Shaff Prabatani, is the cofounder of Sharing Economy website Storemates.co.uk, a former Children’s Services manager, anti-poverty campaigner, trainer and film maker.
It’s that time of year again when we vow to quit the carbs, get an exciting new job, take up kite surfing and start actually saving towards that new kitchen/car/dream holiday. Let’s face it, the ritual of penning predictable resolutions like these are exhausting enough just to write down, let alone follow through. In fact according to research by the University of Scranton only 8% of us manage to achieve even some of our New Year’s Resolutions. No wonder January becomes such a depressing start to the year. It’s cold, dark and then we fail at any hope of self-improvement – while that expensive, unused gym membership gnaws away at our household budget as well as our conscience.
But it doesn’t have to be that way! There is another approach you can take. Here is my quirky personal offering.
These fun alternative New Year’s Resolutions are easy to follow, don’t involve any exertion, will bring you happiness, prosperity a bit of adventure and a greater closeness to the people important to you. And if they don’t, then there is always chocolate and Netflix to see you through the year… 😉
In no particular order…
1. Purge your Facebook friends by using the rule of Love, Like or Lose.
Many of us have now succumbed to the ‘Zuckerberg Cult’ for nearly a decade now. When was the last time you browsed through all those so called ‘friends’ you’ve accumulated through years? My FB friends include waiters from holidays, ex-lovers of ex-friends, old colleagues, distant aunties I have never met and people I honestly accepted as a ‘friend’ just not to offend them, even though I can’t remember who they are.
According to a recent poll of 3,000 people, most Britons only have three true friends and a max of 22 people in their life they consider important, and this includes close family members. As life rolls on we naturally drift apart and weaken ties with many friends ‘for a reason or a season’. So why on earth do we allow everyone we have ever spoken to in our lives to tell us every day on Facebook what they had for dinner or whether that have had a new tattoo.
It sounds brutal but here’s what you do…. Firstly go through all your ‘friends’ and sort them out via 3 columns titled ‘Love’, ‘Like’ or ‘Lose.’
The people you ‘love’ should be obvious to you: close family, your besties, those you need, that enrich your life regardless of Facebook. Simple. Then list under ‘Like’ your mates, people that you have an existing meaningful offline relationship with, that in their own way give you something back.
The rest you just ‘Lose’. Having said that you’ll find it’s not that easy to just ‘pull the level’ on many old friends you don’t want to give up on just yet, just in case… OK, so then make a list of not more than 10 ‘’like/lose maybes and arrange to meet up, in the real world. Just message them, assign one to each month in the year and go for a coffee or arrange a Skype call if they’re abroad. See if you can communicate with more than just emoticons or a thumbs up. If the idea of seeing them excites you then they will probably secure an inner ‘like’ position on your new hit list, if the idea is just too ..nahh.. Than yes lose them. You should now have a more manageable lovingly curated quality friendship list of less than third of your original list plus some exciting ‘coffee dates’ to look forward to.
Let’s see if you can now keep up with your new inner circle!
2. Call your Mum on the landline
Most parents, however old you are, appreciate a bit of focussed catch up time with their offspring even if it’s about the mundane. You may not see eye to eye on all matters. (Yes and that EU referendum really helped heal our generational differences!) Or you may easily switch back into old dynamics “Mum.. Grunt… it’s my life right…” But if you’re lucky enough to have them still around, the odds are the more you are able to call them the better your relationship will be.
I’ve always lead a busy life, so when my folks called, my first response used to be “So what’s up..?” (i.e. why are calling me at work/during kids bedtime/during my dinner party/when I’m decorating/watching Oranges is the New Black..) It always felt inconvenient and they could sense it as I multi-tasked my phone calls while trying to change a lightbulb. The fact is they’re not going to be around forever, they love you, are prone to loneliness, want to feel connected to your life even if it’s through updates about what’s in your flower box. Plus, they did invest a big chunk of their life in getting you to where you are.
So give yourself 20 mins a week when you call them and do nothing else, don’t even try and stack the dishwasher. Use your landline if you have one, it will help you keep stationary and will bring back some nostalgia. Be curious about their lives, help then to reframe some of their negatives into positives “Yes Dad, but I’m sure all this rain will be great for the garden…” Tell them about the funny side of your life, laugh with them and generally show them you care simply through investing this time. This will bring joy to both your lives for very little return and soon you will feel more connected, loved and more positive about your relationship. Also works with close Aunts and Uncles if your parents are no longer around.
