Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

Posts Tagged happy

Evaluating Your Time, The Trick To A Happier Life

They say that when people start to track what they eat they generally start eating less, just because they’re being conscious of what they are eating.  The same rings true when you look at how you’re spending your life, what time you dedicate to different things.  Over the past month or so I’ve been taking a look at how am I spending my life, where is my time going and how do I feel about it all.

I wanted to map what my life is actually like and compare it to what I want it to be.  The difference between what it is and what I want it to be signals where I need to make changes.  To do this, I’ve found a few tools that I’ve really liked and thought I’d share some of them here.

Track your life with Life Cycle

This is a pretty neat app that automates the tracking of your entire day and it does it pretty well.  It uses your GPS to figure out what you do where and then tracks how long you’re doing it.  You tell it where you work, it tracks time spent at work.  You tell it where you work out, grocery shop, get dinner, do errands and it tracks it all.  At the end of the day you get a snapshot of what your day was.

So here you can see I spent 7 hours and 23 minutes sleeping, 6 hours 28 minutes working, and so on.  The app interfaces with the iPhone’s health app, tracking your steps and it also connect to their other app, Sleep Cycle (more on that in a minute).

Track your sleep with Sleep Cycle

This is from the makers of the Life Cycle app and interfaces with it, its basically required to use.  Basically it analyzes how you sleep by detecting movement on your bed and breathing patterns.  It operates on the premise that when you are in deep REM sleep (the kind that really gets you rested up) your body actually prevents itself from moving so we don’t act out our dreams and many other reasons.  This means when we are in deep sleep, we don’t really move.  The app tracks this and measures your sleep patterns.

Understand better how you work with Rescue Time

If you’re like me, when it comes to work, it’s almost all done on a computer.  Rescue time puts a little program on your computer to track exactly what you’re doing and for how long.  It can spit out reports to show you exactly what you’ve been up to, it can categorize those into “productive” or “non productive” activities.

rescue time tracking

This is really good for those who get distracted easily on the web or on their computers.  We know that just because you’re on your computer, doesn’t mean you’re actually working.  Since using this app (over two years for me now) I’ve found that I get on my computer, do only work, then shut down and move on with life.  In short, I don’t waste time, get my work done quickly and get on with more important things.

Dig into emails with Gmail Meter

One of the lessons I learned from using Rescue Time (above) was that I spend a lot of time in email.  Email is often a terrible use of time.  The saying goes: “an email inbox is a convenient way to organize other people’s priorities.”  I use an add-on to Gmail called Gmail Meter which analyzes your email.  I’ve taken some drastic steps to help reduce the number of emails I receive.  For example I used to receive around 400 emails a day, now 170 email per day.  I still have a very long way to go.

It also shows your top people who email you.  This helps me identify people who I need to break it off with if they are endless emailers or validate that the emails I do get and send are productive.

So What Does This All Mean?

After sitting with this data, I break out my life into three main categories:  Recreational, Sleeping and Business Activities. Having objective data is a very important step because we can get down to specifics and reality, not guesses and gut feelings.

I then can ask myself, what do I want my life to be like?  What do I want a day to look like?  Then after that I can delve into things more specifically: what do I want my free time (recreational) to look like?  When I run my business, what should that look and feel like?  How much sleep do I want to make sure I have?

The important part here is defining what will make you happy and then comparing it to reality.  The gap is where I need to focus and make intentional changes.

For me, email is a huge issue.  I also spend more time driving that I like.  My average sleep time is around 8 hours, which is good, but I need to work out more.

You can use fancy tools like I have here or simply jot down in a notebook.  The point is, how often do you take inventory on your goals and your life?  Most people don’t.  Most people do nothing or at best, work of guesses.

Your Turn!

  • How do you track your time spent?
  • How do you keep on track to your goals?

A Simple Guide To What Makes You Happy

What is most important in life?  What is the path to happiness?  When you live The Tiny Life, these are very important questions to answer because you are removing the excess to get to the bare essentials.  For me, this really comes down to what makes me happy and doing more of it, plus figuring out what I don’t like doing and doing less of that.  Happiness is something you work towards, it’s an active process.  The hardest part for me and many others is figuring out what really makes you happy.

What Makes You Happy

To understand what it will take to thrive, to be truly happy and find direction in your own life, you need to examine your current life to find out what things really turn us on.  We need to identify the things that bring joy to our lives.

