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 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?

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.

Reuse and repurpose your items around the house

Many home stores sell goods by categories – kitchen, bathroom or bedroom – but you don’t have to use them in those same places if you decide another location in your home is a better use of the item.

E.g. this vase is actually a mug. My friend baked me a birthday cake that was decorated with these flowers. They were so gorgeous that I saved them…. for the tiny, guest bathroom. Because the vanity is small, I needed a small container, not the big vases I usually use. When I looked in my cupboard, this mug was perfect, right?

In one of her books, Make Room for What you Love, Melissa Michaels of The Inspired Room recommends using bowls and other household items for storage inside drawers and to organise your home. I immediately went to the kitchen because I have lots of little bowls and I found this little tray which, as you can see, is perfect for my bathroom counter for some daily-use items.

When did you last walk around your home and repurpose some items?

💚 Use little bowls in your bedroom or bathroom drawers

💚 Use mugs for pencils or makeup brushes.

💚 use little trays to hold your jewellery

You might as well delight daily in your pretty things rather than only delighting in them once or twice a year.

Let me know how you repurpose common household items, or just your pretty bowls.

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.

{Organising} 10-minute organising projects – nail polish

I like to think that one of my superpowers is using tiny bits of time efficiently.

I had to catch up on two training courses at work recently which involved watching some videos. The videos didn’t need me to take notes so I thought I’d organise my nail polish while watching.

I’d recently bought more nail polish (my first nail polish spree since lockdown!) so I had to declutter old ones (the one in, one out rule) and while doing that, I arranged them by brand and not by colour as I usually do.

While it’s nice to try new ways of organising, I quickly found that this didn’t work for me as my brain thinks, “oooh, I feel like wearing something pink” rather than “I want to wear the essence polish”.

I took them all out and arranged them in their shade categories…

see all the neutrals in the front left

a bit or order emerging (I also saw too many similar shades so I donated 3 bottles)

And done. I love having the boundary of this perspex container – it takes at most 18 – 19 bottles, depending on the shape. I use the round ceramic pot for my base and top coats.

This little project took less than 10 minutes, and that includes going to fetch the polish, the organising and returning them to my bedside table drawer.

If you struggle to think about what to do with small bits of time, make a list now of quick, 10-minute organising tasks:

  1. tidying a drawer is always a good one
  2. decluttering a pile of paper/ receipts from your wallet
  3. unsubscribing from sales emails

(my next little project will be sorting the kids’ reports and cards for their 2021 folders – yes, I haven’t bothered yet, probably because they all still fit in my slimline file box)

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?

{Organising} You’re not alone when you ask this organising question

There’s one question I get asked by clients, friends and readers more than any other question.

It’s a question that makes me empathise with them so much because I know exactly where they’re coming from.

Marcia, I want to get organised but it’s all so overwhelming.

Where do I start?

There are different ways to approach this question but before we even start with the practical aspects, you need to do this:

First of all, relax and take a deep breath. Then get your mind in the right space.

Realise that organising is a process and that you won’t have a totally organised home in one hour, despite what you see on television.

Remember the home makeover shows have many organisers and stylists behind the scenes making the space look beautiful. You only have you (or if you’re really blessed, a friend or family member to help you).

Now that we’ve got that part settled, let’s talk practical.

1. Start with the area of your home that bothers you the most.

This is usually a space that you see when you first walk into your home, or it’s a space that you use all the time. If you feel drained when you enter your living room, start there. If you can’t bear to choose clothes every morning because your wardrobe is too cluttered, then that’s probably a good place to start. The benefit of choosing this area is that when you feel overwhelmed by the rest of the house you can go to this one space, look at it and feel inspired.

2. Decide what you want to have happen in that space.

Do you only want clothes in your wardrobe, or do you want shoes and handbags in there too? If you’re not sure what you want, it’ll be easier to let your standards and boundaries slip and, before you know it, you have a disorganised space once again.

3. Declutter

You can’t organise clutter. Get rid of everything that shouldn’t be there. You may need to move some things to other rooms and some things may need to move right out of your house!

4. Organise what’s left according to your personality and style

Not everybody is a minimalist. Some of us need to surround ourselves with our treasures. It’s all okay.

Your system works as long as you can find what you’re looking for relatively quickly (within a minute).

5. Maintain

Last but not least, do a quick, 5-minute maintenance session in each major space every week so that your space remains organised.

So tell me, where do you think you should start?



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