{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.

{time} What sparks joy with your time?

It’s important to me to regularly take stock so that I remain intentional about the choices I make around how to spend my time.

In Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (you can read about the physical aspects of tidying by clicking the button on the sidebar —–>>), she says that once your physical space is tidied, you start thinking through bigger issues in your life.

I found this true for me too as in 2014 I completed my tidying journey and after it was done, I started a new job and in 2015 I had a really transformative personal year, the year of enough.

Once you complete your physical spaces, you’ve trained your mind so you start thinking about each part of your life and whether it still sparks joy.

Today I’d like to talk more about sparking joy with your time.

At Work

Think about the various parts of your workday/ week/ month/ quarter/ year. Which parts spark joy and which don’t?

I remember when I first did this exercise and noted down that there was a part of my job that I hated. When I drilled down and asked why, it was because of the type of client and the type of work I was doing for that client. Now the client wasn’t going anywhere and neither was I, so I had a conversation with this client where we brainstormed how we could change things for the better. Another meeting or two and while things weren’t sparking joy, there was no longer the extreme dread and boredom.

Now let’s talk about sparking joy.

Which parts of your work spark joy? Sometimes we don’t get to do these parts as often as we’d like but if we have the awareness, we can start to create time to do more of what brings us joy.

I identified that for me, I need to feel like I’m contributing by being creative with products, solutions, etc. but not by myself, in collaboration with my clients. A good day will have at least one such interaction so I try and arrange my week so I have multiple days of collaborating with clients because those sessions energise me most.

Over to you.

What sparks joy for you at work? What drains you at work? How can you add more of the first and reduce the second?

In your personal life

What sparks joy with your personal time?

I’ve heard from so many people during the pandemic that they will not be automatically signing up their kids to so many activities once life returns to normal. It turns out that rushing from one activity to the next on the weekend does not spark joy.

Does it spark joy for you to spend time with family? Or connecting with friends? Does it spark joy for you to be in service to others, like serving at a soup kitchen or volunteering at an orphanage?

And what about time by yourself? Does it spark joy for you to do hobbies when you’re by yourself, to journal, to spend time in nature, to clean or organise, or to exercise?

I’ve shared many times that the perfect ratio of personal time for me is out and about (by myself doing Zumba, spending time with friends or family, or running a few errands), getting stuff done (cooking, organising, cleaning or pottering) and relaxing (reading, playing with my photos and very rarely, watching a show for an hour). When my time is too full of one section, I feel frustrated but the perfect weekend is a blend of all three.

What sparks joy for you with your personal time? I’d love to hear in the comments!

{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?

{mindset} Let’s talk about Five Nice Things, or even just one

I’m probably the last person ever to have a gratitude practice. Even the phrase “gratitude practice” sounds twee to me. I’m a grateful person – very much so – but I’m just not the type to write out a gratitude list every evening.

I saw on A Cup of Jo (do you read her blog?) that someone called it “five nice things” and the more casual name feels exactly right for me.

Today’s nice things are: a lovely rainy day, I got to take a walk in my garden and play with my camera, I made lunch for the kids (cheese quesadilla and an apple cut in 4) and they loved it, Dion bought us sushi and I had a good session of writing.

You don’t have to write down 5 things every day; make it feel right for you.

Even if you just notice kind things around you and little moments of delight, and are thankful for them, you’re on the right track.

I went to gym the other night. Those who have booked for classes are allowed to bypass the queue to get into the gym but there was such a long queue outside that I had a moment where I thought someone’s going to say something (gym people are very serious people!) if I jump the queue. Well, a staff member with a clipboard appeared as if by magic, checked my name on the list and told me to go straight in (“straight through the turnstiles”, she instructed). I was so grateful!

One more – I’d planned to run three errands during lunch one day in two opposite directions. Someone was coming out to give me a quote so I had to be back at the house in 30 minutes. I knew I couldn’t do both directions so I opted to do just the one. Well, lo and behold, the one store had what I needed (they hadn’t had it a few days earlier) at a better price so I didn’t need to run errand 3. I was delighted! I love crossing things off a list 😊 Small, nice things that make me happy.

Will you join me and notice a few nice things every day?

When you start noticing and being thankful for lovely things, the strangest thing happens – even more lovely things happen to you.

I made a printable for you – the five nice things list – it’s undated and you can start using it today. You haven’t “failed” if you forget a day but it does help to print it out and keep it visible. When it’s full, print another page and keep going. And a reminder to sign up for my newsletter here – thank you for helping me grow my list.

{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?

{goals} my word of the year for 2021 – play

At the risk of stating the extreme obvious, 2020 was not an easy year for many of us.

As I was contemplating a word for 2021, nothing came to mind. Literally nothing.

I got busy tidying, decluttering and sorting papers as I do at the end of every year, and I found a printable from a course I did – one of those word cloud things.

