Background data and drivers for Stigu. Do pen and paper still matter? Why do we need a ‘license to rest’?

Stigu will appeal to men and women of all ages who have a lot to juggle in their lives: kids and a career, creativity and responsibility, studying and paying the rent, or whatever it is in their life that they feel would benefit from a better balance. Essentially Stigu is aimed at real people living messy lives, and the mission is to help these hardcore multitaskers and jugglers to sneak a bit more rest into their lives. This willingness to invest in rest will eventually pay back many times over in the form of increased creativity, a less manic life, greater life-balance and the return of optimism.

We think Stigu is especially valuable for the fast growing self-employed workforce, especially those who work from home alone. These people do not enjoy the benefits and the support companies, especially bigger corporations, provide for their staff, or the camaraderie of having colleagues, or scheduled breaks from work. They have no boss to off-load on, no private health package, no subsidised classes such as yoga or mindfulness courses to participate in. There is more freedom, they can structure the day around other commitments such as caring responsibilities, but it takes years of practice before the work day can be organised in such a way that it does not take over every waking minute. Sadly, all too often people put their own well-being as the last item on an exhausting and endless to-do lists, learning the hard way that without self-care, productivity and health take a nose-dive. Stigu was created by two people that have been through this process and understand the needs of solo operators.

The pen is mightier than the sword (or the app)

Stigu is for all those people who still prefer pen and paper for their notes, and we are hoping for some converts too! Numbers reveal that paper diaries are getting even more popular. A survey found that 83% of today’s girls aged between 16 and 19 keep a personal pen-and-paper diary, up from 69% in the 1990s. Tech-savvy teenagers are increasingly using private diaries to record their innermost thoughts despite the advent of social media. Research was conducted by company Otherlines.TV, with a nation-wide survey of 1,400 people.

One of the most interesting parts of the book is Daniel J Levitin’s (Author of The Organized Mind) discovery that a great many of the dynamic and energetic captains of industry he met during his research swore by using an old-fashioned pen and paper, not digital calendars or electronic diaries. In her autobiography Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg, chief executive of Facebook, admits to carrying a notebook and pen to keep track of her to-do list which at Facebook is “like carrying around a stone tablet and chisel”. Why is this so? In his book Levitin reveals that the mind and memory work differently when things are written down physically instead of electronically. In simple terms, putting pen to paper means stuff sticks to our grey cells better.

Professor Matthew Lieberman’s research found that writing by hand had a bigger emotion-regulating effect than typing. It’s an unconscious process: people don’t notice it, but they’re effectively regulating their own emotions when they are writing. Psychologists who discovered the “Bridget Jones effect” said it worked whether people elaborated on their feelings in a diary, penned lines of poetry, or even jotted down song lyrics to express their negative emotions. When people wrote about their feelings, medical scans showed that their brain activity matched that seen in volunteers who were consciously trying to control their emotions.

A number of psychologists studies show that diary writing has unexpected benefits to mental health. Dr. James Pennebaker in his 2004 book Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma and Emotional Upheaval says that writing down your feelings has psychological benefits. His research demonstrated that people who allow themselves to commit their darkest thoughts to paper visited their GP less than those who wrote about non-emotional issues, and were more able to identify the root cause of their feelings, enabling them to focus on changing their behaviour. Therefore, expressive diary writing may be considered a form of therapy that is free and encourages autonomy. A summary of Pennebaker’s research on the General Psychology website.

Chairs kill – stand up and save yourself

Standing while you read this could do something towards saving your life, according to Dr. James Levine. “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death,” says Levine, a professor of medicine at the U.S.-based Mayo Clinic, in his book “Get Up!: Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can Do About It”.

Medical researchers have been steadily building evidence that prolonged sitting is a health disaster. If the legs remain still for long periods, the blood vessels begin to lose their capacity to regulate blood flow causing blood to pool and stagnate in the lower body. A new experimental study has discovered that it’s quite easy to negate these detrimental health effects: by taking a leisurely, 5-minute walk for every hour spent sitting, an idea that businesses would do well to take on board to prevent their employees literally sitting themselves to death.

The central message of the researchers’ studies is this: the more time you spend sitting each day, the greater your chance of premature death. In the latest study it was found that within the age-group studied (45 years and older), those who sat for 11 or more hours a day had a 40% greater chance of dying within three years, than people who sat four or less hours a day. These sobering statistics highlight the need for chair-based employees to be encouraged to take mini-rests from their desks.

