Productivity catalyst and highly sensitive executive coach, Clare Kumar, helps professionals achieve sustainable performance – improving productivity and well-being while avoiding exhaustion and burnout.
She draws on a diverse corporate career that took her from Toronto to Tokyo and Montreal, with equal experience as an entrepreneur.
She is a sought-after media contributor to news and lifestyle shows including the Huffington Post, Fast Company, the Globe and Mail, CBC, The Social, and the Marilyn Denis Show.
Whether speaking to one person or thousands, Clare loves inspiring massive shifts by inviting you to pay attention to little things that make a big difference.
She welcomes all highly sensitive professionals as well as those who want to love and support them to find community in the Happy Space.
💝 Key Takeaways
- Discover ways to live a value-aligned life, grounded in self-awareness.
- Design your life to honour your sensitivity and support your sustainable performance.
- Learn how to be shape your space, your schedule and your social interactions.
- What productivity CPR is.
- The VAMP acronym to help with your space – visible, accessible, manageable and pleasing/protected.
📚 Resources Mentioned
- Episode 10 with Amber Rochelle on How to Harness your Neuro-divergent High Sensitivity as a Gift
- Pliio – The folding tool that keeps things folded:
🔗 Where You Can Find Clare
Facebook Profile: https://www.facebook.com/clare.kumar/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/ClareKumarProductivityCatalyst
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/happyspacepod
🌹 Rose’s Resources
📖 (Imperfect) Transcript
We use Descript to provide this transcript which isn’t always perfect but wonderful all the same. (affiliate link 😃)
Rose: Hey, it’s Rose and welcome to another episode of The Sensitive CEO Show.
And in this week’s episode, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to Clare Kumar. Clare is a productivity catalyst and compassionate executive coach who helps professionals achieve sustainable performance, improving productivity and well-being while avoiding exhaustion and burnout.
Welcome, Clare. It’s so lovely to talk to you again today.
Clare: Oh yeah, lovely to be with you too, Rose.
Rose: So my first question is, I love all things productivity. The first question I’d love to ask you is how you became a productivity coach.
Clare: I love that question because, for a long time, I didn’t realise it was connected to being sensitive.
So my first foray into organisation and productivity, which went hand in hand, was in 2005 when my kids were tiny, and I started a business part-time. This was before I knew about high sensitivity as a trait. So it took me some years afterwards to discover it, but as I put the pieces together, I realised that.
Clare: For me, my sensitivity is part of what gives me a drive. Keep things in order so my day can flow more smoothly. So I value spending time. I love the energy of expenditures: our attention, all of our resources. There’s a substantial value of mine not to waste things. And so that means, Making good use of your space, making good use of your time and energy and so on.
And so all of that is driven out by being sensitive and needing to keep my existence calmer than average. So that explains why it’s been compelling to me, and I’ve had to develop the traits just as a way of coping.
Rose: . . . So when did you discover you were highly sensitive, Clare?
Clare: I am still determining the exact date, but it was around seven or eight years ago; so maybe 2015, something like that, before my coaching training. I know that for sure. I wish I, you know, how did you discover? I was trying to remember whether I was, searching and stumbled upon an article and then found Elaine Aaron’s book, the Highly Sensitive Person and read it and just thought, oh wow, like many of us have, this is me.
And boy, I feel understood. I feel less alone, and there’s a lot to celebrate here too. And so, for me, it was an invitation to understand myself better. And then, when I did my coach training, there was a lot of self-awareness work before really stepping into that work and inviting the same thing with clients.
And so it was quite formative to land on that trait and then fully understand it and realise. As well, many of my clients are sensitive, and there are interesting overlaps. Susceptible people don’t necessarily have executive function challenges, but sensitivity cuts across neurodivergent traits quite extensively.
So people with autism or ADHD, dyslexia and so on. You will see sensitivity in all those personality types, and sometimes executive function challenges exist. And what do you know? That’s a lot of people who reach out to me for assistance with productivity work.
