How Happiness Will Help You Smash Your To-Do List

Last week I finished reading the Happiness Project by Gretchen Ruben. Although this is by no means a new book (it’s been out since 2009), I finally made some time to finish it. I always thought myself as fairly happy, but this book was a real eye-opener. Am I happy? Not to say that I am unhappy, or dissatisfied with my life, far from it. But there is definitely room for improvement – just like there was in Gretchen’s life.

The funny thing is, happiness is something we all seek. No wonder there are so many quotes about happiness (happiness is not the destination, it’s the way anyone?). All the spiritual masters have something to say on the subject and it has become a routine question at parties. “Are you happy with the new job?” “Are you happy with your new home?” “Are you happy?”. We dutifully answer something along the positive lines. But let’s get real here how happy are you happy?

Much of our happiness come from the things we do on a day to day basis. On some level, we all know this, but reading Gretchen’s book made this abundantly clear. Most of her resolutions weren’t world shocking and didn’t involve a life changing ordeal, they were small resolutions that together made a great impact. The Devil is in the details.

So love what you do every single day, but also do what you love. As entrepreneurs, we are lucky because we are doing what we love. We choose to do what we love and now we get to do it every single day. But at times, it’s easy to forget that. We too have tasks that we don’t want to do, but still have to do. Those tasks linger on our to-do lists, they take up energy, and every time we look at them we are reminded (often with regret) that we still haven’t done XYZ.

Unhappy vs Happy

There is a saying amongst writers: they do their best work when they’re sad, depressed and down. And for the longest time, I found this to be true. Writing served as a cheap form and useful form of therapy. Beautiful sentences formed from my dark thoughts and novels rolled from the tip of my fingers. However, I also found the opposite to be true: you do your best work when you’re happy.

While not every one of use aspires to be a novelist, we still have to get up in the morning, show up and do the work. Which is all well and good, but who wants to get out of bed in the morning when you feel like the whole world is weighing down on your shoulders? That’s right. Nobody. I wouldn’t, and I confess there have been times where I felt so unhappy that I just stayed in bed, or -the horror- watched Netflix all day. Result? Nothing got done. Goodbye, productivity.

I’ve come to realise, and Gretchen’s book anchored this belief, that happiness is the key to getting things done. There will always be things that you don’t want to do. Difficult clients you need to handle, inboxes that get flooded with messages of stuff that needed a reply yesterday, or even that nagging task that’s been on your list forever.

Will it get more enjoyable to do those things? Probably not, but when you have the mental energy to tackle those things, it will get easier. But first, I would suggest that getting happier is a great place to start.

How happiness will help you smash your to-do list

Start with defining what is happiness for you

Do you know what makes you happy? I mean really happy. Not the idea or the feeling that something is supposed to make you happy, but honest to God happy. If you do, that’s great! Make sure you do a little bit of that every single day. Do it at the end of your day to finish the day on a high note, or do it at the start so you start you the day of feeling wonderful and positive.

Have no idea what happiness is for you? Go explore! This is a fun challenge and will surely teach you a lot. Explore different hobbies, different ways to plan and schedule your day until you find that one thing (or more!) that makes you excited to jump out of bed in the morning. If you find that, then make a point of doing it every single day,

Define what you don’t like

This is a bit of a ‘duh’ no brainer right? Nope! You would be amazed how many people don’t define what they really don’t like doing and then end up doing it a lot during their days and weeks. Such a shame! Because they will spend their days stressing out about something they don’t like, while they could have that same mental energy to do something that fired them up. So define what you don’t like, and then minimalise it as much as possible. Outsource it, stop doing it, but whatever you do, don’t let it use up that precious energy.

Eliminate clutter

Let’s get real here for a second. How many things are on your to-do list? I mean for real. How many of those things are things you are actually going to do? I think if you look closely you will find there are several items on that list that have been moved several times and are things that you will get around to eventually. Are you really? Because those tasks on my list are usually the ones that just never get done and the ones that I end up scrapping altogether. Be serious when you look at your list. Are there things on there that eat away mental energy because you keep thinking ‘oh I still haven’t done XYZ’. If there are items like that (and I bet you there are), look if you can get them done this week. If you can’t or start moving them again, see if you can scrap them all together. Either way, find a way to eliminate the clutter on your to-do list.

Go where your passions/strengths are

Another ‘duh’ item and again one people often overlook. Do you know what your strengths are? Do you know what comes more natural to you than to other people? I mean really, this is one of those cases that it concerns things that are so natural to us that we really don’t think about them. Planning was one of those things to me. I was so used to being organised and have all my ducks in a row, that I didn’t realise it’s hard for a lot of people to create a great day planning. It took a lot of time before I started to realise that planning is one of my core strengths and that I can use that to help people.

So this week, pay close attention to the things that you do. See where your strengths are, what do you love doing and most importantly, what are you really good at. Now, make a point of dong that more often and start using it to help people. I bet you everything that it’s going to make a huge difference in your productivity and your feeling of happiness as well.

So what’s on your list for this week?

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