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)

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!

7 mantras to help you be happier at work

Would it surprise you to know I have many? I even have a little notebook on my home desk to write down my words of wisdom 😉

Here are some of my work mantras:

💛 You can do anything for 15 mins (works for any task you’ve been procrastinating!) – @the_flylady

💛 Delete emails with abandon – the “filler”, stuff you’re copied on that you don’t need and things you’ve responded to. I wonder if Microsoft Viva can tell me how many emails I delete in a day or week 🤷🏻‍♀️

💛 What is the most important thing to do right now? (Hint – it’s almost never the same thing other people want you to do)

💛 Do the right thing always. Your integrity will speak for itself.

💛 Stay present and in the moment (turn off WiFi on your phone for your deep work sessions; if you’re in a meeting, close Outlook, focus and pay attention). You will work faster and be way more productive (the joy of monotasking) and… people like to feel like they’re listened to.

💛 Outer order, inner calm. If you’re like 60% of the population and you’re feeling frazzled and overwhelmed, tidy your desk.

💛 Work is all about relationships. I ran a Four Tendencies session for work colleagues last night and I started by saying… “this session can help that work relationship you battle with”. Everyone laughed because it’s true.

What are some of your work mantras?

Spring clean your workspace with desk-clearing bingo

It’s September so it’s time to spring clean, at least in the Southern Hemisphere.

This is a fun way to sort out your desk in 24 miniscule steps.

(you could even save this image on your phone, and post to Instagram for accountability every day when you do a few of these items)

www.GretchenRubin.com

Does this sound like fun?

I do a couple of these items daily, like clearing any dishes, weekly, like emptying the bin and sweeping under the desk but it felt good to do a thorough sort and clean.

The week that was… weekly reflections 14

Happy Easter!

a corner of my garden
  • In South Africa, we have four four-day weeks in April and May due to Easter, Freedom Day and Workers Day. This year, those four weeks follow one another which means two things:
  1. long weekends!
  2. work is squished into four days instead of five!

(instead of 20 days to do the work, we now have 16!)

  • I already felt this pressure this week but reminded myself that my self-imposed to-do list (#upholder) doesn’t make sense in a 4-day week and some things would just have to wait for next week.
  • We have started loadshedding again which is never a problem if they keep to the scheduled times as we can then prepare. But with all the rains and cold, it is just not the best time. I always think of people who don’t have enough clothes or blankets and my heart breaks. If you’re local, throw a blanket or two, an old coat or jacket, scarf, cap into your car and be on the lookout for people who need extra warm clothes as you drive around your city.
  • Have you seen the footage of the KZN floods? Devastating to think about all those people who have lost their lives and houses.
  • We also had Parents Evening this week which was madness. Queues of parents wanting to speak to each teacher. Eventually we decided who we definitely wanted to see, saw those teachers and left without seeing the rest.
  • This week I finished Perfect Tunes by Emily Gould, Never tell a lie by Gail Schimmel, and God spare the girls by Kelsey McKinney. They were all solid 4* and higher books, but I think Never tell a lie will have the most universal appeal. What are you reading?

Hope you have a lovely week!

{Goals} 2022 word of the year update – Q1

This year I chose a main word, delight, and two supporting words – balance and rest.

I’ve spoken enough about rest – how it wasn’t working and how I’m doing a reset.

But for now, let’s talk about the other two words.

I chose balance so that I would not work all the hours of every day and that my life would look more balanced. As my coaching client said so beautifully last year, I can enjoy my work without being consumed by it.

I set some specific actions for myself every week and month, and I’ve been sticking to them (#upholder). The other key thing is that I’m tracking my time. And yes, I ended the quarter on target for my work hours goal – yay!

As for delight, it has been just the thing to get me searching for moments of happiness on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

I set goals every month and some of them have to answer the question, “what can I do this month to bring more delight into my life?

  1. If I feel lazy about going to take the picture, I remind myself, “delight!” and go do it.
  2. If someone invites me to have a quick coffee or tea at the office, even though my to-do list is always long, I remind myself, “delight” and say yes.
  3. If I have a choice between two books, I ask myself, “what will delight me more at this time?” and choose that one.

I listened to three delightful audiobooks this quarter too and can I just put forward the case that if you enjoyed a book the first time round, you are going to probably love it even more on audio if the narration is good. The three books are Mary Jane, Daisy Jones and the Six, and Rachel’s Holiday.

And that’s my word of the year update!

How has your word of the year been working for you? Do you need a reset on your word? Do you need ideas to keep your word top of mind?