Here is a quick printable worksheet for you

Using the worksheet above, print it out and take it with you during a normal day of life.  Every 30 minutes or so think about what you’re doing, think about everything you’ve done, every little thing.  Reflect on what you’ve done and mark down if you enjoyed it or not.Write-everything-down

If you’re at work, don’t just think about whether you like your job or not, but think about every little task;  you may not love your job, but you may like talking with clients, building the perfect spreadsheet, or working with others to find a solution.  Conversely, you may hate filling out reports, providing customer support, or stocking shelves.

In your personal life think about the things that make you feel energized or fall flat for you.  Do you love spending time with your friends or family at the park, cooking a nice meal, or reading a good book?  Do you hate running errands, cleaning the house, or having a weekly dinner with that gossipy friend from long ago?

In each of these good and bad things, don’t just write down the good and the bad, but think about WHY they fall into the category.  Think critically about if it’s the actual activity or a factor around it that’s coloring the emotion.  In some cases it’s the situation or conditions that make something less or more pleasant.  It is in that why that we will find common threads which lead us to happiness.

HappinessA perfect example is I’ve had crappy jobs that were fun because I had awesome coworkers; I’ve also had great jobs that were terrible because the people I worked with.   Now our natural instinct would be to say one job was great, the other was terrible, but really after some reflection we can determine that what really makes us happy is having great coworkers.  We could take that even further to say, we thrive off of having positive people around us in all aspects of life.

Go through a few days, just jotting down your likes and dislikes, keeping notes and taking time to reflect on each of the things you write down.  Once you’ve done that, look for those common threads, look for trends, look for deeper truths.

In the next step don’t let yourself consider your answers, just put your pen to the paper and write, do a rapid stream of consciousness.  If you consider the answers, you might edit your true feelings.  Answer these questions truthfully on your printed worksheet:

  1. I look forward to ____ the most.
  2. Before I die, I want to _____.
  3. The things that I value most are _____.
  4. Doing _______ makes me feel most alive.

With these written down, think about what they mean to you.  Think about why they made their way on to the paper.  It can be a good time to just sit back and consider these things.  Think about ways you can do more of what makes you happy and what ways can you minimize what makes you unhappy.

live intentionallyTo continue the job example, I realized one day that if I could find a job with people I like working with and a position that was constantly presenting challenges that require creative solutions, I was very happy.  Conversely I found if I didn’t connect well with my coworkers and my position was very repetitive, I couldn’t stand it.

That was when I started developing questions to ask in an interview to help me determine if that job met those two criteria.  If they did, I’d continue interviewing, and if they didn’t, I’d politely bow out.

In the end, the most happy people will have most accurately identified what is most true for themselves and acted upon it.  It’s not that we will ever be able to eliminate all things that we don’t like doing, but that our lives are so rich with what we love, that those unpleasant task are just a small part of what is a great life.

Your Turn!

  • What questions help you find what makes you happy?
  • Was there something that surprised you in doing this?

Ways You Can Live The Tiny Life Now

Many of you have been following me in my journey to The Tiny Life for a while now.  While I tend to focus on the building and design of tiny houses, what I have come to realize is that even though its fun to talk about the houses and how to build them, it really isn’t about the houses, it’s about the life you lead in them.  In an odd way, its not the house that is so great, its the life that is amazing.

Recently I was thinking about this fact as I was re-reading my book that just released (find it here) and I realized that in many ways you can still live tiny, without a tiny house at all.  So here are some ways you can live The Tiny Life right now.

Learn To Say No

ba7688b4e4a544d65380ef9bc19087a9In this world saying no is almost unheard of.  We often either get pulled into things we really don’t want to do or we say non-committal things like “Let me get back to you” when you hope they never follow up.  One thing I’ve learned is important is when there is something that I am not interested in participating in or doing, I just clearly decline and make no apologies for it.  Be willing to say no, you don’t have to be rude, but be clear, “Honestly, I’m just not interested in it” or “I don’t have the time to do a good job with this, so I’ll have to pass, thanks.”

Proactively Remove Negative Influences And Sources Of Stress

I have had two people that really shaped this rule for me in my life:  I once worked with a person who always had some sort of drama in their life, no matter how good things were, there was always some catastrophe happening.  The second one was when I found myself in a situation where I had to regularly interact with someone who frankly was just a really terrible human being; they were manipulative, easily moved to violence, and had a lot of self destructive behaviors that they inflicted on others.

It taught me a valuable lesson, there are people or situations that you must actively work to remove yourself from.  If they cause stress, unhappiness, or cause drama in your life, you need to get them out of your life.  This goes for friends too.  I will only put in effort into relationships that I feel the other person equally values me.  There have been times where I have had friends who were flaky, always late, or didn’t ever develop into a deeper platonic relationship that I just let go and let them peter out.

