Self-Awareness

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?

A CHANGE IS CERTAINLY AS GOOD AS A REST

Way back in June my husband surprised me with a gift of a flight to Rio for our 20thwedding anniversary; a generous, but slightly unusual present as it was a trip just for me. My oldest friend had moved to Brazil 3 years ago and I’d been itching to visit her, coupled with the fact that I desperately needed a break from work.  Despite banging the drum to others on self-care, taking time out and not working too hard, I was guilty of not practicing what I preached. I was my own worst enemy; working late nights and weekends was the norm rather than the exception and I was feeling worn down. Brazil (as exciting as it sounded) could have been Brighton – as long as there was a bed and no work, I’d got to the point that I wasn’t too fussed.

Of course, well known for my love of a travel book, I bought the Lonely Planet guide to Brazil which sat by my bedside as I had no time to read it – plus I was lucky enough to have the best tour guide in the world at my disposal when I arrived, so I honestly hadn’t given much thought to what I was about to experience (was desperately trying to ignore those warning me of the current political situation and danger in the favelas too).  I arrived in Rio late evening greeted by my friend, her husband, a garland and tropical plant pot with much excitement about my two weeks of downtime and was presented with a suggested itinerary I greedily lapped up.

Despite being on my knees with tiredness the adventure began on Day 1 – we had 72 hours in Rio before setting off for our first mini trip.  I experienced beach life in the amazing Ipanema and Copocabana beaches, a trip to the jockey club and a flutter on the horses, authentic Brazilian food and shopping at the beautiful town of Santa Teresa, visiting local street markets, sizzling samba in bars and city squares with the locals, jazz in the favelas – not to mention the obligatory visit to one of the ‘Wonders of the World’ – Rio’s most iconic Christ the Redeemer; an early start gave us an advantage over the hordes of tourists flocking to see the Big Man – and views from the top were certainly worth the trek.  A local told me that his arms are open wide ready to applaud the day when a Brazilian completes a full day of work (I can honestly say I get this now – with so much to do in this beautiful, diverse city I’m sure I’d feel the same if I lived here).

I seriously had a smile on my face for my first three days which didn’t disappear as we headed off to the airport to our next port of call, the incredible Foz do Iguacu.  We were lucky enough to stay at a hotel based in the National Park itself which meant we had the added advantage of being able to explore the park and the falls without the crowds.  I can honestly say I have never seen anything quite so spectacular – for those of you who haven’t been I’d certainly recommend trying to see the falls from both the Brazilian and the Argentinian sides – each offering its own unique panorama and feel.  And whatever you do, always go for the ‘wet’ rather than ‘dry’ boat trip option you are offered – but do wear waterproofs – my plastic poncho was absolutely pathetic compared to the full-on wetsuit and galoshes our boat man was wearing. No surprise he was the only one not looking like a drowned rat when we emerged from the fall force of the falls.  If Iguacu is not on your bucket list please don’t miss it.

After 3 full days of national parks in both Brazil and Argentina we headed back to Rio for a couple more days of galleries, beaches, sunsets, lunches and weather watching as storms were predicted and putting a question mark over our next adventure to the beautiful historic town on Paraty on the Costa Verde.  Being a terrible traveller, my friend was anxious about taking me on the 5-hour coach journey and arriving to 3 days of torrential rains but I was keen to go.  I wanted to see this place that she was raving about and knew it would be another diverse view of this country I was already beginning to get so fond of.  So 8 days into my trip I took my anti travel sickness pills and off we set for the bus station with clothes packed for all eventualities of weather.  I can’t even begin to share how glad I was we took the chance – for to have missed the wonders of Paraty would have been a terrible shame.  The ‘sturgeon’ worked a treat – not only did I not feel sick, I was also able to enjoy the stunning views along the coast line and couldn’t have felt happier as the sun began to shine and thankfully stayed with us our whole 3 days in this beautiful little part of Brazil.  Paraty was a little piece of heaven that will forever stay in my heart.  From cobbled streets to beautiful coves, rain forests, yoga classes in Portuguese and samba bands on the beach and in the square, Paraty packed a punch.  A special highlight was a private boat trip around the gorgeous islands where we visited deserted coves, hand-fed a rare species of monkey, swam amongst the turtles – and I even managed to conquer my fear of SUP boarding.

After sadly saying goodbye to a new favourite place in our world we headed back to Rio for my last few days in the city.  Keen not to miss anything we managed to visit the Instituto Moreira Salles with its incredible architecture offering views of Christ the Redeemer and a current enviable collection of African and Italian photographic exhibitions, then stroll through the beautiful botanic gardens with the biggest collection of cacti I’ve ever seen and visit a few more of Rio’s residential districts to lunch with the locals.  Of course I couldn’t come home without a visit to Sugarloaf Mountain – so on my penultimate day, with air temperatures on the street hitting 40 degrees we trekked up the mountain to pick up the cable car to get to the summit. It was certainly worth it for the breath-taking panoramic views it offered across the city – once again causing me to load the family WhatsApp with more enviable photos of my trip.