3. Reduce yours, and your kids screen time.
Ever feel frazzled by your iPad?
The average British household now has 7.4 internet devices (according to YouGov) plus we check our smart phones about 85 times a day according to a study by Nottingham Trent University. We now spend on average of over half of our waking life staring at a screen at work, at home, or on the go. We’re addicted to smart technology.
Without going into all the concerning science about radiation and electro-fields, just ask yourself how you feel when you go to bed and try and switch off. My brain feels fried, it’s hard to turn off, my posture feels cramped, my eyes insanely dry and the beeping through the night of endless notifications penetrates my slumber and activates my sense of urgency. My kids too get agitated and overstimulated and after a while get grumpy beyond belief.
So why not resolve to just switch your device off an hour before your bedtime every day. Keep all your devices outside your bedroom, get an old fashioned alarm clock for your bedside and read before you go to bed. Within a week you will feel refreshed from better sleep, clarity of mind and thought. Who knows, if you share a bed you may even find time for a chat – or even a bit of intimacy, definitely good for sleep and wellbeing 😉
If you have already purged your Facebook of friends then you’ll have less status updates to read too. If you can push this further why not try and salvage another cheeky hour during the day when you’re not plugged in and perhaps go for a little walk in the no-virtual reality place called the ‘outdoors.’
Kids too benefit from less screen time, the UKs official clinical body NICE recommends not more than 2 hours per day and no screens during bed times or meal times. Physical activity, art, being social are just as important for children under 15. Even the late Steve Jobs, Apple’s Guru in charge, when asked by a tech journalist what his kids thought about the new iPad replied flatly “They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home”. So give yourself or your kids an extra 7 hours of ‘real time’ a week, it will help them keep their own hardware in good nick.
4. Use the Sharing Economy to earn or save £10,000 a year.
If you’ve used online services Airbnb or Uber, you’ll already be benefiting from the booming ‘Sharing Economy’. This can be an amazingly lucrative way for you to prosper too.
The new ‘on demand economy’ is predicted to grow to £9Billion in the UK in the next 8 years according to PriceWaterCooper and the pace seems unstoppable. According to Innovation Think Tank Nesta a 25% of Brits are already benefiting. This means you can now access a massive range of services or products by using online market places to find what you need from some like you nearby.
When I co-founded self-storage community alternative Storemates.co.uk 4 years ago, I wanted to provide over-crowded families with a cheap local storage service that literally would not cost them the earth. Through Storemates, people needing extra space for their seasonal items can now safely find people local to them that they can rent local storage space from, usually storing in their loft, garage or a spare room. All users are carefully vetted, have profiles and reviews, contracts and insurance are put in place and the market place promotes trust and local collaboration to make every arrangement safe. All this without having to build a single self-storage centre so the environment benefits too.
Now that the ‘Sharing Economy’ has really taken off, you can now also rent your parking space using Justpark.com, help someone move with Anyvan.com, offer your DIY skills to someone local via taskrabbit.co.uk, make surplus food available to someone local who may need it using Olio or even rent out your lawn mower or digital projector via ‘Stuff rental market place’ fatlama.com. There are now hundreds of ‘peer to peer’ websites like Storemates helping people do digitally what we used to do generations ago when we communities shared their resources for mutual gain.
In my case I currently rent out our home on Airbnb when we’re away for the weekend or on holiday, netting about £2,000 for 20 nights a year which pays for all our holidays and trips. Plus our loft hosts items from four ‘Storemates’ netting about £200 a month. In 2017, I will be looking to rent out all our unused power tools and ‘idle assets’ on Fat Lama, our seldom used car via Hiyacar.co.uk (and if my unknowing partner Louise agrees) our recently extended kitchen diner on Vrumi.com or spacehop.com to freelance workers looking for a space to work during the day, while we’re out working ourselves. If all goes well, this will provide an additional income of £10,000 a year, not bad for a bit of ‘hippy sharing.’ The Government are also encouraging the trend by offering households a generous tax break of up to £2,000 if you use your home to earn extra using the Sharing Economy.
So what’s not to like…? It’s ‘the (Sharing) Economy stupid’, so if you’re still sitting on the side lines, perhaps this may be year to get on board and prosper.
