Work habits and routines: monthly, weekly and daily

I shared some stories on my Instagram highlights many years ago (certainly, pre-pandemic) that still get comments and questions regularly. I’m not sure what to make of that – is it strange? is it helpful? – either way, I want to write it all down here too.

I have a few things I do as part of my work – some of these will not apply to everyone, but if it strikes a chord, do try them out and let me know how it goes with you.

Our performance discussions happen at the end of each financial year. I like having this set time to reflect and think about what’s working, what’s not, and where I need to change things. It is also fun/ scary because the budget resets to R0 so we have to start putting money on that income statement all over again.

At this time I also think about some broad goals I want to set for myself and my team for the year ahead. I hold these goals loosely because things sometimes change quickly.

However, from these goals and projects, I set monthly goals. I also do a review of the month that’s passed. Yes, exactly like I do in my personal life.

My work goals are much more out of my control than my personal goals are, because I’m largely dependent on my team. Still, they are there – I like to at least know which direction we’re steering in and where I need to put more effort.

Now for the parts that most of you will actually find more interesting 😉

Weekly rhythms

I firmly believe that a good week starts before the week actually begins.

That means I plan my week on a Friday afternoon.

  1. I look at the week that’s been and wind up any matters that need attention. This is not always possible as some things may need to move to the following week.
  2. I write a ta-da list. It is rare but it does sometimes happen that all that is on that list is “I survived”. Mostly I can think of a few things that went well.
  3. I add in focus time if I haven’t already done so.
  4. I check for upcoming meetings – do I have everything I need to run them? I might have to prompt people, put in prep time or complete a piece of work.
  5. I write my “goals for the week” list – these are things that must move along. The things I work on are not one to two step projects so are hardly things I can complete in a week, but I at least want to move things forward every week. Sometimes there’s a work event like a client lunch or workshop. I think about what I want to get out of these events and write a loose plan.
  6. Lastly, I write my to-do list for Monday (or Tuesday, if Monday is a public holiday or I’m on leave)

Daily

  1. I love the idea of using your actual calendar and rewriting it so that you feel with your body if there is actually space for all the things you want to get done. For example, if I have 7 hours of meetings, probably nothing else is going to get done, so I don’t even add anything.
  2. Some days, usually on my work-from-home days, I block out focus time in the morning and take meetings from 11 onwards. For these days, I write my “frogs” right at the top of my list. These are the top 3 tasks for that day.
  3. The bottom line is: I rewrite all my meetings in my notebook and if time allows, I write 3 things that need to get done.
  4. I almost never (I started saying never, and then I realised that on Friday, I had a splitting headache so didn’t do my full routine for Monday) end one day without having a to-do list written for the next day.

Do you do monthly, weekly and daily planning as part of your work habits? Share all your tips 🙂

(Next time we’ll talk about other habits which I am worse at than planning! For some reason, 4 years after lockdown, I still haven’t developed good in-office work habits)

Goals update – 24 in 2024 goals, and the secret list :)

I’m writing this goals update 3 months and 1 week into the year.

Summer – beautiful, but I have had more than enough of it.

A few disclaimers before I start the update:

  1. I have two lists this year, the main one and a few more fun, once-off items on a second list, simply because when I looked at the main list, it looked like a LOT of hard work and I didn’t want to feel burdened by a list.
  2. Therefore, when I talk about numbers done, I’ll refer to both of these.

Done

  1. Buy a new car
  2. Try a new stretch class
  3. Read Atomic Habits as a work book club (I have read it, we have met 4 out of the 6 allocated sessions and I got what I wanted from it).
  4. Listen to more music. I have listened to more music in one month than I did the entire year of 2023, so I’m calling it done.
  5. Watch more TV. Same. May I recommend Dance Life on Prime Video? I loved it! I love seeing people in their passion and hard work that goes into making that passion true excellence.

Abandoned

Do Happiness Project Revisited. Towards the end of February, I cancelled – nothing to do with the content but I was bone tired of chasing up on my playbook, nearly 3 months after ordering. The chasing up was worse than work and it was causing unhappiness instead of happiness. (nothing to do with Gretchen’s team; I am not sure why DHL decided to send it to our liquidated Post Office in South Africa – seriously, we have no post offices).

