happiness and success

Happiness hacks #9: Make it easy

January is the month for good intentions. 

Question is, which of those those 'good-idea-at-the-time' presents will make it through? Will your brand new juicer see more than one carrot? Will your new running trainers actually leave the house? Has the wearable you vowed would make you smash your daily steps target made its way out of the packaging? 

I confess, even though my running trainers and wearable are in constant use, I do have a juicer in hibernation from about 2010 (taking 30 mins to dismantle, clean the pulp off its million bits and reassemble was a bit too much for the morning routine).

The juicer haunts me to this day and it is the reason my partner joked with me when I requested a cheap exercise bike this Christmas to help me get to our wedding marathon start line (which you can read all about here in case you missed it) in one piece. 

To show my commitment, I decided that if we are going to get a bike, it would have to be impossible not to use. 

So, it's now a trip hazard in the living room. You basically have to mount it just to get in.

Why so obstructive you ask? If I've learned anything in my 35 years it is that if you want people people to do something, you have to make it easy to do. 

I understand the beauty of order (as you will have read in a previous post). But I also understand the beauty of convenience. I know right now, if I make a nice home for it, or pack it away when it's not in use, it will gather dust in some forgotten corner - and my legs won't get any stronger.

Everything should have its place, but if there is a chance you might find an excuse instead of finding an item, that place has to be visible and, as is the case with the bike, conveniently inconvenient. 

I am certainly not alone in my thinking. I was listening to a Ted Radio Hour (love these) podcast this morning all about nudging. A behavioural economist was discussing the fact that pension contributions have increased significantly just by asking people to opt out rather than in. 

After all, the easy route (the one that doesn't involve excessive form filling), will always win. 

Another was discussing something called 'the last mile'. He talks about breakthrough vaccines that don't saves lives they could because people do not know or choose to use them. 

You don't become the world's ice cream maker by having the world's best maker on your counter. You have to use it. (The getting good part, of course, is entirely in your hands.) 

We none of us want appliances and gadgets clogging up our cupboards and our lives, so I think we owe it to ourselves to find a way to make what we have work for us.

So, liberate those cupboards, get those gadgets on display, make ice cream in your ice cream maker, get in a stew over your slow cooker and wear your wearable to bed.

If there's a will, there really is a way! 

Oh, and never buy a really complicated juicer, even if it claims to core and slice your apple. There is no position in the kitchen that would make this more convenient. 

Let's turn good intentions into brilliant habits that make it through the year! 

Life in a list: What would you say if you had to write a line a day?

My 35th birthday was more than just a mid-thirties milestone. 

It was the day I closed my five-year line a day book for the last time.

This little green book has been a great companion over the last five years. Every entryholds a memory of the day, a more thoughtful 'note to self' or life lesson and a rating (out of 10). I appreciate this may be stretching the definition of a list somewhat, but I do sit it firmly in my 'did it happen?' set of lists, the important ones that hold you to account and help you capture the past so you can shape the future. 

This little book has seen great happiness and success. This little book has seen cancer, loss and moments of real sadness. This little book has seen brilliant sunsets and terrible storms. This little book has experienced delicious dinners and skipped mealtimes. 

It may be small, but with more than 1,000 life lessons in here, this little book might just contain a pretty accurate definition of happiness - mine that is. 

Am I the same person who started writing in it at the age of 30? No. 

Am I happy about that fact? Absolutely. But, what is great about this book of moments is that it tells me exactly how I was feeling each and every day, which is a far more accurate record than a brain that can't even remember what it had for dinner last week. 

Rather than tuck it in a drawer with old diaries and 'I'm-sure-they-will-be-useful-one day' notebooks, I have started sifting through it. Typing out all the lessons, spotting trends and reminding myself of what it is that really makes me smile time and again will take time to explore. So, I thought I'd start with a few of the 'notes to self' or life lessons to give you a snapshot.

Here are some of my favourites (not all profound and without cliche):

1) Balance in life makes everything better (2015)

2) A good day at work can be as satisfying as a day off (2014)

3) Happiness isn't always fun (2015)

4) Just start and then you'll be excited to finish (2016)

5) Don't check email on the way to bed (a happiness hack right there and many a sleepless night caused when I didn't take my own advice) (2013) 

6) You can have cancer and be happy (2014) (obviously not a route I would recommend but an interesting observation for someone seriously ill at the time) 

7) Step back and enjoy the view (2016) 

8) Work those edges (2016)

9) Hard work isn't always enough (2012) 

10) The world is full of incredible people if you know where to look (2016)

11) Great flavours are not to be underestimated (2015) (Great to be documenting this more than a year after losing my taste buds to chemo) 

12) Knickers can be lucky (2012) (Maybe not a deep life lesson, but it made me laugh) 

13) If it's in the routine, it's easier to keep up (2013) (habits give you energy for other things) 

14) Anticipation is everything (2013) 

15) There is always time for friendship (2016) 

16) It is ok to not be ok (2014) 

17) The explanation is always better than the assumption (2012) 

18) You don't need butter to make a light and fluffy cake (2012) (not a metaphor for life, you can come here for baking tips too) 

19) You are the only person who can put you first (which is where you belong) (2015) 

20) Adventurous days make better stories (2016)

And the one that made me laugh out loud:

21) I'd pay to have Imelda Staunton act out scenes in my life (2012) (I had just seen her in a play so it wasn't as random as it sounds). 

I may not have analysed the last five years in detail, but I can already spot some interesting trends. I like things organised. I have a strange obsession with time and making the most of it. I like to push myself. Friendship and family are really important. I am quite fond of smiling and good food (particularly making bakes). I need to not procrastinate. Oh, and it seems I have a soft spot for Great British actresses. 

I think I am getting wiser (from lucky knickers to the importance of friendship). But, I think I still have much to learn. 

Ask me again when I've finished the next book! 

And, why not make 2017 the year you start your own 'line a day' book? More fun than a diary, less time-consuming than a journal and more insightful than not writing or remembering anything down at all! 

I look forward to hearing how you get on.

(By the way, I love Kikki K stationery if you're looking for a thoughtful brand to make record keeping even more enjoyable.)