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?

The habit of reading… and the Four Tendencies

This picture is apt as it was indeed a “change your life” book.

A very kind colleague told me recently that I always inspire her to try new things to make her life better.

This time, I’d told her that by doing almost nothing anyone can get through at least one non-fiction book a month. This is true… using just 20 minutes a day. We are all scrolling Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. for way more time than that – why not take just 20 mins, set your timer and read something to stimulate your brain?!

This is how I read 32 nonfiction titles last year and how I’m already at 27 nonfiction titles this year, all by doing “nothing”. I will surpass 32 books this year, and very easily.

My 20 minutes of reading nonfiction every morning started as @gretchenrubin’s #read21in2021 and is such a good fit for me that I will probably do this forever as I’ve now found a way to get through so many nonfiction titles.

VERY IMPORTANT – the rest of the day (cooking, driving, bedtime reading) is mostly fiction; I tend to read about 60-70% fiction.

Do you want to read more nonfiction? If yes, try the 20-minute timer and tell me how it works for you.

Upholders love the regular scheduling of this hack, Obligers like the accountability of having to check in so please come back and tell me how you’re doing, Obligers. Questioners who feel that they want to read more might want to try it at whichever time of day makes sense for them, and Rebels? If you want to break the IG algorithm and shake up the endless scroll, this hack may suit you. You decide 🙃

PS If you want to follow me on Goodreads and see what I’m reading, invite me to be your friend.

PPS this book was a 5-start book for me

{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

The week that was…weekly reflections 8

sunset leaving gym

Hello friends!

Do you know what this blog post means? I’ve been carving out time and writing for at least an hour and 15 minutes every single weekend for the last two months.

I’m so proud of myself!

It’s what I wanted when I started off this year and it’s helpful to know that after two weird years, I can still create a weekly writing habit and stick to it.

This week is also the week…

  • I walked out of a Zumba class after only 20 minutes (unprepared instructor and way-too-loud music) but I was rewarded with a gorgeous sunset (yes, that’s the one in the pic)
  • I attended a conference where I once again realised that all across our industry we are facing the same stuff but handling it in different ways. At that same virtual conference, I vowed that I will definitely not attend a virtual event again because, as an extrovert, I was exhausted.
  • I finished the book club book, Friends like these by Kimberly McCreight, which was not great. Too many unlikeable characters and way too many things going on. I also finished Everything happens for a reason by Kate Bowler, which was outstanding. Do give it a listen.
  • we visited a school for Kendra and were given a tour by an amazing young lady, a grade 10 learner, who taught me so much about optimism and resilience. Some kids really have an amazing mindset at such a young age.
  • that was full of hard things in the world – wars, deaths of too-young children, anniversaries of deaths – and I am thankful that I was able to rest and rejuvenate, and be out and about to counteract two days of staring at a screen with very minimal interaction.

How was your week? And, dare I ask, how was February?

Weekly reflections 1 and a writing practice

First sunset of the new year!

I really want to get back to enjoying writing and blogging like I used to, so hopefully in addition to “proper” posts, I will also get into the swing of some fun posts like this one.

