How To Do Everything And Be Happy

Official website and blog


2 Comments

FAQ: Potential Goals Day Problem #1 – “I don’t have time”

Time Every now and again I get an email, or come across a review, where someone says that whilst they might have enjoyed the book, there’s just no way that they could find the time to have a Boxing Days, a Now List Day and a Goals Days, once a month! These people are convinced that to make How To Do Everything and Be happy work, you’ve to somehow conjure up 36 days out of thin air, each year.

It probably doesn’t help that from the outset I admit that I’m a man, without kids, who pretty much works from home. From that stand point a lot of readers probably assume that before I wrote the book I must have been sitting around all day, twiddling my thumbs, wondering what to do with my life.

They’re wrong.

But let me be clear on this point: You do not need to find 36 days (a year) to make this book work!

What is needed is a little ‘time accountancy’. Take all the important things you’re currently doing and shuffle them around to fit one of the three days mentioned in this book.

So let’s recap what each of the days are and how they fit into your oh-so-busy life.

Boxing Days

Boxing Day can usually be ‘reclaimed’ from activities, particularly weekend activities. Some people get up on Saturday and go shopping, or wash the car, or watch football on the TV, and for no other reason than it’s Saturday! If that’s you, one Saturday a month can now become Boxing Day. And if you wake up on that Boxing Day and you want to go shopping, wash the car, or watch the match, then go right ahead.

Now List Days

These don’t have to be whole days. Not if you’re planning. You can break them down and have Now List evenings, lunchtimes, even breakfasts. And if you’re not planning – if you’re actually ready to do an item on your list – that might be a perfect vacation activity rather than spending another day sitting around the pool.

Goal Days

Goal Days are twelve measly days out of 365 to be spent on the three things that you want most of all in life.

Let me say that again:

The three things you want
MOST OF ALL!

Before you heard about this book one of two things was happening. Either you were completely ignoring all the things that are now on your Wish List, in which case you were probably deeply unhappy or, more likely, you were struggling to address those three things, albeit in your own way.

Long before I discovered the power of goals I spent many an evening and weekend struggling to turn my writing, and other interests, into something that might bring in a few quid. If you’ve been doing the same then all that time you currently spend working on your dreams and ambitions can now be reallocated as Goal Days (or evenings, weekends etc). Maybe it’s not 12 days a year – maybe it isn’t that structured – but it’s time that you don’t have to ‘find’. All you need to do is start using it properly.

I understand that you’re busy. I do. And I appreciate that if you work for someone else, and/or you’re a parent, you probably can’t juggle your diary quite as effectively as I can. I get that. But whilst I’ve never been a parent, I wasn’t always self employed. And whilst life is hardly fair at the best of times, one thing that does seem to be consistent is that anything worth having in this world usually comes at a price. And it’s usually a lot more expensive than you initially thought. Happiness is one of those things. To get it you have to work. Hard!


2 Comments

FAQ: Potential Now List Problem #2 – “My {insert Now List activity} was a complete failure!”

floatation tank

So your recent Now List activity didn’t go as planned eh? I’m sorry to hear that. What happened? Really? How awful. Allow me to share with you a similar story.

Shortly after releasing the book I decided to start blogging about some of the items that I’d added to my Now List and succeeded in ticking off. One such item was this:

Try a Flotation Tank experience

A ‘flotation tank’ (for those of you who are new to the concept) is a large bath filled with warm salt water and a sound proofed lid. Once the lid’s closed the lights go off leaving you floating in the dark, and the silence. The fact that most of your senses are deprived (you can’t see anything, hear anything etc) allegedly allows your mind to enter a deeply relaxed state. One hour in the tank, so they say, is akin to several hours of fabulous relaxing sleep.

Unfortunately, on the day that I tried it I had a small paper cut on my thumb. Man – you do not want to get salt water on a paper cut! Neither do you want to thrash about in an effort to  keep your thumb out of the water. You might end up splashing salt water on your face. Man – you do not want to get salt water into your eyes either!

That thirty minutes in the tank (I got out early) felt like several hours of torture. If I’d have had any secrets to tell I’d have spilled them after the first few minutes.

Not to be deterred, and determined to have something good to write for this blog, I booked a second flotation experience. This time I took up the offer of some optional ‘relaxing’ music. You know the sort of thing – pan pipes played softly against a background of waves bubbling over rock pools.

Unfortunately there was a problem with the CD player. Instead of drifting into the best sleep I’ve ever know, I lay in the dark, floating to a series of irritating clicks and buzzes.

I lasted fifteen minutes.

