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)

The notion of a ta-da list… and why you need one

I first heard the concept of a ta-da list from Gretchen Rubin many years ago and I loved it so much I embedded it into my work life immediately.

If you check my Instagram highlights on OrganisingQueen around work habits (280 weeks ago!), you’ll see that at the end of every week, I write a ta-da list, a goals for the week list and a to-do list for Monday (or Tuesday, if Monday’s a public holiday).

I might write more in detail about my work habits if anyone is interested – let me know!

For now, I want to talk about starting an annual ta-da list at this point in the year, and why that’s a clever thing to do.

I think it stemmed from how, at the end of the year, when I’ve read over 100 books, I feel like I need to work through the months to find my favourites for a list (this is entirely self-imposed, of course). Crazy! I can barely remember the characters from a book I’ve read two weeks ago, so how am I supposed to remember something I read in January.

Enter… the monthly reading favourites.

In 2023 I started, as part of my monthly reading wrap-up (this is a whole thing and brings me a great deal of joy), making a note of the books that were stand-out favourites to me that month.

This is harder than you may think because at this point in my reading life I know exactly what I like to read, and have averaged a rating of 4* or higher (out of 5) for the last 5 – 6 years.

At the end of 2023, it was so much easier to look at the list of 30 books (non-fiction and fiction) and quickly decide which were my favourite favourites. It’s also good to remember those books from January and February that I may have forgotten due to my own end-of-year obsession with recent favourites.

I’m now proposing that we all use this same concept for our ta-da lists.

A ta-da list is a list of the things that you got done or want to celebrate. Like “went to gym 8 times this month” or “got my mammogram done” or “made my eye appointment” or “finally decluttered all the papers in my desk drawer”. Get it?

If you set goals, you might set 10. And maybe you get 5 done. BUT what we don’t often factor in is that other things popped up and you attended to those things instead. 

On my own ta-da list… “sorted out ceiling in kids’ bathroom”. This was NOT on my goals or my house to-do list (way too boring!), but it looked like it was sagging and it needed to be sorted out. So it went on my ta-da list at the end of January. 

Sometimes the ta-da list isn’t “instagram worthy” – that ceiling certainly isn’t and neither is making an appointment to see the doctor to discuss blood results, but it is important and you and I deserve our gold stars for getting those things done. 

What will the monthly ta-da list accomplish?

  1. You will remember what you want to note down or celebrate. After all, you only have a month to remember and your phone photos and calendar will help you do just that.
  2. You won’t fall prey to recency bias at the end of the year where you only remember the last month or two. Top tip – usually it feels like the year was terrible if we evaluate at the end of the year because we are all tired and cranky amd most of our good habits have fallen by the wayside.
  3. Your motivation will increase throughout the year as you start building up your portfolio of positive evidence that you are a goal getter and are accomplishing good things.

Have you started your ta-da list yet? Where does it make the best sense to keep it – in your diary as I’m doing or a note in your phone?

My 3 top takeaways from quarter 1 of 2023… updated for quarter 2 too

Originally written in April 2023 and sent to my newsletter list, now updated in July 2023

If you look at my numbers, it appears things are going great. I just checked my spreadsheet and I’m on 11.84 out of 23 for my #23goalsin2023, which is 51%, and we’re only 3  months into the year.

That says two things to me: I am good at getting big things done early (this is true – I always weight my work so that I “eat the frogs” first) and the rest of the year is going to show only incremental change (also true as a lot of my goals are project goals which means a 1/12 increase monthly).

However, let me share some of my favourite insights from the first three months:

1. Leave what’s not working for you

  • I abandoned the tracking of Gretchen’s Go outside 23 in 2023 project (and then on a recent-to-me podcast, I heard another listener say she also considers time in her car travelling to places “outside” time) but I am certainly outside more than 161 minutes a week.
  • I have abandoned three books this year already (great for me!) and I have abandoned some self-imposed, ambitious work projects (on my actual job). That will have to wait for after 30 June 🙂

2. Habits are easy for me to maintain if I schedule them

  • As a true upholder, I’ve embraced the scheduling of good habits.
  • I faithfully book two gym classes a week and attend. My Spanish dance classes happen every Thursday without fail.
  • I book all the days I plan to be at the office. Our hybrid work situation is flexible so “be here any 3 days of the week” I plan the previous week and align my menu planning and gym visits to that schedule.
  • I also take about 30 minutes (I tell myself it’s 23 minutes though, for whimsy!) to do my planning for the week – update diary, book journal, bullet journal and line-a-day diary. This is all scheduled.

