now feels like a carefully-considered time choice.

I get how the second statement can feel awkward sometimes but it’s kinder than not being honest with yourself and others. Brene Brown says “clear is kind” and it feels very kind to me to say honestly if something isn’t a priority in your life at this time.

How has your thinking changed?

{goals} My quarterly goals update

Gosh, we’re one week out from the end of March which means it’s time to review our quarterly goals and set some new ones.

First , a review in case you missed it earlier on the blog:

Quarterly planning
Monthly planning

What went well for me this quarter?

  1. Exercise – regularly doing Zumba twice weekly and my Barre class started up again mid-Feb
  2. My #read21in2021 is going so well. I just set the timer, pick up my non-fiction book and read. I’ve finished nearly 8 books already this quarter (my goal was 6)
  3. House projects – the bathroom reno, fumigator has been, window cleaners are booked for Monday (this is one of those things that people don’t mention when you buy a house on a hill) and we’ve ordered a canvas for our stairwell. 

What could be improved?

  1. I’m still working on setting better boundaries around work
  2. Need to book next holiday so we have something to look forward to
  3. Friend stuff – I can’t build connections via text or whatsapp. I’m phone burnt out 😮 and need to speak on a real phone or look people in the eyes and not via a screen.

How are your quarterly goals looking?

Why don’t you join me and set aside some time in the next week to jot down some goals for the next quarter?

{work with Marcia} Book your time makeover session now

If one of your goals for 2021 is to get your time sorted, give yourself the gift of a time makeover session.

Use our time together to get ideas and motivation to…

  • break out of overwhelm
  • calm down and get clear on your priorities
  • put an action plan in place to get things back under control
  • practical tips to be more productive (if that’s what you want)
  • challenge your mindset… gently but firmly
  • if you run a business, to maximise your time so you don’t need to work crazy hours

Book a 30- or 60-minute session, whichever best suits your budget. I’ll send you the prep pack and we’ll get your session scheduled.

Read testimonials here and contact me when you’d like to get your session booked.

{planning} 6 important things about monthly planning

Even if you’re not a goal-setter, monthly planning is a good way to start adding some structure to your life.

Why

You can plan your month such that events within your control are spread throughout the weeks.

You can find your optimum busy rhythm.

You can plan things like birthday presents and reserving book club books in advance.

When

I do my monthly planning either on the last day of the month (if I finish my goals review early) or otherwise on the first day of the month. I don’t feel late as I’ve glanced over the first few days to make sure nothing will fall through the cracks.

How

1. Add anchor events first (these are things that are already due to happen)

  1. Birthdays – do you need to buy a present, send a card or arrange to take someone for lunch or supper? Make a note of these action items.
  2. Socials – add in any fixed friend dates you may have, like a monthly book club, family get-togethers with extended family, or a standing tea or lunch with a friend. Do you have any action items you need to make a note of? E.g. do you need to buy the book club book or borrow it from the library?
  3. Any other anchor events – work meetings that might bleed into personal time, etc. I add my coaching client appointments here. Pre-covid, this is when I’d add all my business travel too as it would mean I’d need to get to bed early for early flights the next day.

2. Add in all the want-tos

  1. Exercise – if you’re a daily exerciser, this might be useless step but most people aren’t daily exercisers and need to plan out of the house time with spouses.
  2. Courses, workshops –it’s easy to schedule if it’s a once-off session. But what if it’s a self-paced course like my Discover Yourself course? When I sign up to an online course or workshop, I schedule time every week to make progress otherwise it’ll never get done. If you’ve purchased a course, have you actually done it? You might need to block out time once a week for an hour or two to work through the content.
  3. Catch-ups with friends – these are non-monthly standing appointments but you would like to arrange this time together.

3. Evaluate and answer these questions honestly

(you might not have a true idea when you first start but you’ll get better as you go along)

  1. Do your weeks look too busy?
  2. Are there some of those want-to items that would do better for you to move to another week instead?

4. Review your goals and add what you can to your non-busy weeks

Skip if you haven’t set any goals BUT I call goals anything you want to get done.

I set goals in 7 categories and for the purposes of this post, I’ll share the three goals I set in the Finance/ House category for March.

  1. Fumigator
  2. Make waterproofing decisions (the quote is way too much but I asked them to break down all the work into the 3 areas so we can do it in stages)
  3. Send canvas pic to my printer

My style is to put all 3 of these onto a house list and do the research and send out the emails all on one evening. An ideal evening would be after a vigorous exercise session like Zumba since I’ll be too tired to do anything else.

I should also write every week for my blog/ newsletter or if I’m creating a course. I usually have a night for writing every week and I like to couple that with something else computer-y like updating my budget or editing photos, etc.

5. Maintain and evaluate as you go through the month

As the weeks pass, notice how you feel at the end of each week.

Was the week too busy even though you thought it might be doable?

6. Speaking of energy…

I don’t like more than two evenings out (even if it’s at the gym) during the work week but I don’t feel it that much if those evenings are spread out – like a Monday and a Thursday. This is something I noticed while evaluating my weeks. I also don’t mind a Barre and Zumba class one night after the other, but I wouldn’t like two Zumba classes on subsequent evenings (too heavy on my body), or two coaching evenings in a row.

Do you need to change the order in which you plan according to your energy?

Do you do monthly planning? Is there anything else you add that helps you?

I work with clients in 30- or 60-minute time management sessions and show them how to translate their goals to quarterly, monthly and weekly action steps. We talk about the best method to get things done for their own personality type – there is “no once size fits all” approach. Send me an email and let’s schedule your session.

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