Rose: That’s interesting. And I love the topic of Neurodiversity. I know that there’s a link, and I’ll pop a link in the show notes. I had a conversation on the podcast quite early on with Amber Rochelle, and she talked about Neurodivergency, and it was fascinating; it’s a fascinating topic.
But today, we’re talking about productivity, and I would love you to share some tips with the audience, Clare, on well, especially with sensitivite people in mind, what are some tips that you could share with everyone today?
Clare: Well, I have a model which I go through, and I’ll draw on tips from each area of the model, which I think will be helpful.
I call it productivity CPR and the analogy is that it can be an intervention when things are spiralling and chaos is ruling, if you will. And in this case, C P R stands for Compass, Performance and Rituals and each of those things means; compass means setting an intention.
Performance is around managing our attention so that we can bring it to the intentions that we’ve set. And then our rituals, it’s all around optimising execution. So we think about intention, attention, and execution. So let me pull on that for some tips for sensitive people.
And with intention; one of the most important things to do is to design our lives, respecting sensitivity.
So we are fulfilled, and no susceptible people have to do value-aligned work. We can’t just be, I’m in it for the money, and I’m going to do whatever it needs to. Whatever needs to happen, it’s not going to work. Doesn’t work. We’re for us; no, not at all. And so that we’ve got this pull for impact. In our lives, and if we figure out that that’s not going away and if we can honour it and work with it, we’ll be much further ahead.
So productivity tip number one is to look at your intentions and whether you are working towards them or are you perhaps, doing things that are taking you away from them. That will be the most significant productivity gap most people have. So that’s a fantastic starting point.
If I’m going to look at managing attention number two, it’s looking at how we honour mind, body, and spirit.
So how do we take care of this vessel that we’re blessed to be moving around, navigating the world in, and how do we set ourselves up for success so we can hold onto our energy and then bring our attention to right? We’ve said it is essential to our intentions, right? Yeah. And I’ve got a whole list of things it’ll take too long.
There are eight items, but if we understand our relationship to what I call productivity table stakes, and so just a couple of examples are mindset, making sure that we’re working to keep our air serving us and not spiralling down, looking at sleep. and rest as critical ingredients, especially for susceptible people who are taxed far more than the average person.
And. I’m sorry. I’m just letting you know I’m looking at my cat, who is on my desk, and because I have the closet doors open across from my desk, he’s looking at my closet as something he thinks he can jump into. And it’s about three, four feet away. And my makeup trolley is not jumpable; it could be better between the cat and the cabinet.
Oh, I’m anticipating that if he doesn’t, as reassess, there’ll be a loud clatter. And I want to let you know before that happens. Hopefully, I’m stroking him to say, come back here and hang with me. He mostly lives on my desk.
Rose: I love that. I saw him walking across before, and he made me smile.
My cats are out of here right now, but I love seeing cats on Zoom. Isn’t that so wonderful we work from home?
Clare: Well, that’s it. And you are talking about trying to hold onto your attention. This is not highly recommended; you know so well that you sometimes have to figure out how to manage distractions. It is one of the big tips.
But back to the mindset I was talking about, then I was talking about sleep and rest because our nervous systems are so taxed going through the regular life and the toxic environment we’re asked to navigate. So we have to invite more rest and recovery opportunities and the better that we can be at preserving sleep, highlighting that, and reclaiming any lost sleep, if it’s been interrupted, the better we’ll be showing up.
We focus on essential things but also manage our relationships more effectively. Make better choices around food, and make better choices around exercise and movement. There I present productivity table stakes as a poker table, an eight-sided poker table, and I don’t play poker.
It was just a perfect analogy. So it’s a jewel tone. And then the diagram. And what it signifies is that all of these eight elements I love talking about are connected. And we need to understand our relationship to each of those, and through doing so, we can determine our policies and how we will live to be, you know what Rose?
