Happiness hacks #2: Nurture a hobby


One of the best things about reading 168 hours, Laura Vanderkam's book about time, is that it is a reminder to us all that we can't do everything. No, really, we can't. 

By the time you've carved up those 168 hours, you very soon realise that when you strip out the compulsory stuff - for me that would be sleep, teeth brushing, eating and work - you have very little time to play with. That's why the material to cover our window bench is still in its packaging and the home admin filing system is full to bursting.

So how, you ask, did I find time to bake a fish and chip supper out of baked products and deliver it to BBC's Extra Slice (the UK's Bake Off spin off show) a few weeks ago? 

I've identified the things I love doing and I do more of them. I have accepted at last that I will no longer be a champion crafter or knitter to rival my mum (and I will never make 200 handmade Christmas gifts in one year). I won't read books like they are going out of fashion. I won't be a world class athlete or a concert pianist. 

Because when you can't do it all, you have to be selective.

Laura talks about narrowing it down to your core interests and competencies and then nurturing yourself by spending more of your precious time on those interests. For me, once I have finished interrogating the content marketing world I love to do the following from my 'Do it today' list: 

1) write

2) cook (mainly bake) 

3) volunteer

4) travel 

5) exercise 

6) contact friends/family 

A day spent doing one or any combination of these things is a good day.

So that brings me back to my sugary fish. Two years so, I got free tickets (you can apply here when it's on) for Extra Slice and spent 15 hours making Danish pastries in the shape of blueberry boobies (you can take a bake). I covered the kitchen in flour in the process, but what I didn't realise is that no amount of effort will secure you a studio seat. In fact, the queue was so long I ended up handing out the pastries to unsuspecting passengers on the tube on my way home. 


One thing it did give me, however, was a priority ticket to a show of my choosing one day in the future.

So, two weeks ago, I was sat in an airport lounge on the way back from our Scottish office wondering whether or not to bake to go along with the ticket in my inbox, or just turn up. It had been a busy week. The house was a tip. I craved a lie in. I was letting the busyness of life get in the way.

I didn't have time - so I made time. I planned my bake on the plane. Batter week did not inspire me so I planned a battered fish and chips out of shortbread and flapjack (covered in peanut butter and dulce de leche), with fondant peas and cream cheese and white chocolate Mayo. I worked put how to make it look like a gastro pub style dinner and I had ordered the ingredients before my head hit the pillow that night. 

I went from tired to inspired. 

Monica wow

I never expected to get on TV. I never expected a WOW from top chef Monica Galetti (above) and a request to taste my cake from both her and Ed Balls. I was just happy I'd nurtured a hobby and brought a cake-loving friend along for the sugary ride. 

I could have had a lovely long lie in - which would have been a lovely short term pleasure. Instead, what I got was a compliment from a top chef and memories I will treasure for a lifetime. If that's not worth the effort, I don't know what is. 

So identify those hobbies and competencies, give them the time they deserve and see where they will take you. 

The path to happiness is not always the easy path. But it certainly is a lot more surprising.