{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?

{planning} Let’s do our quarterly planning together

Here we stand at the start of a new, fresh, shiny quarter. If 2021 didn’t start as you wanted, you can let the first quarter go with all the expectations you had for it and just dive into this new quarter.

I spoke before about how and why I love quarterly planning.

Last quarter (Jan – March) I did my quarterly planning but I kept it in my bullet journal. That was…okay, but more inconvenient as I kept having to flip back and forth in the bullet journal to find my list.

This time I decided to write out my list as I did last year but I would then stick it up on the cupboard door in my study (where I now spend 90% of my time!) so I can see it all the time and take action.

And that’s exactly what I did.

Some things I want to do this quarter:

  1. play more (I’m doing Superhero Photo again – it’s a photo course I did about 8 years ago – I saved the emails and am working through them again)
  2. plan next quarter’s holiday and hopefully a mini-break at the end of the month as it’s our anniversary
  3. get some inexpensive but effective stuff done in the house (paint my downstairs)
  4. do some once-off coaching sessions (see more below)
  5. see more friends than I did last quarter

Now over to you.

What went well last quarter? Can you replicate it again this quarter? What did you specifically do or which things were in place helping you have that success?

What do you want to do differently this quarter? Are you using your tendency to help you get those things done? If you’re not sure how, book your 75-minute Four Tendencies coaching session with me for $75. If you’ve come on one of my workshops, you get $20 off. Paypal me and let’s get your session scheduled. I can’t wait to coach you.

{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.

{time} keep your weekends different

Are you still working from home?

A friend said the other day that her house has become the place she works, the place she relaxes, the place she goes to have restaurant food, and also the place she has holidays.

It’s so true for most of us which is why I like to feel that my weekends have a sense of being different to the weekdays.

During the week, I work a full day and then usually go to Zumba one weeknight evening. I also went to Barre last night for the first time since 10 March 2020. That class is now regular so I’ll continue to go. Other than that, I cook, read and write/ coach at night.

On a Friday night, I pack away my work notebook and laptop completely (charger cables and mouse too!) so that my bright yellow desk is ready for FUN things like playing with photos.

My weekends are very unstructured – I like to have a weekend to-do list with just a few anchor events (kids’ swimming and Zumba!) and lots of space for my own things.

I usually have some things to do around the house, some things in the study and some things to relax. You can read a more detailed account of my weekend planning here.

Why is this different? I have a very structured weekday routine so to have almost nothing planned on the weekend is bliss. I organise my holidays the same way!

I would also rather work late one or two nights than to pull out that laptop on a weekend. It feels more restorative to me to have zero work on the weekend so my head is clear.

Let’s talk about you.

What do your weekdays feel like? Can you build more of the opposite into your weekend so it feels different?

Maybe you work all alone during the week and on the weekend you want to connect with friends and family?

Try playing intentionally with your routines to make these pandemic times feel a little more normal.

How would you like your weekends to feel? Which elements would make them more ideal?

{organising} 3 easy ways to create decluttering habits

When was the last time you had a good clear out?

Why should you even bother?

Like me, I’m fairly confident that you’re buying things or people are giving you things regularly.

I’m not even talking about being a shopper of unnecessary things.

  • When you replace your gym pants or sports bras, are you tossing out the old ones? If you pick up a couple of new T-shirts, are you just adding them into the pile or drawer?
  • When you buy a couple of new bowls, are you donating the old ones? I’m sure the old ones didn’t break?
  • When you buy two new body soaps to try, and you try them for your next couple of showers, are you using up the old ones first? Do you now have four open bottles in the shower? 😉

Decluttering your stuff helps you feel clearer mentally, and opens you up to blessings and abundance in your life, not only of the physical kind.

Here are a few ideas to create great decluttering habits:

Conscious decluttering before birthdays and Christmas

I do this mostly for the kids but for myself too if I have a birthday lunch. People will bring presents so you might as well create space for it all.

One in, one out rule

This rule is probably the most unexciting and yet the most effective constant form of decluttering I do. I keep a donate tub on my washing machine in the kitchen and I keep putting things in there. If I buy two new mugs, I look through the cupboard to find the two that spark the least joy. I do the same with clothes too.

Physical boundaries

This is another one of my favourites. Everything in my house has a place where it lives. And since my Konmari days (coming up on 7 years!), there is usually only one place, no longer three spaces all over the house, unless the item is used there. When the physical space is too small for the item (s), it’s time to reduce the number of items until the space is comfortable again.

What about Konmari?

I still recommend doing a Konmari-type decluttering if you can – the biggest use for me is that you get to see everything at the same time and it shocks you senseless so you’re never tempted to hoard as many items again. If you click through to that post, you’ll see all the vases. I’m pleased to tell you that I’ve not bought one extra vase since the time all those were decluttered – yay!

My suggestion:

  1. Give yourself a small task every day for a week (one kitchen drawer, the bathroom vanity, your T-shirts, etc.) and set your timer for 15 minutes while you declutter.
  2. It is addictive once you get going and find the momentum to move onto problematic areas.
  3. But remember, as the Home Edit girls say, you can either have the stuff or the space.

If you’d like accountability and guidance to finally get your spaces organised, please book a virtual organising session of your choice. Both sessions come with a follow-up action plan for you to implement. I’d love to help you get organised, whatever your style.