With one day left and a sense of not wanting to let my new found love leave me, my friend and I headed off to the Copacabana Palace Hotel where we had been invited for lunch by the Manager at our hotel in Iguacu National Park.  Over a lazy lunch I reflected on all of my adventures with my dear friend and had one final caiprinha before heading back to the apartment to pack my last few things in my suitcase.

So now as I sit at the airport waiting for my flight back home I can honestly say I have truly had the most magical of holidays in this incredible country and come home with a renewed energy and spirit ready for work and a desperate need to see my family (and my dog).  I have fallen in love with a country that wasn’t necessarily on my bucket list but now can’t wait to return to. In the words of my dear Mother – a change has certainly been as good as a rest.

I hope this little travelogue has whet your appetite for a visit to Brazil.  To find out more go www.visitbrazil.com

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!

 

A SEASON FOR CHANGE

With the long sunny days of Summer behind us, Autumn is often a season of change and new starts – school, university, jobs, careers, homes, lifestyles. In the UK, many women are choosing new beginnings by setting up their own businesses. It is reported that female entrepreneurs account for nearly 10% of the UK working population and having attended a number of networking events across the Summer, I have certainly seen how women are grabbing the hand of opportunity and carving out a new future for themselves.

We have the great pleasure of working with Bettina Siddiqi who owns BusyB Solutions. As a fellow business owner experiencing the ups and downs of running a company, I was curious to know more about why Bettina has made the move from corporate life to working for herself.

Karen:  If you had to sum up your business in a nutshell, what would you say you offer?

Bettina:  I offer Social Media Marketing with the aim of raising my clients’ profiles on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook; helping them to gain traction and increase business. I train people 1-2-1 to use LinkedIn, helping them to effectively use this superb marketing tool. LinkedIn is a great way to gain new business, retain existing customer relationships and re-establish contact with old clients. In collaboration with my extensive contacts of photographers and web designers, I can help my clients have a more visible presence across a range of social media platforms.

Karen: What led you to set up your business?

Bettina: Having worked in corporate Sales and Marketing for 15 years I was approached to undertake some freelance marketing work. When the contract ended I thought to myself, “if I can do this for one client I can offer this service to many others.” I also wanted the flexibility to spend time with my young children and be able to attend their school events such as Christmas shows and sports days.  Commuting into London took up much of my time and I felt I could be much more productive working from home. I like the variation my work gives me: from attending meetings, networking, delivering an exceptional service, to being able to focus on home life as well as getting the right amount of exercise –  worklife balance is incredibly important to me.

Karen: What did you do before you set up BusyB Solutions?

Bettina: I worked for a Records Management Company called Iron Mountain in their Sales and Marketing Department and helped to implement a CRM system and trained all the Sales and Marketing team in how to use it effectively.  I also worked in Law in a Marketing department, helping to organise events, CRM and campaigns.

Karen: What gave you the confidence to take the step of working for yourself?

Bettina: Having children gave me the confidence to start my business. It hasn’t always been easy as I’ve had to work hard at networking with potential clients and building the visibility of my business.  When the children were very little I only had 3 hours between nursery runs, but I managed to do lots in that short time – telemarketing, online marketing as well as attending network meetings.

Karen: Now you’ve made the change, how are you feeling about it?

Bettina: I feel great about it! I couldn’t have made a better decision; the joy of being with my family and being able to pick up my children from school is a wonderful feeling, as well as eating a lot healthier and getting that all-important exercise.

Karen: What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

Bettina: Time management – making sure I have enough time to get everything done (there are never enough hours in a day), getting the right clients and also regular, consistent clients. As a sole trader I get approached by many different people, so making sure I invest in the right type of business is important in how I will grow my business, whether that is finance, marketing, web design or IT support.  Another challenge is not having a team to work with; there is no-one to delegate tasks to as I did when I worked in the corporate world. I also miss the camaraderie that comes with working in a team.

Karen: Looking back is there anything you would have done differently on your journey?

Bettina: Yes – a few things. Most of the time I have been extra careful with my budget, although I did once overspend on a networking membership, which didn’t result in me winning any work. So, I would definitely re-think which networking meetings are worth attending,

Karen: What advice would you have for anyone setting up a new business?

Bettina: Always be careful about what you spend, especially on your marketing.  Find a group of people you can trust and maybe even collaborate with. Outsource things which are time-consuming such as Finance, IT and Social Media,  as there is always someone out there that can help.

Karen: What does success look like for you?

Bettina: To be content in what I am doing.  Seeking ways to expand my knowledge, skills and collaborative relationships and most importantly to always have a goal!

