Habits

The KonMari Method – Can it work for businesses?

Over the past six months I have been increasingly suffering from a debilitating ailment – commonly known as “stuffocation!” Each time I enter our family home my stress sensors go into overdrive. Just looking around at the discarded and duplicated items we have amassed over the ten years we have lived in this house is enough to bring me out in hives and don’t get me started on what has been chucked into the loft over the past decade!

Taking the bull by the horns, armed with a positive attitude and a roll of black bags I started my de-cluttering mission. I exhaled a huge sigh of relief and felt so much better as I watched husband transport multiple black bags of once loved items to our local Emmaus Village and recycling centre. I am particularly proud of my wardrobe (the physical one) as I now only have clothes in there that I love and feel comfortable in. They may not be the most exciting to the outside eye but being able to make a quick and easy decision each day about what I am going to wear brings me so much satisfaction. Oh, the joy of breathing again without so much “stuff!”

To my surprise, I learned that what I was doing (thank-you Carrie) is described in the KonMari Method. For those of you (like me before my conversation with Carrie) who have never heard of Marie Kondo, she is an organising consultant and author, best known for her work “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and the recently released Netflix series – “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” There are six basic rules to her method of organising and de-cluttering:

  1. Commit yourself to tidying up 
  2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle
  3. Finish discarding first 
  4. Tidy by category, not by location 
  5. Follow the right order 
  6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy

It is not only in my personal life that I have felt the need to de-clutter but also within my working life. As Change Gear entered its sixth year (birthday celebrations to be reported on later in the year) Carrie and I decided to take a step back to objectively look at our business and reflect on what we want for 2019. Last year we had set ourselves the challenge of being Bigger, Bolder and Braver, which meant that we had tried lots of new things in promoting the Change Gear brand, but 2019 calls for something different! We were both starting to feel overwhelmed by the different roles we play within the business: from financial planning, driving business development, keeping all the administrative tasks up to date, legal compliance, as well as doing what we know and love best – designing and delivering learning events. And so, after much discussion, we came to the decision that this year is about focusing our priorities and goals, that less is definitely more and the drive is to keep things lean.

Can we learn from KonMari Method and overcome the suffocation we were starting to feel in our business? Too right we can!! With the help of a team of brilliant business consultants we are already starting to put into place many of the things Marie Kondo suggests, just with a strategic business focus.

  1. We are committed to tidying up!! We have set up new systems for streamlining much of the back-office jobs we do and have boosted our administrative support in acknowledgement that we can’t do everything!
  2. We’ve imagined how we want the Change Gear lifestyle to be: exciting, fulfilling, sustainable and creating a legacy for the people we work with through immersive and experiential learning
  3. We are discarding what we don’t need – we are letting go of processes that might have served us well in the past but have little use five years after our initial set up
  4. We are tackling the category that is Google Drive – this monster of a filing system, which has controlled us rather than us having control over it, is being tamed and soon we will be free of its tyranny!
  5. We are constantly questioning each other as to the order in which we do things. What needs to be done first? What comes next? Are we being thrown off track? Are we focusing on the right things? Will a particular activity get us to where we want to be?
  6. Does what we are doing spark joy? An overwhelming yes from us! It feels so good to have clear sight and vision and not be encumbered by all the clutter that was weighing us down. It’s still a work in progress but the future looks bright, exciting and joyful! 

Sometimes organisations and leaders get bogged down by the status quo, too often when asked the question “why do you do it like that?” the answer comes back “because that’s the way we’ve always done it!” Learning to step back, strip away the clutter that can get in our way allows us to embrace opportunities that were hidden by a whole heap of unimportant things. Personally, and professionally I am going to keep streamlining, so I get to spend time on the things that matter, rather than the accumulated “stuff” that I no longer have use for and which only seeks to hijack me in one way or another.

We’d love to know your thoughts on de-cluttering and organisation, maybe you have some handy hints that help you from feeling overwhelmed – perhaps you can be the new Marie Kondo.

I’m off to binge watch “Tidying Up with….” on Netflix, what else can I learn from the master of organisation?

MOVING ON UP: CHANGING THE BRAIN WITH EXERCISE

A few weeks ago, on my birthday, my husband knocked present giving out of the park and presented me with a top of the range activity tracker and watch, one that I had been coveting for some time. Let me put this present giving into perspective; he once gave me a wooden chopping block as a Christmas gift! So, you can imagine my delight when I received something that was actually on my wish list.

I’ve had an activity tracker for many years and have worn it sporadically. Sometimes when I have felt virtuous, I have worn it continuously, tracking: my steps, my pulse, calories burnt, water consumption etc. Other times it has languished on my bedside table as life got in the way and having to think about yet another piece of technology with all the information it imparts just felt impossible.

As my birthday this year was a “semi” large milestone and coupled with supporting my ageing parents as they have attended numerous hospital appointments over the past few months; I decided it was time to take a serious look at my health and fitness. As a lover of structure, I sat down and created an exercise plan, one that made use of all the wonderful features of my new activity tracker. I am delighted to report that after nearly a month of wearing it I am starting to feel the benefits. I’ve lost a little bit of weight, my skin is clearer, I have more energy, I sleep better but most surprisingly (to me anyway) my mood is brighter, and I feel generally less stressed, even though my to-do list is longer than ever.

