Scheduling time for your happiness
Happiness is not a reward – it is a consequence. Robert Green Ingersoll
Time management is vital to maintaining a state of happiness in the fast-paced world we live in. The stress of not having enough hours in a day can be suffocating – but planning ahead and staying organised isn’t as hard as it sometimes feels.
1. Make a list of the things that make you happy
I was talking to a friend the other night and asked what made them happy. They didn’t know. This shocked me. How can you not know what makes you happy? If you don’t know what makes you happy, then how can you know what to donate time to in order to maintain your happiness? I rattled off a few things that make me happy: going to the dog beach with my dog, sitting in the sunshine, getting exercise… It’s vital to know what makes you happy before you can make time for being happy. Make a list of everything that makes you happy – being mindful of the smaller, cheaper things to do so you can do them regularly without them impacting your budget too much! Another question to ask yourself here is: what gives you energy? What boosts those energy levels right up so you’re re-charged and motivated again?
2. Write your morning plan
Every Sunday evening just before bed, I write a weekly plan in an Excel document so I know my schedule for the week ahead. It motivates me to always have something ahead to look forward to – not just on a big scale, such as a holiday, but on a small scale too. Because I work full time, a lot of my schedule is dedicated to work. So I break my plan into three pieces: Morning, Lunch, Evening and start slotting in work next to all the mornings (Monday to Friday). I also make note of any important meetings here, anything I need to remember during my working week etc. If I can start early and leave early, I put this here so I can plan for the rest of my day.
3. Write your lunch plan
Many people don’t take a lunch break at work. They blame the phone ringing, not having a break out room, conflicting work demands etc. Lunch is really important so we can refresh – recharge and get back into the working zone for the afternoon ahead. When we don’t take a break, our attention span may dwindle and we risk burning out. So this is where I work out what I’m going to do during my lunch break. It may be a walk down the street, a trip to the local café to treat myself, any errands I need to run or phone calls I need to make for example if I need to book a dentist appointment. Basically, you lunch break is for personal essentials. I strongly recommend getting out of the office and not using this time on your computer writing emails, looking at further development courses or instant messaging friends if you can (though this is great if it’s a rainy day and you have no calls to make).
4. Write your evening plan
I love planning my evenings early because I’m one of those people that wants to get the most out of life – I’m planning to be here once (though if I come back again, that’s a great bonus!). My evening plan will include any social catch ups that I’ve organised for the week ahead, any trips to the gym or team sport commitments I have made, time for my blog or general writing, internet surfing, movies, dinners out etc. This also helps when sticking to a tight budget. Don’t worry if you have a few gaps, the odd night off from having a plan isn’t such a bad thing, as it enables you to be spontaneous or alter plans if necessary – you must be able to adapt to change.
5. Write your weekend plan
Trying to plan for your next weekend on a Sunday evening can be a challenge. But if you have any social events locked in, add it in. This is important because it stops us from double booking our plans – bailing on our friends is the fastest way to lose a friend, and it also enables us to get to places on time – because we have good time management as a result of our planning and ability to stay organised. If you don’t have any plans for the weekend at this early stage, leave it blank – but don’t forget to include laundry day if you do this over the weekend.
6. Schedule your happiness
Now you have your compulsory week sorted. Work, personal and social commitments. Hopefully you have a few blanks. This is where you schedule your time to recharge with happiness. Go back to the list you made and schedule in what activities you would like to do that recharge and motivate you. It can be challenging because sometimes things that make us happy are outside of our control: for example, I love sitting in the sunshine – if it’s raining, I go to my back up list which is buy myself a milkshake.
Now you have your plan, you have prioritised time for your happiness – all you need to do is go out there and make it happen!
Looking for more tips?
– Watch some great YouTube clips produced by Dr. Aymee Coget. I highly recommend this one: http://youtu.be/morlsdFCDT4 about having a positive upbeat morning.
Ideas for your happiness schedule
– Do something you’ve always wanted to do, such as learn a new language
– Fix something you don’t like about yourself
– Spend time with your loved ones
– Smile at whoever you can.
The Five Time-Spending Happiness Principals
In 2011, Jennifer Aaker, Melanie Rudd and Cassie Mogilner published ‘If money doesn’t make you happy, consider time’ in the Journal of Consumer Psychology. The article included the following five principals to assist with scheduling your happiness.
1. Spend time with the right people. Socially connecting activities are responsible for the happiest parts of our day. Two of the biggest predictors of our general happiness include whether we have a good, loyal friend at work, and whether we like our boss.
2. Spend time on the right activities. Favour activities that make you feel energised. Ask yourself if what you’re about to do will become more valuable over time – it may increase your likelihood to behave in ways that are more in line with what really makes you happy.
3. Enjoy experiences without spending time doing them. Research shows that the part of the brain responsible for feeling pleasure can be activated when merely thinking about something pleasurable. It also showed that sometimes people enjoy anticipating an activity more than actually doing it. In fact, research showed that we can sometimes be better off imagining and visualising experiences rather than actually having them.
4. Expand your time. No one gets more than 24 hours in a day. Having little time makes it feel more valuable, but when it is more valuable it is perceived as more scarce – this is why meditation and mindfulness are important techniques to learn, because thinking about the present moment has been found to slow down the perceived passage of time. Simply breathing deeply can also have similar effects.
5. Be aware that happiness changes over time. As we experience different levels of happiness over time and how we experience happiness changes. Younger people are more likely to experience happiness as excitement whereas older people are more likely to experience happiness as a peaceful feeling. Therefore, basing future decisions on your current perceptions of happiness may not ultimately lead to the maximum level of happiness.
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