Do You Want to Be Happy? Are You Sure?

Are you happy right now? Were you happy today? How about yesterday?

Most people when asked would say that experiencing happiness is an important part of life. When polled, people said they had the most happiness when socializing with friends and family. Yet why is it that we often prioritize spending long hours at work which prevents us from having fun?

An article on Quartz by Ephrat Livni, explores this seeming paradox and uncovers a potential explanation why were behave this way. The article discusses research findings made by Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman that point to the balancing act between happiness and satisfaction.

Kahneman contends that happiness and satisfaction are distinct. Happiness is a momentary experience that arises spontaneously and is fleeting. Meanwhile, satisfaction is a long-term feeling, built over time and based on achieving goals and building the kind of life you admire. On the Dec. 19 podcast “Conversations with Tyler,” hosted by economist Tyler Cowen, Kahneman explains that working toward one goal may undermine our ability to experience the other.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

A key factor in how people navigate the line between happiness and satisfaction is linked to memory.

The key here is memory. Satisfaction is retrospective. Happiness occurs in real time. In Kahneman’s work, he found that people tell themselves a story about their lives, which may or may not add up to a pleasing tale. Yet, our day-to-day experiences yield positive feelings that may not advance that longer story, necessarily. Memory is enduring. Feelings pass. Many of our happiest moments aren’t preserved—they’re not all caught on camera but just happen. And then they’re gone.

Read the rest of the article on Quartz.

Is Life Better When You’re Busy?

Are you busy right now?

I ask because our modern life seems designed to offer too many options for things to do such that it is impossible to ever do them all. Yet there is a persistent fear of missing out (FOMO) that drives people to chase one thing after another, filling up every hour of the day with stuff. All this running around raises an important question: does being busy make life more fulfilling?

That is the question Scott Young addresses in his article Is Life Better When You’re Busy? In order to answer it he first focuses on the possible reasons why people are busy, of which none have to do with the actual volume of necessary work to be done.

  • Busyness as signaling. Busy people are important. Complaints about busyness are like complaints about paying too much in taxes—something that allows you to subtly communicate your status.
  • Busyness as dodging commitment. Claiming busyness is a socially acceptable way to decline social obligations. “I wish I could, but I’m too busy,” is more polite than, “No, your nephew’s piano recital doesn’t interest me very much.”
  • Busyness as self-deception. When you work on things, your goal is always to move toward a state of having less stuff left to do. Since less outstanding tasks is better within the context of your goal, you may incorrectly extend that to assume that having no outstanding tasks in life is ideal.
Photo by Alexander Dummer on Pexels.com

We seem biologically driven to be busy, perhaps as an evolutionary trait to ensure we keep on the lookout for food and avoid dangers. Boredom is viewed as a problem that must be resolved. Young takes time to consider whether this is a sweet spot where business and idleness meet for maximum satisfaction.

Later in the article, he considers if being busy is really a function of having too little time to complete our tasks.

Strictly speaking, we all have the same amount of time each day. Nobody has more or less. What feels like a lack of time is, more accurately, a conflict between priorities.

One problematic form of busyness occurs when your activity has low intrinsic enjoyment. If you’re forced to work long hours at a job you hate, then you need to somehow meet your psychological needs in the little time you have left. This can be tricky.

Read the entire article on Scott Young’s web site.

Are You Scared of Lists?

Do you like your lists?

Making lists is a standard time management tool designed to put everything that needs to be done front and center. However, many people have trouble using their lists effectively. Often the reason is that the items on the lists are too vague and thus difficult to act on. Other times lists may seem overwhelming because they are long and contain everything that needs to be done. Can we just trash lists and do something else instead to manage our affairs? Perhaps not.

David Allen is a huge proponent of using lists. He has a way to demystify them for maximum effectiveness. In a recent article on the Getting Things Done web site, David discusses why lists are often considered a dirty word.

You are either attracted or repelled by your lists and everything on them. There is no neutral territory. When you look at any one item you will either be thinking to yourself, “Hey, when can I mark THAT off?” or “Yuck! Back away!” My educated guess is that 98 per cent of people’s responses are some version of the latter.

Why? Because 1) they’re hard work and/or 2) they’re scary and/or 3) they’re disappointing.

After dissecting the reasons why lists frustrate people, he proceeds to provide ways to make better use of them. For example:

1) Make them complete, so your brain gets to graduate from the job of remembering; and organize your action reminders by context (phone, computer, errands, at home, etc.) so you only need to review what you actually can do at the time.

Read the other two ways to make lists more useful on the Getting Things Done web site.

Pay Yourself First and Do It With Time

If you have ever tried to save money for retirement, you might be familiar with the “pay yourself first” strategy. This approach recommends that people take the first portion of their pay check and set it aside for savings. The rationale behind this strategy is that we have so many opportunities to spend money that relying on leftovers at the end of a month will lead to little savings or none at all. While this approach works for money, does it work for time?

In his book Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, author Oliver Burkeman argues that many people spend their limited time on this earth doing things the feel they need to do, not what they want to do. As David Allen has long pointed out there is always more to do than we can ever do. If a person want to accomplish the things that matter most to them, their time must be preserved for those things. As he writes:

If you try to find time for your most valued activities by first dealing with all the other important demands on your time, in the hope that there’ll be some left over at the end, you’ll be disappointed. So if a certain activity really maters to you – a creative project, say, through it could just as easily be nurturing a relationship, or activism in the service of some cause – the only way to be sure it will happen is to do some if it today, no matter how little, no matter how many other genuinely big rocks may be begging for your attention. (pg 74)

Four Thousand Weeks

Now reflect on this question: what project or cause in your life do you want to give more attention to on a daily basis?