 

A very big thank you to Bettina for sharing her story with us.  You can find out more about Bettina offers at www.busy-bsolutions.com

And finally, if you are contemplating the move to working for yourself, be reassured that you are not alone, there is a wide and supportive community of female entrepreneurs who will warmly welcome you into their fold. If you would like to hear more about how we support aspiring female entrepreneurs, then please get in touch at hello@change-gear.com

 

SPOT THE DIFFERENCE – ARE YOU A NOVELTY LOVER OR DO YOU CRAVE FAMILIARITY?

It’s that time of year when you’ve returned from your Summer break that you’ve been waiting on for what seems like forever.  You’re home but wishing you were still chilling by the beach or visiting magical cities and places without a care in the world.  Crash, bang – you’re back into the throes of work, wishing you perhaps hadn’t over indulged to the extent you did (in my case eaten too many pastel de natas) and wondering how long it is until your next holiday and committing to be fit and trim before you don your beachwear again.

Sound familiar?  Well “familiar” is exactly what I want to talk about today.  Whilst lying on my sun-lounger on afore-mentioned beach I found myself pondering what it was that had me returning to the same part of the world for my Summer break over and over again.  I always considered myself to be someone who likes to travel and see new things and that holiday time for me was about exploring places I’d never seen, attempting new activities I hadn’t tried before and finding new and exciting places to eat, drink and sometimes dance.

I’m not saying that I’ve only ever been to the same holiday destination and nowhere else – I’ve been fortunate to have many great experiences in beautiful places both near and far, but I can’t help feeling more and more comfortable when I return to my special spot in Portugal that holds my heart and brings me back time and time.  I find myself arriving and almost immediately I relax.  The very thought that I don’t have to think about how to find the beach/decent restaurants/local shops feels fantastic.  As soon as I get to the resort I feel like I’ve come home and it feels good.  I don’t need to be a tourist here – I can truly wind down.  Seeing the same faces in restaurants and bars feels comforting. I’ve long since stopped wondering why the same people work in these places for many years – I just now accept they do and am grateful to see them.

And is it just my holiday bookings that this love of familiarity applies to.  I search deeper into my habits and behaviours and find that perhaps I do love familiarity.  I’ve been in my current home for almost 13 years, lived in the same area for over 20 and have been running businesses and working with many of our team for almost the same length of time.  I’ve sadly shopped in the same supermarket for about 25 years (and even had a local branch down on my “new address” criteria list when house hunting – as well as needing to be living near water of some description).  I listen to the same genres of music I’ve listened to since I was a teenager, always shop in the same department store, go to the same gym classes, pick the same colour when buying a new purse, buy the same underwear brand and the list goes on!

But what does this say about me?  Am I so dull or lacking creativity that I take the easy option? Does it say I’m risk averse or that newness scares me?  I don’t think so.  In fact in many areas of my life I’m probably the complete opposite.  What I love about my work is the fact I get to meet so many new and varied clients and don’t have to go to the same place and do the same job every day.  Some days I am coaching, some facilitating large scale events, or delivering a workshop or working in my office on a project or doing some business development – no day is the same and I love that.  The thought of going to the same office every day is awful.  I can also get restless if I am doing the same thing for too long and can lose patience with tasks that require repetition. Oh and I never wear the same shoes more than once in a week unless I’m on holiday or they are my trainers!  If push came to shove though I’d probably fall in the ‘familiarity” camp – even though I hate admitting that.

You may have read my last blog before my holiday about my packing habits where I deduced I was an abundance lover rather than a simplicity one. Once again Gretchen Rubin in “Better than Before” shares her thoughts on the distinctions we have such as:

  • Are you a lark or an owl? (Are you better in the morning or evening?)
  • Are you a sprinter or a marathoner? (Are you slow and steady or do you leave things to the last minute?)
  • Are you an under-buyer or an over-buyer? (Do you love or hate to shop?)
  • Are you a finisher or an opener? (do you get the job complete or do you just like to start new things?)
  • Do you take big steps or small steps? (Are you happy making big changes or prefer to stick with small ones?)

So knowing which category you are in can help you understand your habits and behaviours more – which in turn can help us to be more effective and indeed inform the choices that we make both in and out of work.

For me knowing that I am more of a lark than an owl means I try to do my most difficult work in the mornings (including any exercise otherwise I’d never do it!);  Being a sprinter I need to make sure I build in enough contingency in case last minute doesn’t work out as planned; Being an opener I need to work hard on making sure I get things finished and my “big step” mentality means I need to build in milestones to check and monitor my progress along the way.  (Being an abundance lover goes hand in hand with an over-buyer – so enough said there!).

And when choosing my next holiday destination I’ll either be returning to Portugal combining it with a city I’ve not been to before or a new location with an over-stuffed suitcase full of my familiar possessions.

Who said I was indecisive?

 

 

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