The week that was…weekly reflections 13

  • I know this means exactly nothing to anyone else but I broke my 12-week writing streak. I only remembered on Wednesday when I saw my pre-written post publish. How is this possible? I think it’s because we went to in-person church and then to buy winter school clothes for the kids and that change shook up my routine.
  • Some other things happened this week too – I forgot about two appointments. Two! After the second one, I have now decided that I need to put “after work” appointments on a reminder in my phone. My whatsapp and Instagram goes dark when my time elapses so I get no notifications, and these both happened to be appointments made from a work calendar which turns off at 6.
  • Other than that, it’s definitely autumn in Johannesburg now. It gets dark earlier in the evenings (the photo above is from Wednesday before my Zumba class) and is much colder. I’d swopped around some of my winter/ summer clothes but I did the final bits on Friday evening and now I have all my winter scarves out.
  • Isn’t it fun when the odometer clicks over to lovely, round numbers? I arrived at Spanish on Thursday evening and my odometer clicked over to exactly 120 000 km. My car is 17 years old so that’s an excellent mileage.
  • I had two very fun social events this week. One was a late work lunch with a client. Outdoors, late so all the important things for the day were already done (yes to more 2:30 lunches) and completely relaxing. The second was a catch-up tea with a friend. We looked up at one point and it was dark… that’s how much we talked. It was very, very lovely.

How was your week? South Africans, are you keeping warm?

{Goals} 2022 Q1 resetting the rest challenge

I knew going in that #rest22in2022 was going to be the hardest challenge for me.

Still, I thought I had it figured out but I realised after two months that I needed to reset what rest looked like for me.

I also saw an Instagram post on 7 types of rest, bookmarked it and when I had time, did a thorough review of why “rest” wasn’t working for me:

what was working?

  • weekend rest, probably because there’s more time
  • I can always default to reading because that is a daily habit

what was not working?

  • my workdays are generally too busy and yes, of course, I can find 22 minutes during the day but I really don’t want to move my end time beyond 5:45 – 6pm
  • I didn’t have a clear plan for busy workdays

Next, I reviewed the 7 types of rest:

  1. physical
  2. mental
  3. sensory
  4. creative
  5. emotional
  6. social
  7. spiritual

I then realised that I have 3 types of days and that I should identify some methods of rest that would work for each type of day so I have options.

My 3 types of days are:

  1. workdays, from home
  2. workdays, from the office
  3. weekend days

For example, during workdays at the office my social rest could be spending time with real, live people. During workdays at home, I can have physical rest by sleeping in and mental rest by taking short breaks during the day. During weekends, I can tap into each of those 4 rests except mental is not likely to happen.

Now that I have a plan, I’m going to intentionally incorporate these practices into my daily life.

Tell me, how has the #rest22in2022 challenge been working for you? Are you feeling more rested? Are you struggling with rest like I was?

{Delight} Celebrate minor holidays and anything else too!

Last month was Valentine’s Day so I set the table with a red table runner, red placemats, white plates and candles.

I made a pasta bolognaise for something red, we drank pink lemonade and had heart-shaped salted caramel chocolates for dessert.

It was easy and simple, but it made me and my family happy.

Ireland

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day. I haven’t figured out exactly what to do but I think this is the plan: green tablecloth and white plates, cucumber salad, pasta with basil pesto, creme soda-flavoured milk (Steri Stumpie for the South Africans) and apple yogurt from Parmalat for dessert.

And of course, I always wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. This year I will also be listening to Rachel’s Holiday, a Marian Keyes novel, on audio! Too fun.

Not the same thing, but related. Last week we bid a colleague farewell. When I heard that nothing had been planned, I tossed some cake forks and plates into a tote bag and, once at work, quickly dashed out to get a cake and some savoury eats. It really was not much effort but made a huge impact on her. I also got to thinking – why don’t I just keep those plates at work with some disposable forks, so that I can always be prepared for a celebration?!

Pre-Covid, I used to keep birthday candles in my work drawer to quickly pop them in a cake and sing Happy Birthday to colleagues. I don’t think we do that any more (!!) but the sentiment remains.

Celebrating is fun, even when low-key and can still be delightful.

My word of the year is delight, and celebrating these fun days makes me so happy.

Do you celebrate minor holidays? Please share some of your traditions.

The week that was…weekly reflections 10

  • This week was physically exhausting for me. I attended a client seminar which lasted most of the day when you consider driving to places plus two days in the office plus two school tours.
  • However, unlike last week, I feel like I succeeded in the home/ office balance and this is due to a very simple change: I put no deep work on my list for the two office days. Why was that so ground-breaking? Because I had zero expectations of myself other than meetings and people popping in and so on. And it meant I ended up each day feeling quite okay about my lack of output. Instead I told myself that my purpose on those days are simply to be present and connect, and attend meetings.
  • We had a lovely cold day on Wednesday – proper winter cold. Scarf and jacket cold. I loved it and am now eagerly anticipating the onset of winter.
  • So many friends had birthdays this week and it was lovely to send and give gifts to them.
  • As far as reading is concerned, I am still on my Scribd “freeze” (6 weeks already!) but I’ll have to join this week because our book club read must be read next weekend. This week I read A painted house by John Grisham and Hidden by Catherine McKenzie. Both were so good and I do recommend them.

What are you reading, wearing, watching?

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