Book Review: Meik Wiking on Getting Hygge with It

kbb-little-book-of-hygge

I love the fact that one of today’s buzzwords, hygge, is not only Danish, but also that it has no direct English translation (kind of like the Swedish term fika, which I attempt to explain here). At best, we define it as the “art of being cosy”.

In fact, the Swedes have a similar word, lagom, which is closely (but not directly) related to hygge and it means roughly “just right”. The literal translation doesn’t really do the concept justice- it’s a word that’s often used to illustrate the Swedish way of life as well. It’s the idea of getting just enough of what you need in order to achieve satisfaction in life. It’s not a new idea: the mantra of less-is-more is a common thread across Scandinavian cultures and can be found outside of Europe as well. (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, anyone?)

Considering we live in a culture of consumerism and abundance, it makes sense that North American society would latch onto a concept like hygge. We spend so much time making sure our professional lives run like well-oiled machines that we’ve lost the art of relaxation.

It’s no wonder then that how-to-hygge guides such as Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge are popping up everywhere. We don’t know how to be cosy, and we need someone to show us the way.

Unfortunately, this new interest in making your life more hyggeligt (Danish for hygge-ish) is also a powerful way to tap into consumer trends. Someone sent me this article recently about the dark side of hygge, and how this trend has generated tons of new products and marketing campaigns designed to instill a fear of not being hygge enough- unless you have the right socks, blankets, candles, etc.

It made me hesitate when wanting to write about The Little Book of Hygge, which is too bad, because it’s one of those fabulous books that not only makes an for an interesting read, it also looks great on a coffee table. In fact, it’s one of those that I would revisit again and again, because it reads more like a celebration of the Danish culture and sensibility than it does an instruction manual.

For those who want to take it as such, however, may I direct you to my favorite chapter on achieving hygge on the cheap, which proves the concept is much more about creating an environment than it is buying one.

Hygge isn’t sold in a store. It can’t be achieved by buying the right socks, investing in nicer linen, or by reading any book about the subject that you can get your hands on (although I highly recommend The Little Book of Hygge).

Instead, if I’ve got it right, hygge is about finding the place within yourself where you can be at your most relaxed and natural. Surrounding yourself with the people and things that give you the most pleasure and joy is merely a conduit for getting there.

So go ahead and buy those socks if they make you feel freaking amazing. I think that’s just lagom.

KBwB-BFlower-50

Psst- wanna see which books have previously graced my bookshelves? Click here. Want even more fun reading recommendations? I’ve got some for you here. Don’t forget to find me on Goodreads so we can snoop each other’s bookshelves and dish about our favourites.

 

Book Review: Jon Acuff on Loving Your Job Anyways

Do-Over-Cover-2

I was feeling a little bit sorry for myself the other day until I read Jon Acuff’s Do Over.

No, it didn’t make me feel better; at least, not at first. It made me bawl my eyes out.

Even though Do Over is the only business book to evoke such an emotional response from me, I didn’t enjoy it just for the catharsis it provided me. It’s a fresh perspective on why we work the kinds of jobs that we do, and the choices that we make in the workplace that can advance (or destroy) our careers.

Acuff argues that as a society we’re trained to find jobs instead of pursuing careers. Gone are the days when people found a “good job” and stayed in the same position for twenty-five years. Nowadays it’s common to switch careers up to three times throughout your working life.

So why this sudden shift?

Things like job security and health benefits are still important to most people. But in a world with a growing population and a fluctuating economy, these “good jobs” are fewer and far between. We’re living longer, too, and becoming more educated, so the competition for these jobs is higher. Many are forced to adopt a lower standard or accept a less than ideal position in order to remain employed.

Although much of Do Over is about giving your career a fresh start, what made it so poignant for me was the empathy Acuff expresses for his readers who feel frustrated and stuck in their current positions. And then he gives those readers a swift kick in the pants. It’s our attitudes that are the problem, he explains. No one ever got to exactly where they wanted without hard work and sacrifice. Sometimes it’s about making the best of an opportunity. Through befriending co-workers, finding mentors and developing new skills, you can take what you’ve learned in your current job and adapt it to any future situation, so you can finally start heading in the direction that you want to go.

Is it a challenge? Yes. Is it impossible? No.

And that’s kind of why the book got me in the feels- we’ve all been in situation where we feel stuck, bored or dissatisfied in our jobs. Yes, the purpose of a job is to make money, but there’s a lot to be said for enjoying yourself (even just a little) in the place where you spend most of your waking hours.

Don’t forget, there could be benefits to your job as well besides the money- a great relationship with your co-workers, a sense of autonomy, or a chance to be creative may be the reason you choose to stay in a position, or the reason why you chose a position in the first place.