I can show up for you and bring you my focus, attention, and energy without cats and be present for what I’ve deemed necessary.
Rose: I love that. I love the analogy of productivity table stakes in the poker table. I can; I can visualise it. Beautiful. So I know you also talk about shaping space in the environment. Can you share more about that, please?
Clare: You bet. I think our spaces are so important because they’re sort of, A place to incubate. They’re a place we’re told to relax. I talk about putting o in the home. So, so that you can, your home has to be a haven where you can rest, restore, recover and fortify when you have to go out into the world, which is demanding.
Hopefully, home is not demanding too. But if it is, what can we do in our spaces? To calm it down, to make it that sanctuary in a place of restoration. So choosing, so my cats are deciding this is playtime. So for listeners, it’s quarter to nine at night, which is cat play hours.
So my sincere apologies. You might hear some, not necessarily makeup stands crashing, but. One of the cats is running up and down the hallway. And it’s funny; I just researched my cats. They’re, they’re, I think they’ve got Turkish Angora in them, which explains the ridiculous amounts of fur that fly everywhere.
But apparently, they like to run. So I’m starting to understand where, where they, you know, where they come from. So my apologies. I hope it’s going to be manageable for you.
Rose: Totally understand,one of our cat’s good runs up and down the hallway. He’s not doing it right now. He is asleep, but yeah, he’s, he’s always running up and down the hallway at nighttime.
So it’s daytime here, so that’s why he’s asleep.
Clare: Yeah. Right. So. Yeah. So learning the best time to do a podcast, but you know what? The one thing that’s beautiful about right now is that we’re global. Yes. And so we’re reaching listeners all around the world. So wherever you are and wherever your cat or not cat might be doing.
I hope you’re enjoying our discussion; so I want to come back, and you’re asking about the space, right? So this space has to serve. Not only what you want to do in terms of how you want to spend your time, but that’s also the first question. What priority, and how do you want to spend time? What activities do you want to undertake, but how do you want to feel in that space?
And answering those two questions is essential because the feeling starts to talk about finishes. Do we want organic wood, which we know is science? It tells us and leaves us more grounded than metal and glass; for example, do we want soft and inviting textures? Do we need excellent ergonomics to be comfortable in our postures?
Are you reading, working at the kitchen table, or needing bread? The counter’s generally lower because you can put force into it. So understanding all of these things in designing the space makes you more comfortable. So that you can feel good. And then, of course, adding the colour and the finishes. . , it’s, it’s something to get a space that invites you to relax and flow into what you want to.
So choosing your colours carefully is something I recommend. And discussing with those with whom you share a living. Because you may have very different styles, I’ve built an organising productivity matrix that looks at our propensity to create order along one axis, and you’ll know some people are like, oh, I don’t care.
I like to pick through things. The rummage sale is excellent. I even like to rummage through my closet. I have a dear friend, and I learned that some people like to search through their drawers. They want everything to be neat. And then you’ll get the people like me who are like, I like to be able to see everything, pick it, pluck it, not disarray, put everything else into chaos.
And that is easier for me, but there’s a vast spectrum. Right? And then on the other axis is the tolerance for chaos or sensitivity scale, right? So we might be craving an order, or we might be wanting the order. , but we are really tolerant of chaos. So we don’t get over there. We don’t, we’re not actually, or we’re not bothered by it.
So looking at where you are in the quadrants can help family members understand each other. . and where the challenge or the hurdle or the conversation, the curious conversation might lie.
Rose: I love that you share about the sensitivity and the neatness and everything, I would like to know if there is a link between sensitivity and Marie Kondo; for example, like having, I love to fold all my t-shirts and colour coordinate and everything.
We sound very similar in that respect. Nicely picked out, not rummaged through. And do you think that there is a link with the sensitivity side?
Clare: I, I think so. I was alluding to this when you asked how you became a productivity coach. Yeah. I became an organiser and realised that organisation is fun and a part of productivity.