Finally, determined to make sure I got the best ‘experience’ possible, the flotation centre gave me a third, complimentary session, booked me into the most spacious state-of-the-art pod they had, and double checked everything.

I lay there for fifty minutes.

Nothing hurt.

There was no buzzing.

But my god, I was so bored.

I did have plenty of time to think though, and as I gently tapped the side of the pod and floated from one side to the other I bath2began to realise that actually, flotation might be over rated. My own bath is pretty darn nice. It sits under a huge window. And if you open that window on a summers day there’s really nothing better than lying up to your chin, in soapy bath water – that won’t irritate your paper cuts – whilst looking up at the puffy white clouds, and listening to the sounds of the birds chirping and generally being terrorised by my cat.

I got out of the tank, went home, and did exactly that.

Was my flotation tank experience a wash-out?

Yes. Yes it was.

But does that mean that my next Now List activity will be a disaster?

Of course not.

But then I’m sure you realised that.


3 Comments

FAQ: Potential Now List Problem #1 – Money. Lack of.

The rather wonderful thing about Now Lists is that it seems there’s very little that can go wrong! So far there’s only a

skint?

Skint?

handful of challenges that I’ve identified. Here’s the first of two.

Money. Or the lack thereof.

If your Now List is anything like mine there probably isn’t an item on the list that doesn’t involve parting with money. Which is annoying if you’re strapped for cash, or on a particularly tight budget.

Now you might be tempted to avoid adding items to your list if they seem financially out of reach, but that would be a mistake – any kind of censorship will only stifle your creativity. Instead, create a Now List category called ‘when I have enough money’ and add them anyway.

You might also want to consider starting a ‘Now List Fund’.

How you do that is entirely up to you. If you’re like me setting up a ‘fund’ might only involve adding a line to spreadsheet somewhere, but if you’re a normal person, or someone who struggles to manage their finances, it might be better to open a savings account, and maybe even one that doesn’t give you a cash card or internet banking or any other easy way to access your money. You’ll want to put your Now List Fund out of easy reach.

You might also need to find creative ways of topping it up.

Jules (my long suffering assistant) has a standing order set up to automatically put a small amount into her dedicated savings account each month. Even if you can only afford one pound/dollar/euro/drakma per month it’s one pound/dollar/euro/drakma in the right direction.

Personally I top up my Now List Fund whenever I’m given “unexpected” money (eg. if I win a tenner on the lottery or a premium bond pays out). But I also make my Now List available on the blog and on BucketList.org and as a consequence family and friends often consult the list when looking for Birthday or Christmas gift ideas.


2 Comments

FAQ: The difference between Wish Lists and Now Lists

The Now List Department. Diligently working on things you'd like to do before you die.

The Now List Department. Diligently working on things you’d like to do before you die.

Plenty of people have asked me to explain the difference between your Now List and your Wish List and whether it’s ok if something makes both lists.

The short answer is it doesn’t matter. If you want to put something on both lists and that makes sense to you, go right ahead. What goes on which list is far less important than understanding how each list works and why.

Imagine you head up a corporation with two groups of people at your disposal. Over there, in the factory building, you have your Now List Department, whereas over here, on the fourteenth floor of your corporate headquarters you have the Wish List & Goal Division.

The Now List folks will diligently work through anything and everything you give them, albeit at their own methodical pace, trying to get as many things done before – well, before the whistle blows and they rush home to their families.

The Wish List & Goals Department. The seat of ultimate power.

The Wish & Goals operatives, on the other hand, will consider any request you throw at them, but until it’s passed rigorous internal scrutiny to see whether it should be adopted as one of your corporation’s three goals, won’t do very much with it. When it is a goal however, they’ll assign a deadline, introduce rewards and penalties, create a poster campaign, organise affirmation sessions, work overtime, and generally throw every resource they have at it.

So then, let’s take that wish you had earlier to ‘climb Mount Kilimanjaro’. Which group of your people do you want to give that to?


7 Comments

FAQ: Potential Boxing Day Problem #3 – Boxing Days if you’re a parent

Reader Jane dropped me a line:

“I think I’ve figured out something that may help in terms of ‘how Mums can do a boxing day’. You may need to relax the ‘rules’. The thing is, there is always so much to do around the house and for the kids/husband/etc.

“If I had planned a bit more beforehand (e.g. booked a massage, picked a film to go and see, arranged a friend to meet for lunch, booked a table to eat alone, etc) then I might have had more of a successful BD. However, because (the rules state) you’re not ‘allowed’ to think about what you’re doing in advance, I ended up doing a whole load of chores and things that needed doing around the house. Which was fine, but not really the rest a 36 week pregnant woman with a one year old needed!