3. Some things will just take longer than you think

  • For my work programme, I have now finally embraced the “staying present” and “enjoying the journey” but I’ll tell you – it all takes way longer than I think it should. On the other hand, I do actually think the end-product is better!
  • My health metrics are taking longer to right themselves. I was very disappointed about a month ago when my iron levels had not miraculously fixed themselves (nor had my cholesterol) but a colleague told me that her iron levels took two years to fix. I’m hoping mine happens faster than that but still, apparently health metrics don’t all fix themselves in just a few months.

What were your big takeaways from quarter 1?

For my quarter 2 update, I …

  • am now at 65% of my 23 in 2023 goals (if you think that’s awfully specifc, it’s because I track it with formulae on an actual Excel spreadsheet)
  • I have fully completed my programme and finished well
  • I am on my actual treat holiday for finishing the programme (so glad I booked it as it dragged me through the last two months).
  • I have now finished reading 64 books for the year so I am on track for 100 in 2023
  • I am most behind with all my medical appointments and have to get my bloods drawn and schedule my appointments to see if there is any change. It still feels like a miracle to me that doctors know what’s happening with you just from your blood! (Yes, I am easily awed)

And what are your quarter 2 updates?

I still use a paper diary. Here’s the 2023 one.

I’ve written many, many times before about how it’s important to know what works for you in terms of planning.

My perfect diary is a weekly format, preferably some space for other notes too and enough space horizontally.

I’ve used the same type of diary as I’m using this year before – in 2018 and 2020. I like that I can zip up a pen or thin bullet journal inside and nothing falls out.

Let me show you more:

This is the monthly goals and planning page – goals, to-dos, birthdays and other important dates.
This is the monthly overview – I LOVE this page because there’s space for plenty of tracking – I track work from office days, exercise days as well as actual events.
This is the weekly view. I use the top section for events and the bottom for any specific daily to-dos. I write my weekly goals in the bottom left section (Priorities) and my weekend to-dos in the notes for the week section.

Here’s the key: I take some time every Sunday afternoon/ evening to update my diary for the week ahead so that this tool is truly useful and not just lovely to look at.

Do you use a paper or digital planner/ diary? When do you update it?

January 2023 goals and word wrap-up

I thought it would be fun to bring in a monthly goals review component to the blog in the hopes that something I say might inspire you to keep on, or shift something in you to spur you on.

Gretchen recommends putting a variety of goals on your list – some once-off items, some bigger items and some things that are more project-based that will last the whole year.

I wrote down my 23 goals late last year/ early this year and as at the end of January, I have now completed 1 – keep up with one month of Let’s Read the Gospels, a daily Bible podcast by Annie F Downs.

It was an easy goal to achieve – I simply subscribed to the podcast so it popped into my feed every day. I do have a habit of listening while I prepare supper/ get ready for the day (after my 20 minutes of non-fiction is done) and it was actually lovely to listen to her reading the gospels to me.

Fun fact – I have continued listening although I am looking for a full Bible podcast (maybe the New Testament to start). I tried out several that popped up in my podcast feed but they all felt too… boring.

What about my word, tend?

January has been all about setting up systems for me – systems for good work, systems for good health and systems for home and relationships.

I feel like the tending is not very sexy at the moment, but it is necessary so I can stay the long haul tending to everything I need to.

So far, so good.

And overall January goals?

I set 23 goals and ended up with 83,5% done. Overall, a really good month.

Tell me, how was January as far as goals and your word?

If you would like to have a 1:1 60-minute goals session, contact me for available times.

{Goals} So how am I doing with my own goals?

After last week’s post on how to do a half-year review, I have now finished my own half-year review. Let’s break this down with some concrete numbers and then move into the intangibles.

I set a certain number of goals every month and I track the progress at the end. According to my spreadsheet, I’m at 79% of my goals for the year – two months with 90-something, two months with 60-something and a month each with 70- and 80-something. That’s what resulted in the 79% average.

It feels accurate and like with life, some things go very well and others go very badly.

Things going very well:

  • My reading and fun stuff like photos. I have read so many fun and delightful books this year already and am above my target with 60 books to end June.
  • Sleep (I’m averaging 7:30 and a sleep score of 80) and exercise (in a good rhythm of 3 workouts per week – any more and other areas of my life fall over).
  • Work – I had a great performance discussion. This is especially nice since I’m in a new role.
  • Speaking of work, working at the office two days a week since March has been amazing for this extrovert. I am simply happier 🙂
  • Project Upgrade/ Fix. Things other than what I planned have jumped onto the list but the good things is since my project is top of mind, I’m attending to things quickly, even boring fixes like plumbing!
  • The kids seem to have settled well into Grade 7, both for academics, sports and friendships… just in time to go to high school next year 😉
  • We’ve had all the holidays we planned which is honestly surprising since I’m a) very fussy and b) disorganised this year.