. . And so for me it’s been. I call it visual noise, and it’s being able to turn down the volume on that visual noise the same way we would if we had loud music playing. So if we can create some order, we’re dialling down the noise on that visual stimulation. So yeah, choosing—Choosing a colour palette in my closet.
My clothes will be all the pinks together, then the reds, and then I might move into purples. Then blues, you know, it’s working with the rainbow. It’s naturally inspired. And, then, working with a more pleasing way of arranging things. I have a little acronym I talk about when I’m talking about putting things, which I’ll share here.
It’s. VAMP: I want you to vamp up your space, and by a vamp, I mean I want you to keep things visible so you can see them. I then want them to be accessible, so they’re easy to reach. I want them to be manageable, and this can get in our way. I’ll talk about that in a second. The P is pleasing and protected, so not only should it look good or feel good or smell good, our senses need to be rewarded for interacting with something.
And so you might have a favourite pen, a favourite paper and the way they flow together is just gorgeous. You take a poor pen and terrible paper, and your whole experience is jarred and jilted. It’s not, it’s not nice, right?. So if we can look at vamp, and so by manageable, I mean, so let’s think of, you have, do you have tomato ketchup or yeah.
Rose: We call it tomato sauce. But I know what you mean by ketchup.
Clare:. Yeah. Well, I was born in England, so tomato sauce. So, you might. In North America, we have bigger is better; more is better. Louder is better, all of it. And so we will have two-litre containers of ketchup or tomato sauce, right?
And it’ll be the cheapest thing to buy. So the price per unit, I’ve got to go for the big one and then I’ll put that in my fridge. But if you’ve got children trying to manage this. Big, big container, and get it out, and it’s not comfortable. So I urge people to think that part of the value is absolute; it’s manageability.
. And I don’t know if it’s coming back to the market, but I will mention that I designed a product that helps with clothes. Fold the way Marie Kondo folds that it was around before she came around. So it was exciting to see her come up on the scene. And it’s a tool called Pliio, P L I I O.
And you can see it at pleo.com. Cross your fingers. I’m in talks with a company. Hopefully, they’ll be able to bring it back to the market, but it helps you fold your clothes without thinking about measuring. You can. Just love gives you a structure to fold around, which is beautiful.
And it brings that manageability because you know, when you have a, imagine a drawer of t-shirts. This is because, usually, they’re folding one on top of the other, and you have to rummage to get one. So yeah. If you fold them a Marie Kondo, you’re tucking them vertically. If you fold them with Pliio, the beauty is that you’ve got a structure inside the garment.
And so when you pick it up, you’re like, you’re picking up a book instead of a piece of paper. Oh, I love that. So, yeah, it’s really, it’s grand. So for susceptible people, it’s a beautiful thing, and it’s lovely to travel with. You know, when you pack a suitcase. And you’re putting everything, and you’re like, oh, I need to remember which outfit I have and what goes with what.
You can see everything. So it’s visible, accessible, manageable, and pleasing. So, it’s an easier way to remember what to think about when you’re looking to organise a space.
Rose: I love that. And I’m going to be checking out pliio.com. What is that, an acronym for something Clare?
Clare: it’s not, you know, what it came from..I speak a little French. . and, Is the word for folding. You might think of it in ballet, you bend the knees, and you’re tucking your knees a pH, right? So yeah. And so we were thinking Esperanto, a universal language, and we thought, please, oh. Why don’t we try Cleo? So we came up with that word, and this was when I had a beautiful design partner I worked with in that business.
She had such great sensibility and style, so we came up with pliio.com, and it’s, you know, it’s, yeah, it’s marvellous. I’m, I’m, so, I, I don’t. And I apologise for teasing you with a product that I can’t give you right now, but maybe the idea, you know, you never know where a good idea and a good business partner will come from.
Clare: So someone will hear this and say, ah, I’m your person, and we’ll bring this back to the market.
