Last week we created a Happiness List and did at least one thing on the list. Go and grab your list now. (If you skipped the exercise, go here, do the exercise and then come back.) This week, we’ll make our Happiness List come to life.
Step 1: Expand Your List
First, take a few minutes to expand your list. Is there anything you missed? Think about things you loved when you were younger. Can you make the list more specific? For example, if you listed your child, dog or partner, think about what you enjoy when you are together – conversation, snuggle time? If you listed nature, how do you like to experience it – a hike, camping, sitting quietly?
Step 2: Celebrate What You Already Do
Now, go through your list and check off those things that you do regularly. These are already central to your life. Nice work! Celebrate that you’ve made time for these activities which recharge you. (Don’t blow this part off; honoring your successes gives you the energy and motivation boost you need to set new goals.)
Step 3: Schedule Your Happiness
Go through and pick a few of these activities that you would like to do more in your life. Get your calendar. Yep, right now; go and grab it. I’ll wait…
Now find the time to make these things happen. Decide how regularly you want them and put it into a repeating calendar event. Date night every other Thursday? Tennis every Saturday morning? Fresh cut flowers each week? Schedule a vacation to a place you love or you’ve always wanted to visit?
Commit to these activities, put them in your calendar and protect them. Make the lists now of what you need to make these activities happen; schedule time to get the preparation done too.
Step 4: Find more time in your schedule
Some of you are probably rolling your eyes now, thinking, “There’s no way I can add more to my life!” If so, then it’s time to look critically at your calendar. If you’re feeling over-scheduled here are some time-sucking traps to watch out for:
- You spend time on things that your friends love that don’t make your Happiness List. I have friends who love to see concerts. For years, I’d go along. One day I realized I’d rather just listen to the CD and talk – so I stopped going (and saved a bundle of money at the same time!).
- You do everything with your partner. Time together with a cherished loved one is important, but can be overdone and limit your time to pursue your passions. See where your lists overlap and do those things together. But venture out on your own sometimes, too. I LOVE a night out dancing and connecting with new people where Becca loves a quiet night at home reading. We’ll go our separate ways a couple times per month and the energy we both get from doing what we love comes back to our life together.
- You do things you “should” like. After I moved to San Diego, I thought I HAD to be a surfer, that’s what you DID here. But after a year of learning (and occasional bouts of seasickness in big waves) I realized I didn’t love it. So I let go of that vision of who I was supposed to be. What do you do just because you “should” like it?
- You do things that suck time automatically, almost without thinking. Does the TV go on when you get home from work? Do you log onto Facebook or play video games on your lunch break? If these aren’t things on your Happiness List, stop doing them. Use tips from my Making Habits post. Put the remote in a high shelf in the closet and replace it with something that reminds you of a Happiness List item. Or schedule something from your Happiness List at your vulnerable time, so you don’t get pulled into the vortex of habits you want to break.
- Combine things from your Happiness List with things you have to do. Sometimes when I’m watching the kids, we will head off to Chuck E. Cheese for video games or have a dance party in the living room. Both are things on my Happiness List (and fortunately on my kids’ lists) so while mom’s away we get to play! If jazz makes you happy, make a ritual of playing it while you do dishes. If exercise is your mood-booster, walk or ride your bike to run errands.
If these tips have not helped you find time or if this post, instead of bringing happiness has sent you into a tailspin of hopelessness – “My life is already so overscheduled! I just can’t fit anything else in!” – recognize and honor those emotions. Then tune in next week where we’ll be talking about tips for putting First Things First.Eric Karpinski The Happiness Coach