Things going badly

  • #rest 22 in 2022 (I rate myself only at a 43% success because I only consciously rest 3 out of 7 days). As Sarah said on the BOBW podcast, I do rest very well by sleeping every night. I’m considering just…giving up!
  • Our laundry routine still needs lots of work. It feels like a small thing but it affects my weekends more than I’d like.
  • We have made 0% progress on renewing our passports or reapplying for the kids’ passports (we got about halfway just prior to 2020 lockdown).
  • I feel more anxious when out with the general public now that South Africa’s mask mandate has been removed.

What do I want for the second half of the year?

  • Better health
    1. I had two scary episodes of vertigo in the last three months; I was actually so sick at work one day it was awful.
    2. I’ve had full bloods done and I am nowhere near menopause yet but headaches, etc. I mean, honestly.
    3. I also have my mammogram scheduled for tomorrow and want to check one more thing with my doctor.
    4. I also need to keep my cholesterol in check; after two elevated reports, I went for proper blood tests and not only was the result good, but my LDL was low and my HDL was high. According to my goals list, I will check this quarterly.
    5. I also want to read/ follow a good menopause doctor – there are so many symptoms…. how do people know if it’s something else or a menopause symptom?
  • To make a good dent in my life admin – I need to upgrade my phone and I already have decision fatigue so I will put it off til I can’t anymore and then just decide 🙂
  • Get updated wills done

Now, I kind-of feel like I need to have a birthday party next month (also, my birthday’s on an actual Saturday this year!) but do I have the wherewithall to organise it?

So… how are you doing on your mid-year review? What has been working well for you? What do you need to change? What are you looking forward to?

{Goals} Here’s how you do your half-year review

I know I’m not the only one who is truly shocked that half the year has already elapsed.

If you don’t currently do a half-year review, I’d like to encourage you to at least think about how the first six months of 2022 have gone.

What went well? What worked?

You can think about both big things like relationships and small things like “I now do a Zumba class on a Wednesday evening instead of on a Tuesday, and that works really well for my schedule”

What didn’t go well? What’s not working?

Same story here. Maybe you tried to get a new job and didn’t get it? That’s possibly a bad example because I think any action is good as you’ve learned something from it.

Don’t dwell on the outcome but do acknowledge it.

What energised you?

Think about the things that brought you joy and gave you energy. Was it getting together with people? Was it the removal of the mask mandate? (fact- this gave me personally more anxiety but I heard from some friends that I’m an outlier) Was it hosting a party?

How is your word of the year working/ not working for you, and why?

Do you even remember the word you chose for 2022? If you do, great! Is that word still working for you? Why? How have you tried to live it during these last 6 months?

If your word is not working for you, for whatever the reason, consider this your big permission slip to change your word. Here’s how to choose a word of the year.

Are you doing any other annual projects? How are those going?

Maybe you’re doing a reading challenge? I’m doing Project Upgrade and trying journalling for the first time.

I hope that’s enough to prompt your thinking for now. I plan to write a newsletter later this week where I will share my half-year review. If you’re not on the list yet, here’s the link to sign up.

{Time} 3 things I do that help my productivity

I adored reading this blog post from Ramit Sethi. It’s one of my favourite blog posts of all time.

One of the main things that were insightful for me is that fundamentals are first, second is psychology and third are the details. Most people focus on the details when they actually need to start focussing on fundamentals.

Fundamentals are things like sleeping enough, psychology is being able to say no or set good boundaries, and the details are what type of notebook or app or calendaring system I use to plan my life.

In that post he actually says that we need to focus on those details only 10% of the time and I had an aha moment or two.

Because seeing the % split like that puts things in perspective, and also I’ve been subconsciously focussing on a lot of it already.

I thought it would be fun to share 1 thing in each of those areas that I do, and then you can share your things too.

Fundamentals

What I do: I sleep an average of 7 hrs 30 a night. You all know I diligently track my sleep because when I stop measuring, it all goes off track.

In this category we also have environment, soul care and exercise, in addition to managing your stress.

Psychology

What I do: I have very good boundaries and I know when to say yes and no.

Also in this category is knowing if you’re a time optimist or realist, and unplugging from social media when it starts being detrimental for you.

