{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.)

{goals} As the sun sets on 2020…

I hope you’ve made some time to think about 2020…

  • what went well
  • what didn’t go well
  • what you learned about yourself and others
  • what you’re proud of
  • what you’re grateful for

I’ve updated my annual Let’s Do This workbook and it’s ready and waiting for you to download for free here. Every year I consider not doing my reflection because I’m a “move forward and focus on the next goal” type of person, and every year when I finish, I again realise what a valuable exercise it is, and how it helps me to gain closure for the year.

I want that for you too.

Once you’ve done, it’ll be time to look forward to 2021. That’s also covered in the workbook, but I like to do it in two sessions – past and future.

We’ll talk more about 2021 next year, but for this week, download the Let’s Do This workbook and do the 2020 reflection exercises.

If you’re a new subscriber, there are more free printables available immediately when you sign up. Enjoy!

PS the picture is a winter sunset taken this year from my study at home one very ordinary day when I glanced up from my work

{goals} What do you need during this pandemic festive season?

This week, more than ever, I’d like to talk about the three Rs that are so important for this time of year.

1. Rest – to recover physical strength

  • Let’s face it – everyone is tired. It’s been a looooong year and most of our reserves are depleted.
  • Whether you take actual leave over December or not, I’d like to encourage you to build in some time every weekend to do something truly restful for your body to replenish your physical reserves. Prioritise sleep; if you feel tired, go have a nap on the couch. There’s nothing nicer than going to lay on the couch with a book and nodding off to wake an hour later, refreshed. Eat proper food (fruits and vegetables), drink enough water and get outside in nature (literally, go outside and stand there for 5 minutes to breathe).

Relax – to make less tense or anxious

  • Relax speaks to our mental or emotional states whereas rest above speaks to our physical states. This time of year is always stressful as everyone wants to get all their work done so tempers are frayed, people are impatient and good manners go out the window. I’ve been saying to myself “oh, it’s just covid” when I see behaviour that I know is not usual for work colleagues because I know I’ve not been my absolute best, sparkling self. Do you know that the Organising Queen herself double-booked two socials for the same time this weekend? I have no words but my friend was gracious to me!
  • Write down a few sentences that will help you relax about what you can and can’t control. I did this very thing the other day. I wrote down what God has called me to do (to do excellent work with the utmost of care, take good care of my clients, be courteous and professional and do my work as for Him) and I glance over at my bullet journal daily to remind myself that I’m not here to stress about anything because I’m just trying to get through a pandemic.
  • If you’re feeling anxious about Christmas, read this post – it’s your permission to do things your way, or not at all. One of my favourite Christmases ever was one where I said to Dion, “I don’t feel like doing anything so let’s just you and I do our own thing at home”. This was pre-kids and we ended up going to visit an uncle but it was still super low-key and wonderful! I really don’t even mind not seeing family this Christmas (I honestly think it will be safer all round!) but I know not everyone feels the same. Give yourself grace to feel what you need and do whatever is right for you.

3. Review – to make an assessment with the intention of making a change if necessary

  • You and I both know that you can make a change any time you feel like it. The questioners know this better than anyone else 🙂 We also know that the start of a new year is always an excellent time to change things that are no longer working for you.
  • There’s a step before making change though, and that is reviewing what’s working and what’s not. As you go about your days during the remainder of this month, I’d like to encourage you to keep the Let’s Do This workbook or your bullet journal handy. Every time you notice something, jot that down. What’s really working? What’s not working? Did you just have an insight? Write it down. What do you need to let go of? What’s bugging you that you need to change? And so on.
  • You’re being a detective in your own life, gathering evidence so that you can solve the mystery of being more intentional next year, at least in areas you can control 🙂

** I started off with 10 and I have 6 X 60-minute laser coaching slots at $50 each then they go up to their usual price of $60/ hour. I’d love you to book one of those sessions for us to talk about your life, do your review and set you up, ready for 2021. Email me! This is especially useful for the Obligers out there – accountability is the secret tool of your success.

Over to you – which of these three Rs is currently speaking to you most? Obey the nudge and take some action.