Once you know what it is dedicate a sacred time period each day to do it. Whether it is an hour in the morning to write that novel, or your lunch hour to attend a Toastmasters meeting to work on your public speaking, or even two nights a week to make phone calls to raise money for your favorite charity, these priorities only happen when you block off the time to do it.

So, how much time to do you want to pay yourself first?

The Leader as Diplomat

I am happy to share this article that was recently published in Learning Exchange: The Newsletter of the Learning Round Table of the American Library Association.

Oftentimes the first thoughts of leadership are about the internal relationship between a leader and their team. However, leadership also involves interacting with others beyond that leader’s chain of command, whether they are in another part of the organization or completely external to it. This is where a leader must take on the role of a diplomat.

To paraphrase the definitions of diplomat and diplomacy from the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a diplomat is someone who practices the art of conducting negotiations between groups. They must have skill in handling affairs without invoking hostility, and handle awkward situations with tact. To be a diplomat requires sound leadership skills.

What does diplomacy have to do with library leadership? Think about the diplomats who work for the United States. They are appointed by the President with the consent of the Senate to live in another nation in order to represent America’s interests. To be successful they need to understand the culture of their assigned country while at the same time demonstrate American values. The goal is to create a productive relationship based on regular communication and trust.

Read the rest of the article on the Efficient Librarian web site.

Three Decision Making Rules

It is something that is unavoidable and necessary. It is something we must face every day even if we don’t want to do so. It is a fact of life and needed to move us forward in life.

It is the process of making decisions.

Most things are simple to decide, but we also encounter many problems that vex us because there is no easy answer. Therefore, we need guidelines on how to make decisions so that we are not stuck in perpetual pondering.

Peter Bregman, author of many books on business, wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review on the topic of decision making. In his piece titled, 3 Timeless Rules for Making Tough Decisions, he listed some ways to make decisions more efficiently. He summed up the problem very clearly.

We spend an inordinate amount of time, and a tremendous amount of energy, making choices between equally attractive options in everyday situations. The problem is, that while they may be equally attractive, they are also differently attractive, with tradeoffs that require compromise.

To help cut through the challenges of decision making, one idea he shares has to do with turning your decisions into habits.

The first method is to use habits as a way to reduce routine decision fatigue. The idea is that if you build a habit —for example: always eat salad for lunch — then you avoid the decision entirely and you can save your decision-making energy for other things.

That works for predictable and routine decisions.

What about decisions that are not predictable and routine? Read the rest of his article to learn two more strategies to help with those type of decisions.

Are We Too Busy?

How busy are you?

Often in America being seen as busy is a badge of honor. There is an assumption that we need to fill our days with as much work as possible. This formula can lead to extra stress and exhaustion.

The pandemic has given many people a chance to pause and reconsider their work day. In a recent article by Shayla Love on Vice, she notes how this unusual year has allowed many workers a chance for reflection.

The pandemic offered a rare window of opportunity for some people to become literally less busy, and perhaps more importantly, to get perspective on their cultural beliefs about busyness. Instead of being caught up in the inertia of always projecting a busy life, they had time to reflect on how they used busyness to define themselves—and how it led to stress and the conflation of productivity and self-worth.

Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

Later in the article, she explores the how people view business and happiness. It actually interferes with how they use their downtime. Looking at a recent study on the topic, Love notes:

But the paradox and masochism of busyness is also laid bare: the study found that while people aspire to be more like a busy person, they also consider the busy person to be less happy. An obsession with busyness also taints how people spend what little leisure time they have, … by wanting leisure to accomplish as much as possible in as little time as possible—called “productivity orientation.”

Read the rest of the article online at Vice.

Tidy the Home Office

Are you working from home all the time or a few days a week?

The pandemic radically altered the way we approach work. Many people no longer commute and instead work from a home office. This can be a great arrangement since it cuts out commutes and coworker distractions. However, setting up a home office to make it a welcoming productive space can be tricky. Is there a way to do it well?

Marie Kondo, creator of the KonMari Method, recently offered advice on her blog about how to tidy the home office space. She first explains that you should set an intention for how you want the home office to look and feel. Next is her signature move, discarding!

Go through your desk drawers and toss out old receipts, corral loose change, and recycle catalogs or other paper items that are no longer needed. When it comes to more sentimental items, such as photos or notes from friends and relatives, express gratitude for these belongings and their significance and then let go—Marie sends off such items using salt

Read the rest of her advice for your home office on the KonMari web site.

Can you have purpose without passion?

There is a long standing idea that if you are not excited about doing something, then it is not for you. Passion for our work is said to drive us to do it better and stick with it when we are in rough times. How true is this idea?

According to David Allen, passion and purpose may be misunderstood. In a recent blog post titled, Go beyond passion to peaceful purposefulness, he shares thoughts about the connection between the two. To begin, he points out his resistance to passion.

I have been attempting to understand why it bugs me to hear professional motivators talk about the necessity for “passion” to be successful. Perhaps I’m just getting too old and lazy to be interested in jacking up my emotions about anything. (Getting passionate about something usually seems to me like hard work.) Or perhaps it’s the fact that jacked-up emotional states are not something you need or even want, to be successful.

Instead of passion, Allen shifts the mindset to the concept of identification.

I think I know what the motivators are referring to. There is a quality of intensity of commitment that resides with successful people. But rather than “passion” I would suggest the word “identification.” When you really identify with something, whether it is some intended outcome or some internal standard about your reality, it creates a true motivational energy to make it happen. But that does not at all mean a hyperemotional state.

Read his full post on the Getting Things Done web site.