Those top two areas aren’t very exciting but they’re so very necessary.

Details

Well, you know I’m doing a hybrid this year of my bullet journal and my shining year planner. And then I added a gorgeous purple moleskine. My favourite pens are both Pentel energel and Pilot G2. Lately my absolute, super favourite pen is my metallic violet Pilot G2, which you have seen in almost all my instagram posts the last month or two 🙂

Over to you!

What do you think about the triad of productivity?

What are the things you do in each of those three areas? Very curious minds would love to know!

First published 21 Aug 2017

Project Upgrade – It all started with a facecloth (more about my latest project)

If you’ve hung around here for awhile, you know I love a project. I don’t know what it is but I think it’s that I like something with clearly-defined rules, and a very clear start and end date.

Aside from my annual goals (which I’ll review end of March as I checked at the beginning of the month, and nothing could be crossed off yet ;)), #rest22in2022, I am also doing what I call Project Upgrade this year.

Really, it’s Project Upgrade, Fix or Declutter. Let me explain.

I’m an under buyer with most things in life so I will use things until they’re completely done. I do declutter regularly as I am very partial to the one in, one out rule, but I very rarely upgrade things just because. And I’ve been thinking that I need to do that; I don’t have to be the only one to use up things.

It all started with a facecloth. I went to Cape Town on the 30 November last year and forgot my facecloth at home. The hotel provided me with the softest facecloth ever that is now my “travel facecloth”. After I’d used this facecloth for 3 days, my current one suddenly felt too rough and I started pondering.

If this exists in one area of my life, where else is it happening?

So I made a quick list and decided to adopt it as my house/ personal project for the year.

Declutter

These are for things need to go but I’m still hanging onto them. Why? (gym pants and gym t-shirts)

Fix

Some things really just need a quick google, a couple of phone calls and arranging a date for the service provider to come and do their magic. E.g. the pool cover that needs replacing, there are some chairs that I’ve wanted reupholstered, and so on. They’re all “fine” but “fine” is not delightful and they can all stand to delight me again.

Upgrade

I batch-cook almost every week but I only have one very big pot, one saucepan the same diameter and a medium pot. I’ve wanted another big pot for months. Why don’t I just go buy it?! I think because it feels like there are so many options and everything comes in sets and I don’t want a set. If you can recommend a good big pot, go ahead – I’m listening!

My plan is to tackle 2 – 3 of these little projects every month, seasonally where possible (pool and windows in autumn once the rains stop).

So far so good. January’s three projects were done successfully and this month, we’ve had an electrician out to sort out the plug points in the lounge, I’ve decluttered and bought nice new kitchen cloths and after visiting 2 – 3 shops, I finally found new gym shoes yesterday.

Of course, I fully expect to have to move things around and delete some because this house is 45 years old and things constantly need fixing or upgrading. But I definitely want to sort out all my personal upgrades.

What do you think? Would a project upgrade, fix or declutter work for you or your home?

How I’ll be setting goals in 2022

Before I tell you about the change, maybe I should tell you how I used to set goals.

I have a number of areas of my life and I’d set goals in each of these areas every month, e.g. family, friends, finances/ home, fun/ play, fitness & health, work, Organising Queen/ coaching, etc.

I think you’ve already worked out the reason I’d end up with at least 30 goals every month. Fine in a pre-pandemic world but it started feeling like it was a lot and I was adding extra pressure to my life.

For this year, that feels too much. It doesn’t feel as fun as it did a few years ago to set 36 goals a month and I LOVE GOALS.

I’m an upholder so I started asking clarifying questions, like what makes sense for me to do, and that’s when I arrived at my answer.

I decided to set goals with my word of the year (delight) and my work word (balance), and then another top two things on my mind for that month. For January, this was home (I mentioned before that we’ve had a few changes) and health (getting back to basics with eating and establishing my exercise routines).

With this pared-down version, I ended up with 20 goals for January and I will get to almost all of them.

I now feel more accomplished (we all need motivation) and inspired, and much more focussed!

A note on the mind map – I love starting any planning with a mind map because it gets me out of my head to just “free flow” and when I’m clear on how I want to move forward, if I want, I can then make a list. These days I just leave my mind map as my goals list.

How are you setting goals for 2022? Have you set goals for February yet?

If you feel like you want to aim for a little something, why don’t you consider using just one or two areas of your life to start.

PS I’m available for four tendencies coaching if you want to understand how to make your tendency work for you this year, both to reach your goals or just to improve your work or personal life. Contact me now.

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