I was trying to take a photo of my favourite new summer pants; clearly I am bad at taking these pics but I still liked how I looked, so there you go

In progress

  1. Exercise going well but I have abandoned the stretch because I wasn’t getting enough cardio and that is very important to me for heart health.
  2. Reading – 30 books in
  3. 10 non-fiction physical books – I have finished 4 of the 10; 2 currently in progress.
  4. Play with photography again and post things that delight me – yes, going well! Also really looking forward to full autumn foliage, the most beautiful season.
  5. Write 24 in 2024
  6. Use up 24 beauty/ body/ bath products – this is going very well. Just this week I had a little relapse (I bought a set of body wash/ body lotions, realised only once I’d got home and opened it up so I kept one of each, and gave some to the kids and Precious). Bonus points for me for returning the other two boxes I’d also bought.
  7. Do many declutter challenges – I have now done 6 batches of 24 (you can see all of these on my Instagram highlights; I post the week’s stuff every weekend.

on my other list, I have to try a recipe every month. this is so easy because of Instagram. Also, StephCooksStuff 🙂

The other list

  1. Finish listening to last few CDs before decluttering them – done (the new car sped things up because I have no CD player so had to listen on Spotify)
  2. Make eye appointment – yay, I don’t need new specs. R10 000 saved!

And that’s it – very happy with my Q1 progress. On my main list, I am tracking at 33,3% for the year, which is ahead of  my budget. Good thing, because it looks slow hereon out unless I actually get around to planning my 50th, booking a weekend away or doing that no-spend month. Hmmmm.

How are you doing on your 24 in 2024 goals?

4 insights on stockpiling toiletries from The Year of Less

 

 

I read a book called The Year of Less by Cait Flanders in August 2018. I’ve just gone to read all my highlights on Goodreads (19 of them!) and now I think I need to re-read the book 😉

But that’s not what I came here to tell you about today.

When I originally read the book, I remember one piece very vividly, the section on stockpiling toiletries.

It completely changed how I think about things now.

Many people (I daresay, 98% of you reading this post) buy extra toiletries when they’re on sale. The sales captivate us all – 3 for the price of 2, the summer/ winter sale, and so on.

In the book, she asks us to consider how long specific items take to use up and how long you really need to keep spares.

Stockpiling is not great for at least 4 reasons:

1. it wastes money

if your money is held up in “stock”, it is not available as cash (remember Accounting in high school?). I prefer to have the cash rather than bottles of shampoo, conditioner or similar. Yes, I’m aware that the prices of things have increased (especially in South Africa due to loadshedding) but I would still rather have cash in the bank than two extra speedsticks in my bathroom vanity.

2. it is clutter 

This one is fairly obvious. Stuff you have and that you need to store because you’re not using is called clutter.

3. waste of product 

if you buy 3 products, they might go old before you can actually use them (this has happened to me once with speedstick deodorants)

4. most of the world lives about 5 minutes from a store

and now… there’s online delivery too. If you run out, I promise you it will be a 5-minute detour to get what you need and for most of us, you will know beforehand that you’re going to run out in a few days.

A personal example

I use Olay day moisturising liquid (with SPF!). One bottle lasts 6 months. Given that there are often sales, it used to be tempting to buy extra but I am no longer tempted. Why? I can tell that I’ll run out within a week or two both because of the weight of the bottle and the fact that I write the date on the bottle with a permanent marker when I start using a new bottle.

But also, it just makes no sense to buy 18 months’ worth of product on a buy 3 for the price of 2 sale. What if they change the formula or make a pretty new bottle or (I don’t think this will happen but…) I want to try something new but I’m stuck using the old stuff for 18 long months.

Upholders love self-imposed rules

  • I will  keep one spare speedstick deodorant in summer because the consequences are immediate if I run out (!)
  • I do buy the 3 for 2 shampoos because 1 bottle of the brand I use lasts me just under 2 months
  • Keeping a travel toiletry bag stocked is not stockpiling because it actually saves me so much time when I travel for work or pleasure. I’m on holiday now and I will have to replenish some items (on my list!) once I get back home.

In the 17 years of writing this blog, I have still not managed to convince people to stop stockpiling toilet paper. I personally don’t get this obsession as in my house, I “budget” on about 5 days per toilet roll per bathroom, so I know how long we can go before stocking up.

My goal is not to change your mind but I do want you to consciously know that:

  • that is actual money in your cupboards
  • money you can never recoup
  • and you’re probably going to take years to go through your backstock 🙂
  • also, you don’t need to take hotel toiletries with you (I only take bottles that I deem perfect in function or form, or if the fragrances are particularly compelling)

Tell me, where are you on the stockpiling spectrum? 

I didn’t want to go there but I will say that a certain very popular Netflix show and Instagram account has made it very appealing to have lots of backstock in clear perspex containers. Why?