Rose: Yeah. Oh, I hope so. Fingers crossed. . . . . So Clare, you also talk about lifetime management. Please dive in a bit deeper into what you mean by that please.
Clare: Yeah, and this is, you know, I mentioned rituals in the C P R model and optimising execution.
This is one of the exercises. Again, it’s around intention setting, but it’s also, you know, when we have our tried and true practices for doing something, for approaching something, then we’ve got a system that works for us. And lifetime management is, it’s a way to step. And take a bit of a bird’s eye view.
So instead of thinking of time management, how will I run my day? It’s step out and say, how? How do I want to navigate this life? How do I want to sculpt this life? So I’m feeling rewarded. And one of my significant beliefs is that everyone deserves a fulfilling life. . . And to be fulfilled, we must be able to keep giving and to be able to keep giving.
We need to take care of ourselves. So it’s all wrapped up in the sustainable performance piece. . . And so, lifetime management is a methodology to analyse how satisfied you are in life in different areas. And an invitation to be self-aware, understand what success looks like in those areas, and articulate that so we know what we’re aiming for when we know what we’re aiming for.
We know it’s out, so we can kiss, FOMO, the fear of missing out. We can kiss it goodbye because we’re sure of what we want to invite into our lives. And so there’s a process around that. That’s what we were talking about offline before, and I’m running a Thrive session, and it’s all about intention setting, and I’ll be doing this again.
So, there’s one coming up shortly now, but I’ll hold Thrive Sessions whenever you’re listening. And the idea is to bring a small group of people together to work and invite self-reflection and go through a process, whether lifetime management or the four-step plan to get organised.
Or other programs I have to invite clarity and flow and just a better sense of joint control in life.
Rose: . . I love that. And you said, Clare, that you’d be doing them quarterly. So whenever this episode is, which will probably be in late January, I’m looking at my schedule; there will be one coming up in the second quarter.
That’s, Yeah. Wonderful. I loved our conversation today, and I have a question I ask all of my guests. I would love you to tell us, Clare, what do you do when you feel overwhelmed or unfocused?
Clare: I find one of the biggest things I can do is, well, first of all, I have to tune into what’s behind it.
Right. I always talk about tuning in before you lean in, right? So before you say, I need to push through, and I need to, you know, hold my eyes open and grind and get through this. You may need a 20-minute nap. So rest is a power tool, a walk in fresh air. If I’m feeling emotionally aroused and want to calm down, I need to change my body and movement.
So maybe it’s a walk outside. Perhaps it’s doing some planks on the floor. Maybe it’s a conversation. Maybe I miss social connection, I’m just talking to myself too much, and I need some beautiful connection like we’re having now, and I need to, to have some conversations. So the first step is to tune in and figure out what’s inviting this lack of attention.
And to see what might come up then.
Rose: Beautiful. Thank you. And I will be popping all of your links into the show notes, including your podcast, which I encourage people to listen to, and your blog and media page. But is there anywhere else that you would like people to do? To find you?
Clare: Oh, thank you. I think that the Grand Central Station if you will, is Clare kumar.com. . . And then, if you are highly sensitive and looking for highly Sensitive Resources, Happy Space that’s the podcast’s name. You’ll see Happy Space. Right on the page, you’ll see the blog, Media page, and all those pages have resources.
For you, depending on what your interest is. So, yeah. So I welcome you to explore Clare kumar.com. Clare, I joke, I have no third eye, so it’s Clare with no regard. And Kumar, like Harold and Kumar. So it’s easy to remember sometimes, sometimes, we don’t get back to the notes, or we’re driving, or you might be walking and listening to this, and you can hold Clare with no third eye.
Clare: And Harold, like Harold and Kumars, Kumars and Harold and Kumar is, is easy to remember.
Rose: Wonderful. Well, thank you again, Clare. It’s been lovely talking to you again today.
Clare: Yeah, my pleasure, Rose. Anytime.