“I suggest that childcare is arranged, even if it’s just for half a day with Grandparents, and then you allow Mums to book one thing to do (or plan one thing to do) outside of the house. This would remove the temptation to go ahead and get on with chores, etc.

“A Mum’s (and I’m sure a Dad’s!) lot is a busy one and there is, like I say, always so much to do that it’s hard to put oneself first, especially if you have that rare commodity of free time. The first thing that comes to mind is something along the lines of ‘thank goodness! Now I can get that big pile of ironing done, weed the garden, cook for the freezer, etc.”

My gut reaction to Jane’s email was to point out that there’s a huge difference between pre-planning (what you’re going to do on Boxing Day) and preparing (doing whatever’s necessary so that a Boxing Day is possible). Pre-planning is bad. Preparing on the other hand, is very very good. Necessary even.

However, hot on the heels of Jane’s email, readers Kirsty and Alison contacted me with very similar thoughts! It seems it’s just too darn difficult to be spontaneous on a Boxing Day if you’re a Mum – other stuff always gets in the way. Clearly I’m out of my depth here.

So I called in the Big Guns and emailed Keris Stainton –  author, journalist, fan of this book and (most importantly) Busy Mum of two. I put the Busy Mum vs Boxing Day conundrum to her, reserved several pages in the book for her words of wisdom, and waited. If anyone would know the answer it would be Keris. Why, she’d probably end up writing a blog post or an article about it. Fabulous!

Three weeks later (I told you she was busy) I got her  response.

She was, to use her own words ‘flummoxed’ – unable to see how being a busy parent is so different from being a busy anything else. She went on to say:

If the FIRST thing you think of when you get up on Boxing Day is ‘thank goodness – Now I can get that big pile of ironing done, weed the garden, cook for the freezer, etc.’ then, well, you REALLY need a Boxing Day!

If any of this rings true for you then let me just say this; “go for it”. And if ‘going for it’ means you need to have one thing pre-arranged, or you have to have a rule that says Boxing Day takes place Off-site, or you limit Boxing Day to the hours between dropping the kids off and picking them back up again, or Boxing Day is something you do with another Busy Parent – if that ‘fixes’ Boxing Day and makes it work for you – then you have my blessing! I am not going to stand in your way. I’m just pleased that you’re finally taking time out for yourself.

If you’re a parent and have any thoughts on the challenges of Boxing Day, feel free to share them in the comments box below or on the facebook page.


2 Comments

FAQ: Potential Boxing Day Problem #2 – Not knowing what to do

damien_canderle_gremlins2

Ideally here’s how Boxing Day should work: You wake up, you ask yourself what you fancy doing at that precise moment, then you go and do that thing. And when you’ve done that, or you’ve had enough of whatever it is, you go do something else. Easy?

Not necessarily.

Once you’ve decided (in advance) when your Boxing Day will be, Gremlins immediately take up residence under your bed, ready to thwart you.

The first gremlin is ‘your usual daily routine’. Unless you begin Boxing Day right away it’s incredibly easy to start the day pretty much as every other and before you know it you’re checking emails, opening post and oh, the laundry basket’s looking a little full I’ll just put on a load of washing.

The second is a ‘general lack of inspiration’. There you are. Sitting in bed. Ready for the Boxing Day euphoria to kick in just as soon as you can decide what it is that you’d like to do… and you just can’t think of anything.

I’ve been there.

Here then are some top tips should you find yourself in a similar situation:

  1. Start Boxing Day from the moment you open your eyes – Try and break from your normal daily routine from the moment you wake up. A couple of times I’ve come downstairs and as I’ve reached for the milk in the fridge I’ve seen those eggs, sitting there, quietly doing nothing, and thought to myself – sod it – let’s cook breakfast. And other times, as I opened the cupboard to take out the Weetabix, I’ve noticed a kilo bag of oats and thought to myself, “You know, what I really fancy right now are flapjacks.”
  2. Perform the Boxing Day Dance – Flushed with the success of the first Boxing Day (which you’ll remember was an accident) I was quite excited when, having made an appointment with myself, it was time to have the second one. I was so excited that I danced round the flat in my dressing gown making up a silly Boxing Day song as I went, much to the bemusement of my cat. Strange thing is though, I’ve since found that if I’m having a Boxing Day which feels a little flat, a few bars of my Boxing Day song will be all I need to get the Boxing Day juices flowing. (No you can’t hear my Boxing Day song – make up your own!
  3. Do the first thing that comes to mind – Sometimes it’s difficult to decide what to do with your Boxing Day because you’re over thinking it. If you’re struggling to feel inspired, stop, and ask yourself “What do I want to do RIGHT NOW?” The thing that comes to mind, usually before you’ve even finished the sentence, is very possibly the thing you should do. It doesn’t matter how silly it may seem, or how simple – if it can be done, now, and you like the idea – do it!
  4. You can work – Working on Boxing Day is a completely legitimate exercise if that’s what you really want to do. And let’s broaden the definition of work to include any activity that you might not consider typically “fun”. Decorating, for instance. Balancing your cheque book. Filling out an application form. Don’t put yourself under pressure to fill your Boxing Day with “fun” activities. If it’s what you want to do (want to do – not need to do) then it’s a legitimate Boxing Day activity. For instance, I am writing this paragraph on Boxing Day! That’s the absolute truth, and I can honestly say that right now, given the moment, the opportunities available to me, and how I feel, writing this is what I really want to do.
  5. Make a list – Pre-planning Boxing Day is utterly forbidden, but if you’re a planner at heart (as I am), there’s nothing to say you can’t do a little brainstorming at the start of the day. If I don’t wake up and feel instantly inspired I often grab a piece of paper (rather than sit at my computer) and jot down ideas – things that I could do. I try and write my ideas all over the page and at weird angles so that it’s as un-list like as possible (otherwise I might be tempted to start at the top and work through the items). And then, when I’ve finished brainstorming, quite often I’ll toss the list to one side and do something entirely different.
  6. You can be dull – If you want to do nothing but sit on the sofa and watch TV, or go back to bed, or read a magazine cover to cover, or play computer games, that’s perfectly acceptable. If it’s been a while since your last Boxing Day (perhaps you had to postpone it) then maybe this is the first opportunity you’ve had in a while to rest. So do it. Rest. However, I encourage you to rest with gusto – if you want to go back to bed, put your PJs back on, close the curtains, put on some soothing music, maybe download some “ocean sounds” to your iPod, sprinkle lavender on your pillow – really go for it! If you want to watch TV, grab some snacks, then sit down and watch an entire season of Lost, or 24, or the Gilmore Girls, or Doctor Who, or whatever floats your boat.

Towards the back of the book, under the section ‘Putting It All Together’, you’ll find an example of what a typical Boxing Day looks like (for me).

 


6 Comments

FAQ: Potential Boxing Day Problem #1 – “Haven’t you re-invented Saturday?”

Postman-Pat

Not everybody is able to see how a Boxing Day might be a good thing. Some people – let’s call them ‘young people’ – tend to look at me blankly for a moment or two before asking me how a Boxing Day differs from, say, Saturday. Or Sunday. Or virtually any other day of the week when they’re not at college. Which seems to be most days.

Before I became the grumpy old sod you see before you now, Saturday’s were sacred and followed a very strict routine: I would roll out of bed around midday, and settle down with a bowl of cornflakes in front of ‘the chart show’ before considering whether I should wander down to the town centre to ‘mooch about’.

This relaxed state of affairs continued throughout my teens and twenties, and might have continued into my thirties if it hadn’t of been for the arrival of…

The postman.

If you’re in your early twenties you’ve probably yet to appreciate the sheer amount of admin that awaits you the moment you get a bank account, a loan, a credit card, a car, or move into a place of your own. Suddenly there’s a mountain of paperwork to be addressed, most of it hidden amongst an even bigger mountain of junk from people trying to sell you stuff. And whilst you can (as I did) leave this stuff on the side in the hopes that it’ll kind of sort itself out, I don’t recommend it. Handing over your money to these organisations is only part of the payment required – the remainder is due in time sorting out all manner of insurances, MOT certificates, and taxes of numerous flavours. And that’s assuming that you never miss a payment, your car never needs fixing, your boiler never packs up, and that the Gas Board doesn’t decide to change your supplier without your knowledge. If you manage to juggle all this nonsense without surrendering the occasional Saturday I take my hat off to you. Personally I’d developed a morbid fear of ‘post’ by the time I was thirty.

Of course you might, as many people do, assume that there’s strength in numbers, and choose to combine forces with another. And whilst there are most definitely perks to giving up your single life it’s only a matter of time before your entire weekend is given over to ferrying the kids around, climbing a ladder with a paintbrush in your hand, or wandering the aisles of Ikea trying to find the damn exit.

When that happens, you might consider booking yourself a Boxing Day.