Our bathroom renovation – what we would change and what we wouldn’t

A little bit of background:

  • In 2020 Dion and I were planning to go to the US for a holiday to celebrate a big anniversary. We all know what happened and there were no big travel holidays.
  • 2021 didn’t look much better both from a comfort to travel point of view and so I had the bright idea – instead of those savings languishing (!) in our savings account, waiting for better days, why don’t we spend it on something we can enjoy daily, like a new bathroom?
  • This was one of my more inspired ideas as that is exactly what we did. Another inspired idea was to have them do the main demo work while we were on (local) holidays and therefore not bothered by noise and dust (win-win). We did have a full week of people in the house once we returned.

What we would change:

Maybe next time (if there is a next time) we’ll stay away for two weeks because it was challenging for me to work and live in a house with a ton of people also working. On Teams: “hi client, please just ignore the drilling, there’s a bathroom renovation happening”.

I go back and forth on this, and we can still change it – the force of the shower is just pleasant, not super strong. That is a water-saving mechanism and is fine for most of the year but I will admit that in winter, I do sometimes think I need a bigger force shower with lots of hot water blazing down on me.

What we did change

We added more hooks and towel rails and moved the position of the rails within that first week. Compare the top picture to this one.

What we would not change:

  • Everything structural – I love having a big shower and no bath
  • I love our double basins
  • I love that we kept our wall for toilet privacy
  • I love our long wall of cupboards that hide our laundry baskets, cleaning materials and toiletries!

Here are some more pictures:

 

Have you ever had a renovation while you lived in the space?

Did it make you crazy or how did you handle it?

15-minute Easter weekend organising challenge – spruce up your workspace

I love seasons which is why I love a good quarterly rhythm.

I did a spruce up of my at-home workspace last weekend but you can do it this weekend seeing as there is a lot of extra time.

                                 DREAM method of organising any space

Here is my DREAM method of organising your workspace:

D – decide on your vision for the space. Are you back at office more? Do you need to take more things back to work? (I took my work calculator back this week; it might come back home as I find I do deep work at home)

R – remove everything from your desk and clean. I use Zoflora and a microfibre cloth so that it cleans and smells nice. This is the best part.

E – eliminate the clutter. Toss papers, throw away dry pens, remove things you no longer need, etc. This is the second best part. I keep my old work notebook on my desk for about a week or two of overflow, but then it goes in my cupboard.

A – arrange in a way that pleases you. Do you like a photo frame or plant on your desk? Do you always find yourself looking for something (highlighter, scrap paper, etc.)? Add it.

M – maintain. This is part of maintaining. I do a light version weekly, and a more decent version monthly when I do my goals review.

For my quarterly spruce-up, I changed my laptop bag to another one (I have several). This happened to coincide with a new work notebook so it all felt very fresh for me this week.

I then also changed my pencil bag to a smaller one – let’s see if that works for the whole quarter. I already feel, one week in, that I need to change the notebook at the end of this short month (the paper is just not doing it for me).

Did you take up the challenge? Gold star to you!

15-minute Fridays: organise your receipts

Ooh, hot topic alert here.

I don’t know why but whenever I talk about tossing your receipts, I get a lot of pushback.

Let’s think about why we keep receipts.

  1. I keep receipts until I can enter the expense on my spreadsheet. Yes, I can check my bank account and see I spent R354 at Clicks but I also want to know that R222 of that was my prescription and the rest was nail polish and chocolate (two different line items on my budget).
  2. I also keep receipts until I (or my family member) has fitted on the item of clothing. Once it fits and I/ they have worn it, I toss the receipt (if it’s been recorded on the spreadsheet). If not, I place the receipt together with the item in my errand bag to return.

In the picture above, I have worn the shoes but the bag strap is the wrong shade of green for the bag I wanted it for, so it will be returned. The bag strap plus the receipt is in my errand bag; hopefully I will return tomorrow.

For now, let’s clear receipts. You can toss these immediately:

  • anything older than a year (some retailers also only accept returns within three months – by the way, I have returned items outside of the date; politely smile and ask for a gift card instead of a refund)
  • any food retailer receipts
  • shoes and clothes you have worn

If there is something you need to return, grab a tote and add the item and your receipt, and put it next to your handbag or in your command centre.

How did you do? Is your wallet nice and clear? Are all the piles of receipts around your home in the bin?

15-minute Fridays: clean out your car

I really like a nice, clean car. I don’t care that it isn’t fancy but I do like things in their place.