Even if you’re not looking to make a major career change, I’d still recommend Do Over as a good read after a bad work day, or a bad work week, or if you’re simply just frustrated and in the mood for some wallowing. Acuff’s writing is snappy and humorous but at the end of the day it’s the catharsis I experienced after finishing it that makes Do Over such a good read.

KBwB-BFlower-50

Psst- wanna see which books have previously graced my bookshelves? Click here. Want even more fun reading recommendations? I’ve got some for you here. Don’t forget to find me on Goodreads so we can snoop each other’s bookshelves and dish about our favourites.

Julie Morgenstern and The Power of the Quiet Hour

KBB_Time_Inside_Out

Working at a doctor’s office is kind of like getting a lesson on how to work with constant interruptions. There are phone calls that need to be made, phone calls that need to received, paperwork that needs filing, faxes that need attention…and did I mention that all of this is done while processing patients and assisting the doctor with his exams?

Even if you don’t work at a doctor’s office, this scenario probably sounds familiar. Our workplaces, no matter where they are, can be a constant source of interruption. Sometimes this interruptions are welcome, especially if you can get stuck on a project like me and start to become hyper-focused. But for most us, we need those uninterrupted chunks of time so we can at least feel like we’re getting some kind of work done. There’s nothing more disheartening than spending two hours chugging through your email inbox only to realize you’ve only managed to answer five messages.

I was starting to feel recently like I was working, working, working and never getting anything done until I revisited professional organizer Julie Morgenstern’s body of work. She was Oprah’s organizing guru way back when and her unique time management system still attracts a large number of followers even decades later.

As an organization-obsessed teenager, my introduction to Morgenstern was actually through a book she co-authored with her (then) teenage daughter called Organizing from the Inside Out for Teens. (Incidentally, also a really good book for high school and post-secondary students to check out. Don’t let the title fool you. There are lots of juicy tidbits for adults in there as well).

An undisclosed number of years later, I picked up the original version of Julie Morgenstern’s book Organizing from the Inside Out, and another one called Never Check Email in the Morning (which has since been republished as Time Management from the Inside Out). A lot of the concepts I recognized from my teens, but this time around they were better adapted for the lifestyle of an independent, working adult. Although a lot of the content is targeted at office workers looking to improve their working style, I still think that a lot of Morgenstern’s suggestions can apply to anyone. Did the title Never Check Email in the Morning appeal to you? It appealed to me too.

What I’ve started to put in place, however, is Morgenstern’s idea of “The Quiet Hour”. It’s not necessarily an original idea, but the implementation of this small adjustment to my schedule has been so powerful that I had to share it with you. So many of our ideas surrounding time management involve doing more, and multi-tasking more in order to feel like we’re getting more done. But trying to balance several projects at once, as well as monitoring incoming phone calls and emails can not only be seen as inefficient, it lowers your productivity.

Have you experienced the pain and frustration of running around like a chicken with its head cut-off? Me too. That’s why you need “The Quiet Hour”. It’s the practice of putting aside an hour of uninterrupted time every day- this means no social media, no cell phones, no Internet, no nothing. Imagine: sixty minutes of solid “radio silence” to give you the space in your head and in your schedule to get done whatever it is that you need to get done. It’s a great solution no matter the task at hand- whether it means giving yourself that extra hour to push towards that deadline, or because you need to carve out time in your schedule for an in-depth project that requires all of your concentration.

Morgenstern mentions that some of the offices that she’s worked with in the past have adopted this universally into their office culture. Others, however, may find it difficult to stay away interruptions for a whole hour every single workday. I’m trying not to put pressure on myself to stick to a strict one hour a day schedule. Even setting aside half an hour to brainstorm a project, crunch some numbers, or power through a list of to-dos that you’ve putting off has proved to be an incredibly powerful practice. Find it hard to sit still for a whole hour? Put yourself on a timer and reward yourself with a coffee break when your time is up.

I’m always looking for creative ways to find more room in my schedule, and Organizing from the Inside Out and Time Management from the Inside Out definitely do not disappoint when it comes to time-saving tips. For a more in-depth look at why we organize, don’t forget to check out When Organizing Isn’t Enough.

Do you like Julie Morgenstern’s work as much as I do? Have any tips to help find room in your schedule? Share them with the group by commenting below!

KBwB-Flower-50

Psst- wanna see which books have previously graced my bookshelves? Click here. Want even more fun reading recommendations? I’ve got some for you here. Don’t forget to find me on Goodreads so we can snoop each other’s bookshelves and dish about our favourites.