Nothing has changed in my working or personal life. I’m incredibly busy with my work as usual – juggling many more projects and clients than I have ever done. So, what is making the difference to how I feel about life? As part of some research I am doing for the development of a Leadership Programme for a new client, I stumbled across a Ted Talk by Wendy Suzuki, titled “The brain changing benefits of exercise.” Now, you may be thinking, “nothing new here Karen, we’ve been told this all before by so-called health gurus.” The interesting thing about Wendy is that she is a Professor of Neuroscience and her research is showing exactly how the brain changes with regular exercise and activity.

I am not going to repeat in detail what she shares in her talk; I encourage you to log in to YouTube (

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and watch this inspiring and eloquent woman for yourself. But here is what I am taking away from her research into the impact of exercise and activity on the brain.

  • Decision making, focus and attention are all improved, even for the most difficult of tasks
  • The ability to form and retain long-term memories is increased
    Mood and energy levels are boosted as serotonin, dopamine, and neuro-adrenaline levels increase
  • The anatomy, physiology and function of the brain are changed, providing long-term health benefits
  • Brand new brain cells are created that can protect against neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline in ageing

The science behind the positive impact of exercise on brain function has made me realise that exercise/activity is something that I “need” to build into my day, but most importantly, I don’t have to become a gym bunny! A walk around the block or as Wendy says, some “power hoovering” are still activities that will boost and protect my brain way into the future.

I hope you watch Wendy’s talk and if you are up for it, do the exercise at the end. Have fun being “Wonder Woman Strong” – I know I did!

Keep moving and happy viewing!

 

SIMPLICITY OR ABUNDANCE – WHAT ARE YOU?

A few days ago I opened up some post from one of my besties to find a postcard of Harry & Meghan and on the back a note saying “This is SO you! In fact it is you!” Intrigued, I opened up a folded cut out article from the Sunday Times Style magazine written by Claudia Winkleman entitled “Can we talk about … THE BEACH”   “Oh no” I thought – another reference to my previous Claudia-esque dark hair and big fringe.  But I was wrong – this was about Claudia’s tendency to over-pack.  And mine!

I was at first encouraged – perhaps Claudia was worse than me – surely she had so many clothes (and ridiculously high heels) that her suitcases would be far more stuffed than mine – do celebs even have to worry about the 23KG (and that’s generous) allowance – and how much capacity does a Louis Vuitton actually have?

But as I read on the messages started to resonate far more than I wanted them to.  Particularly worrying given our up and coming trip to Porto was:

“You reassure yourself you won’t panic and suddenly throw in two black-tie dresses, a random leather jacket (absolutely not needed in Portugal in July) and some jewellery you’ve had since your gap year and always take with you and never, ever wear (I’m thinking oversized pink crystal bracelet or overly long turquoise necklace)”

Reading this was becoming very uncomfortable – in the part of my wardrobe sectioned off as “Portugal packing” were 2 cocktail dresses and a very “turquoise” necklace – had Claudia actually been in my house?   The article gets worse:

“high heels on holiday are suddenly important – but not the ones you have that won’t cope with the cobblestones in xxx (in my case Ferragudo) – you go onto topshop.com and search for wedges”

This was becoming a painful read – my friend was 100% right.  This was me.  I long to be a “lighter” packer – I have secret envy for those I see flaunting their tiny carry on cases – but alas I am not – My gym kit and toiletries alone wouldn’t fit in one of those tiny cases.  I can’t look when scales reveal the weight of my giant bag (and that’s just for a long weekend) and breathe a sigh of relief when it weighs in at 22.75KG.  (And secretly wish I’d packed another kaftan).

And so I am reminded of the wonderful “Gretchen Rubin’s” work again on making and breaking habits.  In her book “Better than Before” Gretchen gets us to think about our differences – she poses a number of questions to highlight aspects of our nature that are relevant to our habit formation.  One of which is “Am I a simplicity lover or an Abundance lover?” When I read the question I so wanted the answer to be “simplicity”.  But simplicity lovers are attracted by the idea of “less” (AKA miniature luggage containers).  Why is it then that simplicity is SO attractive to me – longing for my house to be de-cluttered of all the crap I’ve accumulated over the past two decades?  Yet I can’t let go of my 12-inch records and books I’ve had since school, not to mention cards and letters family and friends have sent me many moons ago.  My kitchen cupboards are stacked with gadgets I might need one day (I’ve not flambed one thing in my life but the blow torch remains).

So what do these differences or distinctions tell us about ourselves?  Well as Gretchen suggests they can form the basis of our habits (good and bad) and understanding what these differences are can help us make sense of them.  If we want to change a habit, then first we must know ourselves.  When we shape our habits to suit ourselves, we can find success, even if we failed before.  Gretchen says that habits are the invisible architecture of our everyday lives – and I think she is right – the trick is knowing whether it’s a positive habit or a negative one – I’d like to think that over-packing is pretty neutral – I get to travel with the confidence I am wardrobe-ready for every occasion even if I bring half of it back unworn!

And so lovely people, I wish you all happy packing wherever you are off to – rest assured if I meet you on my travels and you invite me to spend a day on your gin palace of a boat, or at a favourite Michelin starred restaurant or hanging out at a beach festival – I will have the perfect outfit for it – or will I?  The reality is I would probably feel I’d left the perfect outfit at home!

Yours truly,

The Abundance Lover!

 

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