Thursday, June 17, 2010

personal happiness project

an update
as you all know, i was inspired by gretchen rubin's wonderful book to start a happiness project of my own (HP for short).

yep, it's the ol' HP again!

i decided to pick monthly themes, and began the project on my birthday -- may 20! for the first (but possibly not the only) month, i chose to focus on mindfulness, setting weekly goals to think about.

like gretchen, i didn't start my project from an unhappy place -- not at all. i just saw the idea as an opportunity to maximize what i was getting out of the precious time available to me. not to be morbid, but working in a hospital is a pretty effective reminder that one never knows how long that time will actually be -- reason in itself to make the most of it!

it turns out that executing one's own HP is challenging! after all, unlike gretchen, i don't get to sit around and ruminate about happiness all day long (okay, i know that's not all she was doing, but i'm sure it was a primary focus). i have patients to see, boards to study for, and all that!

it was easy to forget about my HP -- especially so in those hectic moments when i needed it most. so, i am going to take yet another cue from ms. rubin and make some sort of accountability chart (like her resolutions chart, a custom borrowed from none other than ben franklin).

i am also going to set aside a few minutes each day to think about how my personal HP is going; about what i could be doing differently or better, and how i can make my goals more specific (and therefore more accountable).

multitasking: i can't quit you!
part of what inspired this post is the fact that i am having trouble with my current weekly theme. week 1's delight in the mundane and week 2's RELAX worked because i had specific cues to think about them; i thought about the former whenever i was doing something tedious (like cleaning or running errands) and i was in st. maarten while working on relaxation (duh, it worked!).

but multitasking? i guess part of the reason this goal is tough is that i'm trying to AVOID doing something rather than trying to add things.

fortunately, one of my other favorites has a few suggestions that may help. other than "smile, breathe, and go slowly" (actually, that itself could probably do a lot for many of us!) this site has a wealth of advice on bringing focus and purpose to one's life. and leo babauta who authors zen habits is firmly against multitasking.

how not to multitask is full of useful tips on how to focus on just one thing at a time to get things done at work. my two favorites:
"If you feel the urge to check your email or switch to another task, stop yourself. Breathe deeply. Re-focus yourself. Get back to the task at hand."

"Plan your day in blocks, with open blocks in between for urgent stuff that comes up. You might try one-hour blocks, or half-hour blocks, depending on what works for you. Or try this: 40 minute blocks, with 20 minutes in between them for miscellaneous tasks."

guest-writer josh waitzkin contributed a longer piece about getting away from multitasking. my favorite points from his article are releasing fears of failure (because often i find this to be my mental block in tackling big projects) and build positive routines.

so, i am going to work on specifically incorporating the above advice -- especially the small points highlighted above. and i am going to figure out a tracking method that will work for me! my HP is a work in progress -- but maybe that's the whole point.

anyone else out there who has started a personal happiness project? if so, how is it going? clearly, i'm wide open for tips and suggestions!



workout: 4.5 miles (i ran short on time) with 6 x 400m intervals. the temp was already 75 by the time i started! i still feel slow, but i'm getting used to morning running again.

cooking: nada. instead, josh and i headed to see one of his coworkers perform at a cabaret event in durham! it was fun and i ended up having wine and loyo for dinner (bilberry + plain swirled with blueberries + yogurt chips!!!). it was pretty much the best meal ever.


  1. I need to read that "how not to multi-task post. And then actually do it.

  2. Anonymous11:25 AM

    thanks for sharing the "how to not multi-task" because i do that waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much! it's so bad because, while i get stuff done, i never really feel great about it

  3. I love that I was officially NOT mulitasking well as I was avoiding grant writing by checking your wonderful blog. Note that I have commented on your blog 3 days in a row - that is a sign I am grant writing. So - thanks for the link today. I will read and try to focus more completely on a single task at a time. xoxo

  4. Anonymous6:01 PM

    thanks for sharing this with us! On a side note, since I remember you liked Thao (Swimming Pools) in one of your running playlists, I thought I would alert you that Thao (along with Mirah?) are playing in Chapel Hill this Friday (6/18) night at Local 506!!! I saw it in The Independent Weekly...enjoy if you go and have a great wkend!

  5. atilla9:18 PM

    It seems that all the happiness tasks involve slowing down or making time. I am one of the busiest people I know and also one of the happiest. I can sit down in a two minute break and actually savor a soda and the scenery and I can relish accomplishing arduoous tasks that are really hard and tense. Its all about how you react and adjust and what your expectations and inner sense of satisfaction are.

  6. Ooh! Thanks for introducing me to ZenHabits--in light of my post today, I think I could get into it:)

  7. Anonymous9:41 PM

    hey sarah! my g/f actually reads your blog and is a big fan, but pointed out to me today this post since it is right up MY alley! she's studying to be a Vet but went to UNC-CH for undergrad, so feels you speak to her.

    1- I recently finished Rubin's HP and have opened up my own account on the happiness project toolbox! we can totally be friends. As for my own project, I have started one. However I am not sticking to a "do this for the month" routine more than I am picking the things I really felt immediately bonded to (food dairy, sing in the morning/be happy if I wake up early, laugh!, show daily proofs of love, be forgiving). I may start doing a checklist though, since its worked for me with other things, like making sure I work out 1 hour 6 days a week.

    Any way my suggestions would be to not try to model yourself too much after Gretchen's. Try your own style too in keeping yourself on a more happier pace. However, reading her blog often is a MUST. It just makes me happy to read it and to know others are making a daily effort too!

    2- As for multitasking and quitting it, I used your post in my one about the debate going on now between the establishment of pro-mutli-taskers and the rebel single-taskers. It is crazy to see how this action of mutli-tasking has really affected everyone in ways we never stopped to think about. My new post is

    Anyway, great blog yo! I'll be following now and looking for you on the HP Toolbox!