A word jumped out at me – PLAYFUL.

And immediately I knew my word of the year was PLAY.

I’m not a naturally playful person and I feel that this word will help me not only have fun again but also be more playful in spirit. I considered having fun as my word again but I like to choose new words every year, at least for now.

Why play?

  • I love that it’s a verb which means I need to take action to make it happen.
  • I want to do some fun projects – I’ve already identified Superhero Photo, a course I did 9 years ago. I found all the emails the other day and they brought me such joy that I can’t wait to play along again. I’m an upholder so I will happily and successfully complete a project like this all on my own. And bonus – I get to play with my big camera again.
  • I also noticed that when I participate in Instagram challenges purely focussed on creativity and the actual photos instead of what the grid is supposed to look like or not, and your engagement levels, etc. (none of which I pay attention to but that inner critic is always reminding me of the shoulds), I’m so happy. I take pleasure in posting a picture of the day. If it ties in remotely to what’s happening in my life, I might write a sentence or two otherwise, just posting is so freeing.
  • I want to design and write a new workshop on personalities which definitely feels like play to me.
  • I’d also like everything to feel more like play than work – so to infuse a sense of play into things. How can I make this more playful? more fun? E.g. reading never feels like work but I do sometimes think, “hmm, I need to read a few more non-fiction books” and this year, I want everything to feel more playful.

So how am I going to keep this top of mind?

I make a folder on my computer every year called Marcia’s favourites. A few weeks ago I spent a few hours while listening to a book scrolling through about 5 years of my favourite photos. Some are favourites because the landscape or scenery is breathtaking. But many are favourites because of everyday delights, like the way the light reflected off something, or a beautiful flower or item found in an unexpected place, etc.

I then copied the photos that felt playful to me into a new folder called play, and I’ve made a collage which I printed and put in front of me on the wall in front of my desk to remind me daily of my word.

In previous years, I have had jewellery made like a ring or a necklace. Some of these items have been passed on, like the TRUST necklace that I passed onto a friend going through a divorce. I might still do this because I love wearing a reminder and it prompts conversation which is always nice.

I also recommend making an image with your word and saving it as your lock screen on your phone so you see it hundreds of times every day.

What is your word for 2021? How will you remind yourself of your word to keep it top of mind?

Can you believe this is year 13 of choosing a word?! Here is a full list of all my words over the years:

  • 2009 – simplify
  • 2010 – consolidate
  • 2011 – courage
  • 2012 – create
  • 2013 – trust
  • 2014 – shine
  • 2015 – enough
  • 2016 – joy
  • 2017 – give
  • 2018 – fun
  • 2019 – bold
  • 2020 – light
  • 2021 – play

{mindset} Back to working at the office

This post was first published on 18 November 2020 but I forgot to tell anyone that it was here so I’m republishing. South Africa has been moved back down to level 3 from 28 Dec 2020 as our Covid-19 numbers worsened dramatically with the second wave.

In South Africa we’re now on level 1 (we have been for a while) and some companies who were working from home are now returning to the office.

Mine is one of them. We are back two days a week which seems like a lovely easy way to return to the before way of life.

However, I’ve been amazed at how many decisions I have to make on the days I work at the office or in preparation for working at the office. Nothing is straightforward as it was before – I take my own water bottle, don’t drink tea or coffee there, and I take all my own food.

We are hotdesking so I also take my own sanitiser for my desk because, let’s face it, I never trust other people to clean things properly.

In an effort to minimise the number of things I have to carry around and therefore sanitise, I no longer use a separate laptop bag. I had a laptop replaced in July and the new one is smaller so I use a laptop sleeve, a pencil bag for my mouse, headphones and charger, and this all fits in my handbag. I therefore carry my handbag and another tote with lunch bag, water bottle and sanitiser. And, of course, a comfortable mask.

Pros of working at the office

  1. Aircon in summer
  2. I listen to an audiobook there and back (that’s about 3 hours of listening every week)
  3. My car gets a good run (I had the battery run flat about 6 times during lockdown because I live too close to where I shop and they told me 5 km of driving every week is not enough to keep a battery going)
  4. There is a lovely clear boundary for the end of my workday as we have to be out of the building by 5pm.

Cons of working at the office

  1. Anxiety about anyone coming near me (see trust issues above! Also, I’m an upholder and so many people don’t follow the rules)
  2. Much lower productivity at the office (this was never perfect pre-Covid but it’s exacerbated with all the handwashing, mask-wearing, and so on)

Settling into a good work from office routine was one of my goals for November because we also moved offices, so there are slightly new routes to figure out as well as all the Covid-19 safety protocols to navigate.

Are you back in the office yet? Have you found your groove? How long did it take you to settle in?

If you’re feeling ambivalent about going to work at the office, maybe make a pros and cons list or definitely save some treats just for the office (special coffees, biscuits, etc.)

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