Home alone is the new norm as small business booms

The move towards working from home is a meta-trend that is gaining momentum. Corporations are employing less and outsourcing more resulting in a shift towards home-based work with infrequent trips to the office. Outsourcing cuts costs as does the change from employee status to self-employed as it is easier to terminate contracts than jobs. The new home-alone-crew lack the support offered by the best corprations, health benefits, colleague camaraderie, scheduled breaks and subsidised classes such as yoga or mindfulness courses, and must find new avenues of support for themselves. In addition to those working from home but still attached to a company, many indivisuals are setting up their own small business often based in the home and this is a major source of new jobs

Kauffman Foundation and the Institute for Competitiveness & Prosperity figured out that over the last 25 years, almost all private sector jobs have been created by businesses less than five years old. “Both on average and for all but seven years between 1977 and 2005, existing firms are net job destroyers,” write Wiens and Jackson, “losing 1 million jobs net combined per year. By contrast, in their first year, new firms add an average of 3 million jobs.” So what do the exact numbers look like? Small businesses created nearly 2 million of the roughly 3 million private-sector jobs generated in 2014. More than 7 million of the 11 million jobs created during our recovery have been generated by start-ups and small enterprises. So, new, young and often small(ish) companies are the primary source of job creation in the American economy, which historically points the way for the rest of us.

How does this phenomenon look on this side of the pond? A subset of the UK’s 4 million SMEs have been identified as “the magic 6 per cent” or “scale-ups” that are particularly important to economic growth and job creation. It has been estimated that boosting these SMEs would create as many as 230,000 new jobs and add £38bn to UK GDP. A new study found out that fast-growing small firms created 68% of all new jobs in the UK between 2012 and 2013, despite making up just 1% of the total business population. This is all good news, in many ways, but it is important to remember that when we speak about small start-ups and fast growing, emerging companies, the human resource processes don’t typically exist, or are lightly sketched in at best. There are more burning issues to deal with, like reaching a break even or securing financing. And this is where Stigu steps in.

The landscape is changing. More and more of us will not be working in offices with the associated pro’s and cons and we believe that Stigu has a role in this new era, providing tips and tools as well as a voice of compassion and support for the ever growing army of people working from homes or garages or lofts or as nomads without a base. There’s also another important angle: privacy. Stigu is personal but corporate/gmail calendars are not, and never will be. They are shared tools, and accessible by your assistants, colleagues, bosses and even business partners. You only put the minimum info there. These calendars have a purpose, naturally, but can’t be used as your daily “brainstorming and planning tools”. Nobody saves an online calendar, but most of us keep old notebooks, diaries and journals.

Cutting Corners costs money: the financial consequences of a mentally unwell workforce

Another aspect which cannot be ignored is the staggering cost of mental ill-health. The World Economic Forum, recognizing that chronic non-communicable diseases would be the largest cost drivers in health care in the 21st century, asked a group of health economists to estimate global costs and project costs to 2030. Their estimate based on 2010 data showed mental disorders as the largest cost driver at $2.5 trillion in global costs in 2010 and projected costs of $6.0 trillion by 2030. The costs for mental disorders were greater than the costs of diabetes, respiratory disorders, and cancer combined.

Around 70 million working days were lost to mental illness last year at an “astounding” cost of up to £100 billion to the economy, says professor Dame Sally Davies in her recent report. Despite this, 80% of directors say their company has no policy to deal with stress or mental illness in the work place and only 3% think they have an effective policy even though they know it is costing them money. Depressing news……Now, we are not saying that Stigu has super-hero powers to combat all of this misery, but we do believe this: Stigu acknowledges the difficulties faced by modern humanity, and addresses those difficulties with wisdom compassion and humour. Stigu has been paying attention to the changing trends, and comes to reassure people that they are doing OK, that a good plan and enough rest may help, and that just occassionally doing something for fun is not illegal.

Online privacy is a hot potato

Data protection and privacy are hot topics. When the news reports that big corporations have either lost sensitive data or had data bases hacked it raises issues as to how safe our data actually is. A Pew Research Institute study by Wired revealed that more than 80 % of Americans have taken action to maintain anonymity online -deleting cookies, encrypting email and/or protecting their IP address, and 50 percent of internet users say they are worried about the information available about them online, up from 33 percent in 2009. In response to these concerns, internet security and privacy companies offer solutions so complex and so cumbersome that most consumers, and even some IT administrators, find them too complex to use. The idea of keeping a private journal on an electronic device is starting to lose its flavour.

Can you juggle with three balls?

Last but not least: Multitasking is a myth. Only 2% of us can do it successfully. Don’t believe it? Take the test here. Stigu won’t change you into a circus performer over night but your juggling will improve. Stigu helps by keeping your to-do lists concrete and visible (always on your desk, right next to you and yes, we are more deskbound than ever before) helping you prioritise and become more organised. The key is to stay focused and learn to make reasonable to-do lists. Lists that you can actually accomplish! And it can be a bit of fun too: doodle, draw and the biggest pleasure of all: crossing out all the items on your to-do list!! Get a Big Fat Pen to for maximum crossing out pleasure, and add panache with a sky punch/ “fuck yes!” combo. Highly recommended. Tempted?

Stigu collection consists of three elements Autumn 2015: Stigu Planner (desktop), Stigu Notebook (to-go) and Stigu To-Do app (for sharing). We hope this was helpful. In case you wish to know more about our story and journey, please contact Michelle or Helena.

Stigu & the gang X




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