This week my wife and kids were out of town for a cousin’s wedding. This left me with the choice to be a lazy ass, a workaholic, or somewhere in between. I chose the workaholic route. While I normally spend about 60 hours a week at the office, in the last week I’ve spent over 90. I was able to finally work on some projects I haven’t had time for, and start thinking about future projects as well. But something happened this week, something amazing.
I realized that I was doing it all wrong.
So often at work, I come in and focus on what “needs to get done”. I’ve actually tested this and have managed to get better at completing the things in my Bullet Journal first thing when I come into the office. I’ve become extremely effective at GTD.
But this week I realized that while those little checkmarks in my journal felt like a nice little accomplishment, they had little effect on my happiness. Tonight, I got into my car (at 11:07pm) to head home. I sat down and realized that I’ve been really happy these last few days – which isn’t to say that I’m normally unhappy. I realized what had changed – I was doing the things I wanted to do.
So I whipped out my Bullet Journal and wrote down this list:
Things I want to do EVERY DAY:
Spend focused time with kids
Spend focused time with April
Work on creative projects
The first thing I realized is that checking off a list at work isn’t a priority. It’s not something that in a knee jerk moment even makes the list! I discovered the things that do make me happy, the things listed above – spiritual and physical health and growth, my family, and then my work. What this means is that while my system might be effective (it is), my goals, and therefore my systems, were off target.
This leaves a few things to figure out:
Find Time For The Things That Make You Happy
I had done a great job at making time in my day for my 3 things, which I’ll write about later, but had structured no time for anything on this new list. This changes now. The old system looked something like this:
While the schedule/system will look fairly similar, the morning is where the biggest shifts are going to occur: A greater focus on spiritual growth, dedicated time for writing, a greater focus on healthy eating, especially breakfast, and more time for creative projects. I know for a fact from past experience that these things are guaranteed to increase my happiness, but I somehow have lost sight of it all in the last little while.
For those interested, my workout and diet can be found in The 4 Hour Body.
Test What Works
We all have goals, whether they be financial, creative, or otherwise. We also want to reach those goals sooner rather than later. In order to be successful in compressing the timeline, we need to test different options to see what works best. Just as in writing, often your first attempt is no good.
The first draft of anything is shit.
(Hey, it’s Hemingway, he can say whatever he wants…)
What are some things you can test?
This week I was able to complete all of the work for clients, but greatly increase my creative output. Part of the reason is that I was able to test how effective I was at different times of the day, and based on what I ate. I learned that early in the morning is the best time for scriptural study and prepping for the day. In the evening I’m usually too tired or unfocused to think clearly about those things. In the morning however, even if I only got 4 or 5 hours of sleep the night before (thanks House Of Cards), I was still alert and excited enough about the day to make those plans and spend time on my spirituality.
At work, I know that I’m only good on a project for at most two to three hours before I need a break. I’ve worked that knowledge into my day so that I work for an hour and a half in a focused effort – no media, no distractions, email off, phone face down, etc – then take a break. I’ve turned off email notifications on my phone for this very reason. Then I’ll get up, move around, go across the hall into my business partner’s room, or take a walk to clear my head and recharge.
I used to be bad at watching TV shows while at work, thinking that I was getting a lot done when in reality I was just watching a show. I’ve learned that having a show on in the background actually does help me get through things like writing a blog post, working on a pitch packet, or updating the company website, but not during work hours. When I get home, and after the kids are in bed, I can sit down and turn on Hulu or Netflix and start plucking away on my computer. I get much more done than when I’m at work, because I don’t have the pressure of client projects pulling my focus, and I don’t feel guilty for watching the show because I’m still getting things done.
And lastly, spending time on purely creative projects is possibly the best way to invigorate myself and get pumped to do all the other work that I need to do. This last week I spent just a few hours shooting a live music performance of my friend Ryan Innes. We turned it around in less than a day, and man did it feel good. Plus, when you collaborate with someone with a following like Ryan’s you get the added bonus of seeing something you made get thousands of views in just a few days…
Make The Change
Change is hard. Oftentimes we don’t change because we’re too afraid of what might happen – what if it doesn’t work? What if I fail? What if I was wrong? The reality is that the worst thing that could happen is just that. You were wrong. But then you learned from it, and changed again. As long as you’re trying to improve, you’re going to be headed in the right direction. You might trip and fall on your face a few times, but in a week no one is going to remember that thing that you’re giving all this weight to.
Sometimes, however, the necessary change is much bigger than a change in your daily routine. What if where you live isn’t making you happy? What if it’s your job that is causing you to be stressed and depressed? Making the decision to move to a new city/state/country or quit your job would be huge life altering choice. But you can do those things. It is possible. And it might just be necessary. I’m not in the position to help you make those decisions, other than to say that your happiness is much more important than your job or where you live. My rule of thumb is that they’re going to effect your happiness one way or another – if they’re making you happier, then you’re good. If they are causing you stress or adding negativity to your life, then make the change.
In order to be happy, you need to structure your life in a way that works with who you are, how you work best, what you love and what makes you happy. You have the ability to make the choices necessary to make you happy. Start today with little changes, small additions or subtractions to your life, and test the outcome. Then do it again, and get happy.