{time} How to apply the one-minute rule

It’s so interesting to see time management principles start to “click” for my 11-year-old twins. Of course, I’ve been talking like this for years and years, but as with all children, they employ the principle of selective hearing, so they choose what they want to hear.

One of the principles I’ve been using and talking about a lot during the (now) nearly 8 months of lockdown is the one-minute rule.

It’s quite simple – if something will take you a minute or less time, do it there and then instead of holding it over til later.

In the kitchen…pack things away, spray down and wipe the counter tops, unpack groceries immediately instead of coming back to it later

When you get home from school, unpack your bag and put your lunchbox and water bottle in the kitchen when you arrive.

If you have to sign something for school or respond to an RSVP, if it’s something you can quickly answer, do it there and then in one minute instead of having to look for the email/ text/ whatsapp later, and then respond. Here’s the one-minute rule for emails at work.

When you go upstairs with something, walk 5 steps further to put it away in your bedroom instead of dumping it in the pyjama lounge. This one ties in nicely with “don’t put it down; put it away“.

You might wonder if all these minutes adding up could not be done at another time. Of course they could assuming your motivation levels are high.

That’s the trick. Usually when the task first occurs to us, we are already in motion and it will be no trouble at all to do one extra minute. When we postpone the action, our motivation and energy levels may very well have flagged. This is definitely the case for one of my twins who needs a reminder that one minute now is like five minutes later.

Where are you currently using the one-minute rule in your life?

{goals} It’s time to reflect and reset for 2021

In November 2018 I tried a new thing. I wanted to create a habit of writing every day and I thought I’d kick off my end-of-year reflections as part of that writing project. It worked really, really well. In just 15 minutes a day, I did my entire reflection of the year.

The best part of it all was that it was well before my usual time for reflection, the week after Christmas. This meant that I was calm, peaceful and in the right frame of mind to enjoy my holidays and look forward to the new year.

I loved that so much I repeated it last year with similar success.

I’m doing the same thing this year with my 2020 reflection. I’m also offering a bunch of people the same process via 1:1 coaching sessions and I would love you to join me for one of those sessions.

During our time together, we’re going to reflect on the year that’s (nearly) passed, get real about our season of life, explore our values and core desired feelings, and then when we’re connected to our purpose, we’re going to set some very loose goals for the next 3 months. I’m also going to teach you exactly what to do when you face obstacles (like Covid did with all of us this year) and how to still set yourself up for success.

Here are the details:

  • $60/ R800 for a 75-minute session
  • Decide if you prefer a weekday or weekend session and email me.
  • I’ll send you all available session times for a week or two, a Paypal invoice, Gmail invitation and the handbook.
  • You’ll send me your prep at least a day beforehand (so I can prepare) and we’ll meet to discuss and have an amazing session.

If you start your reflection early, you can relax and enjoy your Christmas/ New Year celebrations, knowing that you’re already set for 2021. This is the part I’m most looking forward to – the having it done and being able to relax and enjoy the festive season, no matter what that looks like.

My goal for this time together is that each person leaves our session with gratitude, clarity and hope for the year ahead.

Email me and I’ll book your place.

PS don’t forget to book your 75-minute 1:1 coaching session with me for only $60. I’ll send you a handbook, give you some prep to complete beforehand and we’ll talk through each of the sessions as they apply during your session.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What might you put on your list?

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

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

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

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

reading

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

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

{goals} 2020: let’s talk about the last quarter

This year’s felt like the newborn stage for me – in parts it’s flown and yet I have many times had to take it day by day to stay sane.

I see many sentiments like “let this year just end” and “can we please just get on with next year?”, and I get that. We all want to escape a year absolutely none of us expected and move on with our lives.

A lot of us are also exhausted from working too hard, or worrying too much, or having too many bills and not enough money, or a combination of all of the above.

So I think it’s time that I had a reframe. I’d love if you’d join me too. I’ll share one thought for each question to give you an idea. Write out the prompts in longhand, use the notes app in your phone or maybe talk it through with a friend.