  1. Happy New Year! We were away from home for New Year’s which was different but also surprisingly relaxing. I did exactly what I do on a normal evening, which is go to bed and read, and fall asleep when I’m tired. I looked at my watch and it was 10:30 🙂
  2. I had a stomach bug when I got back to Joburg that knocked me out for two days. Annoyingly, I kept saying for days afterwards, “it’s so nice to eat food and have it stay down” but it really is good when bodies work how they’re meant to.
  3. Our dance classes are not fully back yet so I had to cobble together a dance class yesterday. On the bright side, I have already booked my classes for the week ahead. Yay!
  4. The minute I was better, I had three long and lovely friend dates – a two-hour chat with a neighbour, a four-hour chat with a friend (we usually meet on her birthday but I was away so said, “I’m taking a rain check because our date is always a highlight during the end-of-year period” and another two and a half hour phone call with yet another friend. As an extrovert, it was glorious!
  5. Our kids are now 12.5. Some of you will remember me doing half birthday celebrations in the old days when they were small. Since there have been no parties for two years, we took them for cake as a half-birthday treat.
  6. I’ve spent some good time in the last week putting away 2021 and refreshing my desk and notebooks for 2022. What does this mean? Putting up new calendars, my “22 for 2022” list and my “rest 22 in 2022” tracker. I also looked through my old bullet journal to see if there were any lists I needed to transfer to my new bullet journal (there were!) and set up my 2022 diary.
  7. The kids are back to school this week and… they did their own sorting out of stationery. I love pretty stationery, of course, but checking 8 ballpoint pens off against a list is something they can do for themselves. I delegated, handed over the labels and wished them well. The only things we had to buy were glue sticks (always glue sticks!) and reams of paper. I can’t promise that I’ll be hands-off with the wrapping of the books in plastic covers but this part felt good.

How was your week?

How to use the one-minute rule at work

We’ve spoken before about the one-minute rule. We also talked about ways to use this rule at home.

What about at work?

Here’s how you can use the one-minute rule…

with your emails

  • if you’ve opened and read the email, and don’t need to refer back to it, delete it 🙂
  • if you need to delegate, forward it so that other people can work on it while you go through the rest of your inbox
  • decide there and then on your next action step and quickly type into the beginning of the subject line READ/ MEETING/ TALK TO ___ so that when you’re ready to work, you know exactly what to do next

in meetings

I like to write my meeting notes on the top 70 – 80% of the page and leave the bottom section for actions, OR sometimes there’s so much being said, I just write notes and later as we summarise, I allocate actions and I write the initials of the person in the margin. Now for the rule…

  • do your quick actions in one-minute bites immediately after a meeting
  • many actions are multi-step actions but you can always do the very first step even if that first step is just to allocate a block of time to work through the actions (“actions from XYZ meeting”)

with daily or weekly planning

  • if you’re a daily planner, start the next day’s to-do list page and keep it ready
  • as things pop up, add them to your list so you don’t have to keep it in your head or on random sticky notes in your notebook
  • the same principle works for weekly planning but since I don’t know if I need two more pages to close off the week or eight, I use a long post-it note for next week’s actions. When I’m then ready to make my actual weekly list, I have all my priorities in one place.

How do you already use the one-minute rule at work? Can you think of where you could use it?

How to use the one-minute rule at home

Have you heard about the one-minute rule? Even if you haven’t heard it referred to as such, I’m 100% sure you know of it.

What is the one-minute rule?

You take one minute to do something now rather than putting it on a list (mental or physical) to do later.

Why does the one-minute rule work?

It is quicker to take the time to do it now rather than in the long run because you have momentum.

Yes, it is sometimes annoying to take 60 extra seconds but I love thinking about my future self not doing something later 🙂

Let’s talk about some examples in your home:

Kitchen

  • Put food items away and wipe down the counter before having your meal
  • Take freezer items out when you think about your evening meal
  • After your shopping is packed away, take your reusable bags to your car or put next to the front door immediately. Don’t expect to remember them later – we all have friends with 27 bags in their kitchens that keep buying more when they’re at the grocery store.

Bathrooms

  • Spray down your basin and give it a quick clean with a sponge or those new-to-me cloths with microfibre on the one side and a scourer on the other.
  • While you’re at it, give your toilet a quick swish and swipe (a la Flylady)
  • Hang up your towels and put your laundry in the hamper immediately after showering rather than later

Lounge

  • Take a minute to straighten the cushions and put the remotes and coasters back in position rather than having to straighten up the following day.
  • Take all the mugs and glasses (and plates, if you allow eating in the lounge!) back to the kitchen.

Where do you use the one-minute rule at home currently? Can you think of some examples where this might work for you?

For this last quarter, do you need a reset?


I shared on Instagram that I applied for a new job and got it! It’s a promotion and I have both direct and indirect reports, and while I’m loving it, it’s a lot. Especially since I’m still doing my old job until I recruit suitable replacements.