Thin Your Email In Box

inbox_zeroOne thing I have learned with running this website is how to handle a lot of email effectively.  I have developed a few rules that I abide by to make it easier.  I realized that I don’t want to be efficient with email, but instead I have worked hard to reduce the email volume, which I must be efficient in handling.  Spending an hour to help setup a system where people can find their answer on their own, has come back 100 fold.  Think of how you could do the same in your life or situation, just adapt it.

  1. Realize your email inbox is a convenient way for other people to organize their agenda.
  2. Always think about how you can reduce the volume of emails you get.
  3. Always to clearly define the next needed action, otherwise close the loop on that email.
  4. If they don’t ask a question, it isn’t actionable or are not clear in message, don’t respond.
  5. Set up email filters for things that you get often or as a way to segment different areas of your life.
  6. If its a newsletter that I find myself not reading regularly, I unsubscribe right away. I can always add myself back.
  7. If they ask for something I often follow up with a request to do a small task (want to talk? I ask for an agenda) this weeds out people

Define You Career By The Life You Want To Lead, Not The Other Way Around

Your job/career should support and accommodate the life you want to lead, not the other way around.  To do this you must first know what life you want.  It is easy to fall in the trap of letting your career dictate the life you lead (work schedules, vacations, soul crushing activities),

I’ve been there myself and there are times where you just need a job to pay the bills.  So if you are in a tight spot, get a income source, but once you have gained that stabilizing income, you must then quickly move to a more proactive place where you either morph your job to be what you need or start looking for / building your perfect job that accommodates your life.

I once took a job that I knew I would hate, but I realized that it would buy me just enough time (3-6 months) of income to allow me to find the job that I really wanted.  It meant that I could walk away from offers that weren’t great and hold out for a better one, at that point I really didn’t have anything to lose.

The Pareto Principle

This is more commonly known as the 80/20 rule which states that 80% of the outcome or effect comes from 20% of the cause.  For example, 80% of the happiness comes from 20% of the people in your life, because they are the most important people to you.  On the flip side, 20% of your time spent at work actually yields 80% of your income.

The trick with this rule is to identify that 20% that causes the 80% and if its good, focus on it; if it is bad, eliminate it.   So in the instance of something good, say relationships, spend 80% of your time on the top 20% of your relationships.  Conversely, if 80% of customers complaints at work come from 20% of your customers, break it off with them.

Learn To Slow Down, But Be Intentional

excuseI’ve learned over the past two years that I can be far more productive if I am intentional.  I have had so many people in my professional life say to me that I always seem laid back, but get a ton done.  The truth is I do a lot less work then them, but when I do work, it is calculated.  I actively work to minimize what is on my plate instead of working longer hours to get an overloaded to do list done.  I think about what I can do that is most effective and then how I can achieve it most efficiently.  Finally anything I do more than a few times, I look for ways to automate.

So when it comes time for me to do something, I have the time to do it correctly, I have worked out the best way to do it, and then in many cases I have automated it so I don’t have to worry about it at all.

 

So these are just some of the ways you can start living The Tiny Life now, even if you don’t live in a tiny house just yet.

 

Your Turn!

  • What things have you done or do to live The Tiny Life?

 

The Science Of Happiness

Last week I wrote about how there were several common traits, one of which was being grateful.  Then I found this video about the science of happiness and it affirmed something for me.  Tiny House folks have always seemed to be much happier and from my post they also seemed very grateful; turns out there might be a correlation.

happy

But Will It Make You Happier?

Today a good blogger friend of mine was featured in the New York Times, it talks about life simplification and what actually makes humans happy.  Not only is it inspiring, interesting and thought provoking, it is backed up with a good bit of research.  The article is really well written and I strongly encourage you all to read it.

A two-bedroom apartment. Two cars. Enough wedding china to serve two dozen people.

Yet Tammy Strobel wasn’t happy. Working as a project manager with an investment management firm in Davis, Calif., and making about $40,000 a year, she was, as she put it, caught in the “work-spend treadmill.”

So one day she stepped off.

Inspired by books and blog entries about living simply, Ms. Strobel and her husband, Logan Smith, both 31, began donating some of their belongings to charity. As the months passed, out went stacks of sweaters, shoes, books, pots and pans, even the television after a trial separation during which it was relegated to a closet. Eventually, they got rid of their cars, too. Emboldened by a Web site that challenges consumers to live with just 100 personal items, Ms. Strobel winnowed down her wardrobe and toiletries to precisely that number.

Full article here: NYT August 2010

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