I have some rules for myself which have stood me in good stead all these years, like:

  1. no eating in the car, except for non-messy fruits like apples and water
  2. when I do eat an apple, the core must leave the car when I do so that there are no lingering fruit smells

Now and again, though, I need to just sort out things that have landed and not left, so here is my version of the cleaning out the car.

All these pics are before pics but my car mostly does look like this. The boot is more cluttered than it usually is due to gym wear I leave in there because of the in-between season and some extra two-minute noodles I bought for the kids.


For all of us though, here are some guidelines:

  • throw away all trash – food, fruit cores/ peels, empty bottles, tissues, etc.
  • return kids’ items (caps, lunch boxes, bottles, socks, etc.) to the house
  • return things to where they need to go – if you have a water bottle from when you left it in the car, take it into your house, fill it with water so it’s ready for gym
  • pack your recycling bags back in the boot (trunk) of your car
  • you might need to do some vacuuming/ shake out the mats in the car

If you need the extra time, make this into two 15-minute tidying sessions.

What did you find in your car that surprised you?

A February recap of goals and letting things go

This month I thought I’d give you an update on my 23 goals in 2023 and talk about a project I am letting go.

#23goalsin2023

I think a good goals list has a mix of things you can do quickly, things that are a bit of a stretch and things that you need to continually do.

My 23 in 2023 list is exactly this and while I was only able to cross one thing off in January (7. Listen to one month of Let’s Read the Gospels podcast), I crossed off three in Feb and let one go.

This month’s wins

  1. I applied for and received my passport all in the same month. I’d heard that it takes 6 – 8 weeks but I received a text message 5 days later, which is beyond excellent.
  2. I have also now figured out a good laundry schedule (it is helped greatly when the sun shines!) and tested it for a whole extra month.
  3. I have also set up deep cleaning days and a schedule for what happens then. I booked an extra cleaning day! While it feels luxurious, I realised that I really like a clean house and I’d rather go without other things to have this extra help in place.  

Solar is not yet installed but I have followed-up; they have my application and I am on the waiting list. So exciting with us on stage 6 loadshedding.

What about that project I abandoned?

I had on my list to do #Gooutside23in2023 80% of the time.

Did you know that I hate being outside? The only time I like it is in winter, autumn when it’s cold, straight after it rains and when I’m at the beach. My body does not like the sun (heat headaches mentioned above) and mosquitoes love me. As I type this, I have mosquito welts all over my body from the days of heat we’ve been having.

So why would I put something like this on my list? Because I got caught up in New Year madness, that’s why.

I would love to be a person who likes being outdoors but I’m very much indoorsy.

However, I calculated that 3 days in office every week plus Zumba on Saturdays and church on Sundays equals 5 out of 7 days I get out of the house. 71% of the time will just have to do… and I’m no longer tracking it.

Do you need to abandon a project? Not that you need it, but here is your permission slip.

What were the month’s hits and misses for you in February?

15-minute Fridays: clean out your handbag

This is meant to be a quick but satisfying organising task.

I open my handbag and tip it all out on the bed.

  • I then go through each of my “mini” bags – make-up bag, wallet and “odds and ends” bag.
  • I replenish anything (e.g. Panado, tissues, hand cream, lip balm, etc.) and return items like my extra ponytail holder to their place (the “odds and ends” bag).
  • I toss receipts (I toss the credit card slip unless I need to keep it for an expense claim, and keep the actual receipt of what I spent).
  • I remove nail polish if I’ve changed colours. I return a lipstick to my bathroom if I only needed it with me for an evening update.

I do switch out my handbag often (weekly or even more frequently) so I’ll probably then repack the few things into a new colour bag for the week.

Tell me about all the fun things you found in your handbag.

15-minute Fridays: organising your to-do list

I want to try sharing really short, quick tips here. The idea is that they will be quick and easy inspiration for your weekend.

I typically break up my weekend to-do list into errands (out and about), house stuff and relax.

Under the house section, I have things that are always on there (laundry, menu plan, etc.) and then I add one or two quick things – like declutter my nail polish or tidy the storeroom. In my head, these things are about 15 minutes (if they’re not, don’t tell my brain because that’s how I trick myself to actually go do them)

For this weekend, grab a notebook or your phone’s notes app and walk around your house. That’s it.

Walk into each of the rooms and note what needs sorting out. As an example…

Bedroom – declutter sock drawer, tidy nail polish, clean gym shoes, declutter t-shirts.

When you’re done with your list, you’re done.

But…. if you do feel motivated, please pick the one thing that will feel most satisfying to have done, and do it.

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