I decided that this is a good a time as any for a reset.

As Gretchen Rubin often says, the Strategy of the Clean Slate is powerful so I’m using this time to rethink how I want to move forward at work. In financial services, we’ve all been working way too much since Covid hit last March and I honestly think this level of intense work is unsustainable.

  1. Do you need a reset in the way you work?
  2. Do you need to move more during the day?
  3. Do you need to eat better and stock up on healthy snacks?
  4. Do you need better work boundaries for yourself and others?

(all of these are a yes for me too)


What about a reset in other areas of your life?

  1. Do you need to catch up on some personal medical or other errands  – dentist, gynae, haircuts? 
  2. Does your home need a bit of a refresh? As much as I clean and organise throughout the year, there is nothing like spring to inspire me to organise little spaces and get a few tolerations sorted. Earlier today I emailed the carpet cleaner and I’ll be booking the window cleaners soon.
  3. Does your exercise routine need a shake up? It seems that mine gets shaken up every 6 months or so even though it is not intentional. My existing Zumba classes have been fully booked for the last couple of weeks no matter how early in the day I book. I’m not a fan of just pitching and “hoping for the best” as some have suggested. I’d rather intentionally book elsewhere and know I have a space – that suits my upholder self much better. So I decided to lean into it (less stress!) and have just booked elsewhere for now. And look at my gorgeous view while I drive to the new gym…

If you need a reset, and you need some help strategising, that’s my super power so contact me when you’re ready for your laser coaching session.

Otherwise, comment and tell me where and how you’re resetting in your life.

How to have healthy sleep

It’s no secret that I love my sleep.

I both enjoy sleep and I sleep well. Some of it is personality, I think, but I do think I have some very good sleep habits too.

Whenever I put up my sleep stats on Instagram, I always get so many direct messages from people who say things like, “oh that must be nice” and “how do you sleep so much?”.

Well, I sleep a lot because I’ve realised that when I’m tired I won’t be as productive as I will be when I’m rested. Because when I’m up after a good night’s sleep, I’m a machine 🙂

Sleep also has many other benefits like being good for your mental health, stress relief, immune system, heart, good for managing weight. In addition, and this is a big benefit, it’s good for your memory, and helps you focus and concentrate. I also heard Lisa Genova on a podcast say that deep sleep helps clear out brain waste which prevents Alzheimer’s.

Here are a few of my tips:

  1. Set a sleep goal. My goal is 7 hours 30 every night. I upgraded my Fitbit recently and while my Fitbit now gives me a sleep score, my sleep score is always better when I sleep more than 7h30.
  2. Sleep when you’re tired. Realise that when you’re tired, the very best thing you can do no matter how much work there is still to get done, is to actually sleep.
  3. Move your body. I sleep my best sleep on the days I have a good workout. It’s boring to say this but our mothers were onto something when they told us to go outside and play.
  4. Stop caffeine at lunch. This is not a problem for me, but I know many people who do not have good sleep habits when they have coffee after lunch. Dr Rangan Chatterjee, in his book, The 4 Pillar Plan, talks about how, at bedtime, about 25% of caffeine is still in our system. If you don’t sleep well, stop your coffee at 12 and see if it makes a difference.
  5. Avoid your phone before bed. Everyone gives me a hard time about this one but hey, if you want to sleep better, avoid your phone for a good 1 – 2 hours before bed. You can charge your phone at an outlet across the room. I charge mine next to my bed but it’s on the floor, face down, almost slipped under the bed. I also don’t look at Whatsapp after my phone goes dark (shortly after my work day ends). There is a downside to it but I’d rather have a few more messages in the morning than have restless or disrupted sleep.
  • How is your sleep on a scale of 1 – 10?
  • Do you have good sleep hygiene?
  • Do you spend time on your phone before bed?

If you want to work on these tips, all you have to do is start working on one at a time, track your sleep, and see how it is affected.

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