{planning} The joy of quarterly planning

I’ve been an annual planner for the last 25 years. Until last year and the lockdown. I felt quite despondent and hopeless until Gretchen Rubin suggested making a 19 for Covid-19 list. After I made my first one for 3 months and saw how well it worked for lockdown, I just kept making a new list every 3 months.

Annual planning

  1. You do the planning properly once and then you just implement.
  2. Because you have the long-term view, you tend to take seasonal fluctuations into account, e.g. you might want to take 2 – 3 holidays a year – one in autumn, one in spring and one at Christmas.
  3. It will take longer as you consider the entire 12 months.

Quarterly planning

  1. Because you’re only planning for 3 months, it’s often easier to do because the planning is for a shorter time.
  2. If you no longer want to do something or if something is not working, you can change your goals and planning for the next quarter. Yes, you can do this for annual planning but we often don’t. The mere fact that the planning is only for 3 months changes your mindset about sticking to something you’re not enjoying.
  3. Useful in these pandemic times where things change quickly (lockdown levels) and where we might need a change.

My quarterly planning process

Last year, I just wrote down 19 – 20 things willy-nilly the first time I did my quarterly planning, but the next two times, I wrote down goals in the main 7 areas of my life.

The more structured approach worked well for me so that is how I will continue to do things this year. Do the same if you like a bit of structure or just go wild and write down some things. I do suggest at least having one or two goals in each of the work, home and personal/ relationships category.

I make a mindmap on a page in my bullet journal, put branches for the various areas – family, friends, health and fitness, house/ finances, work (day job) and OrganisingQueen (night job – ha!) and play/ fun (my word of the year). Any of my planning (even for this blog post!) starts with a mindmap.

Hint – I like a branch for my word of the year so that I put concrete goals to make my word alive for me.

Do you think you’ll give quarterly planning a try? What are your categories?

PS I talked more about quarterly and seasonal goals here.

{Four Tendencies} How two upholders broke the rules and what this means for you

It’s no secret that I’m an upholder. What many people don’t know except the 200 that have been through the Four Tendencies workshops with me is that Dion is also an upholder.

He leans toward obliger and I lean toward questioner.

This generally means we understand each other well but there are still some points of contention as he will sometimes meet outer expectations over inner and I, of course, meet inner expectations first.

Our kids had one week’s holiday from school. I tried to book a beach holiday for this particular week and the agency we use told me that ALL the holiday units were booked. All of them.

That started me thinking. Our kids are at school only 3 times a week so could we not go on holiday the week schools went back instead? That’s what ended up happening after I convinced Dion that 1) we all needed a holiday 2) the kids are bright and will catch up and 3) low season rates.

We booked flights and accommodation and told nobody about our plans. Honestly, I was scared of having to explain why we were breaking the rules.

When I told a friend that I was planning to ask the teachers for the homework, she told me that I was crazy. “When you’re breaking the rules, you don’t ask for permission; you just do it”. She’s a questioner.

In the end, I just felt better doing things my way so I wrote emails to each class teacher and to the school, not asking for permission but stating the facts and sending an assurance that we would ensure the kids caught up on all their work.

That whole day I was twitchy inside (gosh, being an upholder is hard work!) until the kids came home. Both teachers replied and said a version of, “no problem; we’ve sent some work home”. 

And so we went on holiday, the kids did some homework (Kendra did a total of probably two hours over the week while Connor came home and did everything required that very day) and went back to school as if they’d been there all along.

Are you shocked? I would be. If you’d told me a year ago that I would take my kids out of school to go on holiday, I would never have believed you. And yet, this is one of the best decisions of the year.

I want to point out a few things about the Tendencies:

  1. It’s very useful to know why you behave the way you do (pandemic stress and the realisation that breaking a rule safely now and again is okay)
  2. It’s important to manage any stress/ anxiety in a way that works for your Tendency (writing to the teachers, ensuring the kids did their homework)
  3. I could absolutely not do this kind of thing regularly (this is year 6 of their schooling and the first time they have missed even one day of school) – upholders can seem rigid and inflexible as a result. This is true and absolutely fine with me 😉
  4. I asked the kids several times if they were worried about being away from school and missing work, and both my Questioner and Rebel said the same thing, “definitely not, Mummy. We’re on holiday!” My little rebel even said, “just relax, it’s all fine” 😉

I no longer offer Four Tendencies workshops but I do offer 1:1 Four Tendencies coaching which I’m starting to love even more. Read more about the Four Tendencies framework and how it will benefit you here. I have a special handbook to help you prepare beforehand, which means we then use your actual coaching time to talk and work through your particular challenges and goals. The ideal Four Tendencies private coaching session is 75 minutes long for $75, but if you have a smaller budget, I go right down to $50 for 50 minutes. Email me to book your place.

If you feel twitchy inside about anything (pandemic, kids going back to school, you going back to work, any relationship issues, etc.), consider these questions:

  1. what is my tendency? take the quiz here
  2. why do I feel this way as an upholder/ obliger/ questioner/ rebel?
  3. with my tendency in mind, what can I do to ease my level of stress/ anxiety?
  4. (if it’s a repeating event), what will I do differently next time so I have a better result?
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