  1. What do I want for this last quarter of the year?

I want to continue with my reading streak (I reached my goal on the weekend), I want to eat better again so I can get to a certain number (nowhere near my actual physical goal, just a mental goal) and I want to start slowly integrating back into the “new normal” of getting out and about.

2. Is there anything I want to start doing?

I had these two things on my original 20 in 2020 list and I can do them so I should. I have started just one session of Emily P Freeman’s Discern and Decide course (it was a pre-order bonus when her book, The Next Right Thing, released last year) and I want to finish that. I also want to read The Path Between Us, an enneagram book on relationships by Suzanne Stabile, that I also bought last year.

3. How do I want to feel at the end of the year?

Like I survived this period with grace, determination and my sanity intact. If my relationships are as good as they were or better, I’ll consider that a bonus.

4. Are there any projects I’ve started that I can finish well?

Yes, I want to run two sessions of a new workshop I’m yet to name but will help us all end this year well (whatever well looks like for you) and prepare for next year. It’s going to be the equivalent of a large part of my end-of-the-year coaching sessions but so much cheaper.

5. Is there anything I need to finalise or end for my own emotional and mental comfort?

Well, had I written this blog last week, I’d have talked about ballet. I did it though – I’ve been dithering and yet I knew I was not comfortable going back anytime soon (in fact this revelation came to me while doing session 1 of Discern and Decide). So I wrote the owner an email last week and formally resigned. I can always go back but at least she’s not left wondering about me.

Bonus – if it feels right for you and you want to make a list of 3 for the next three months, go ahead. I wrote more about quarterly goals here.

And remember, it can be as small as drinking 2 L of water a day or reading for just 20 minutes a day. It doesn’t have to be “write a book” 🙂

Who of you are joining me for the workshop on 21 November? Book your place now. It’ll be $29/ R450 but there’s be a discount for the early birds until 7 November!

If you prefer to work through these things privately in a 1:1 session, I’m offering the same content in a 75-minute coaching session for just $50. This will be for a limited time only until mid-December.

PS this is post number 2000 on this blog! Wow! 😮

{organising} for spring according to your personality

It’s spring in Johannesburg and many of us like to do some spring cleaning. I like to do cleaning throughout the year otherwise the thought of all that deep cleaning will probably drive me deep into a book never to emerge.

I do love organising though and there’s a bit of cleaning involved there.

But whether you prefer cleaning or organising, there’s a way to approach it to suit your Tendency.

Let’s go through the Four Tendencies. If you’re not sure of your Tendency, take the quiz here.

Upholder

Think about your home. What do you want to do and why? Make a list of the things that you feel like tackling over the next month, keep it visible, schedule a couple of tasks into your diary/ calendar (actually, block out the time in your weekly schedule) and attack your list as planned.

Obliger

Which areas are important for your family to function well? If you’re not sure, ask them. Then announce your plans to them and to a friend who will hold you accountable. Block out the time and go for it. Bonus tip – follow a few cleaning accounts on Instagram (@jottiesjournal and @lynsey_queenofclean) for inspiration but remember that watching Instagram stories will not get your own house organised.

Questioner

First figure out why you want to do what you want. If you want to declutter spaces, first ask yourself why a space matters to you and what is important to you about that space. Once you get really clear on your why, you’ll be able to start and stay the course. Questioners get demotivated when they can’t see the point of doing something.

Rebel

If it’s important to you to have a clean and/ or organised home, then go for it in your own way. Do not follow any of the plans you see on Instagram or Pinterest. Definitely don’t sign up for one of those monthly challenges with a different section every month, or if you do, jump around and do as you feel like you want. Perhaps have a cleaning caddy handy and, as the mood strikes, clean or organise whatever you feel like doing, in your own way.

I would love to know what your Tendency is and if this helped you in getting your head into spring cleaning/ organising gear.

I also offer 1:1 Four Tendencies coaching sessions where we talk about your Tendency and more importantly figure out how to harness it to address any challenges you currently experience in your home, personal or work life. $60 for a one-hour session. Book your session now.

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