5. Become more curious
Here is a resolution to help you get more from your relationships. You can even try this on your parents during your weekly landline calls…
I have therapeutic professional background, and after nearly two decades of running family support services, supervising youth workers, social workers and therapists, I realised that as the saying goes “There’s nowt as curious as folk” So if you dig a bit deeper when talking to others, people are actually quite interesting (!) So often our conversations remain at surface level, we ask people a question and then ignore what they say as we’re too busy trying to think of what to say next. If we are trying to solve a problem, we gather just enough info, add our assumptions and then dive in and try and offer our judgement on the issue. Usually this means we are way off the mark and never really get to understanding the whole picture from their perspective – we learning nothing and quickly get bored.
Often kids are better questioners than adults. My 6 year old, Alia often out foxes me with her curious ‘But why…’ lines of enquiry.
Alia: “Why is that Lady wearing a red hat Daddy?”
Me: “because it’s cold today”;
“But why is it Cold?”
“Because its winter dear…”
“But why is it winter today?”
“Because there are four seasons based on changes in…err..the climate during the year..”
“Why are there only 4 seasons?”
“Erm… I have no idea, let’s look it up….”
“Why is her hat red..?”
Despite the slight irritation in my voice due to not being able to unravel each mystery, I’m now curious too and am also learning.
With friends, colleagues, and even people that we know we don’t agree with, the art of being truly curious means holding back judgement, asking really broad questions that help you funnel and unravel more. You are really respectfully trying to understand the logic behind someone’s position from different viewpoints and this can reveal a treasure chest of insight and a fascinating path to lifelong learning.
Imagine meeting someone who said in casual conversation that they ‘voted Trump’ in the US elections, perhaps your inclination may be to hit back with a strongly worded proclamation explaining why you thought a spray tanned, misogynist, lunatic; whose only experience in life was firing people on TV may be unfit for office. But wait…wouldn’t it be much more interesting to try and reserve judgement and find out what the persons motivations were? What makes them tick? What was their logic behind their support? What did they feel at different points of the campaign? What they think a Trump’s presidency may bring? Even though you may ‘agree to disagree’, both of you will be far more engaged by your decision to be curious, inviting a deeper discussion and fascinating new insights. This is a great valuing management and supervision skill that will help you understand how your staff tick and how to get the most from them.
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but then again they also have nine lives in which to find out more.
6. Ignore the Hype and enjoy a bit of ‘Hygge’.
If you’ve opened a magazine or browsed a book shop this winter you may have found it impossible to ignore the latest fad of ‘Hygge’, the Danish notion of ‘cosy togetherness.’ Embraced and derided in equal measures, the hype has led many people to have an opinion on this rather humble aspect of Skandi Culture.
I’m interested as my partner, children and in-laws are all Danish, which means after 8 years of going back and forth, I am starting to understand why Denmark has been voted the world’s happiest country every year since 1973 by the OECD. In addition to their laid back culture, healthy lifestyle, play-orientated child rearing, self-deprecating intelligence and generous public services the other magic ingredient is their ability to create Hygge, a unique feeling of happiness.
Contrary to the detractor’s belief, Hygge is not all about sitting around in thick woollen jumpers drinking schnapps surrounded by stylish candles. According to Alexander and Sandahl, authors of ‘The Danish Way of Parenting’, the word is originally Germanic and dates back to the 19th Century, meaning “to think or feel satisfied”. To Danes it is a way of life and means creating quality time together enhanced by creating a positive and cosy environment. Christmas is a very Hygge time for many, something I always enjoy in Denmark. So yes, there are often low lights, twinkling candles, rustic decorations and delicious simple food, but what really makes something Hygge is the commitment of families, friends and even teams to come together – commit to being positive, supportive, and collaborative and all within atmosphere of maximum comfort. Negative comments, individual boasts and sensitive conversations are left outside (they would not be considered ‘hyggeligt’) and instead, the unwritten rules of Hygge would lead those involved to be, positive, supportive, ‘in the moment; and sublimely happy ‘together’.
So next time you are with loved ones or even those on your new ‘like’ list. Take the Hygge Oath (you can find this on thedanishway.com) and perhaps end 2017 with a gorgeous Hygge Christmas.
And finally…… no worries if you don’t adopt any of my quirky New Year’s Resolutions. I hope that by just reading them they may have stirred some ‘curiosity’ deep down about a few alternative approaches to achieving health, happiness, prosperity and a bit of Hygge in 2017
Happy New Year!
Sources: Forbes, Nivea Poll of friendship, YouGov, NICE, OfCom, Nesta, FT, PWC, The Guardian, OECD, Alexander & Sandahl