These days, I have a super-awesome life that I really didn’t plan for, but love anyway. And yet… something feels off. I live full-time on the road — this morning I woke up at 10,000 feet to a mountain meadow filled with lupine and a fantastic view. I have work that’s fun that I do with people I enjoy. I’ve got a fairy tale-romantic husband who’s pretty foxy and makes me laugh. And a sweet basset hound snoozes a few feet away from me who’s had a work-from-home mom for most of her six years. 

I recently worked through client contracts to keep my client hours around 40 hours per week. This is new to me. The last few years — running the bed and breakfast and before that our antique shop and clothing line — most days were filled with client work and ‘our’ work. 

Basically, if I wasn’t working, I was feeling guilty that I should be working. I couldn’t quite figure out how to structure my days in a way to leave room for what I really wanted to work on — more writing, maybe a podcast? Something… creative.

You’d think that by rearranging client work to 40 hours a week, leaving me scads of free time, I’d end up with tons of new posts, pictures, and at least a few chapters of my novel.

But you haven’t seen any posts, have you? 

As part of my client work, I spend a lot of time chatting with authors. Our author-clients blow me away. We work mainly with non-fiction authors, which means each of them is generally at the super-expert top of the professional game. That’s how they got their book deal. Plus most are juggling family, friends, a career, and building a business complementary to their book — speaking, courses, private client work.

These are busy people. And they still manage to fit it all in. 

Conversely, while our lifestyle of living on the road in a minivan camper means we need a bit more time for daily activities than sticks’n’bricks folks need (hello, 20 minute drive to the closest loo!), I’m still managing to make eight hours of client work, a meal or two and a bit of reading take up a full day.

And I’m not getting enough sleep. ‘

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I understand that Jeff and I are living a fun lifestyle that not everyone can (or wants to) do, but I’m keenly aware, now that I’ve got the rhythm of life on the road a little more nailed down and my client work beat back into a typical work week… there’s something more I need to do. 

Enter The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I added this book to my kindle recently because another favorite author, Joanna Penn, had mentioned it as a specific style of non-fiction writing (how-to with personal stories) in her recent book How to Write Non-Fiction. I’ve meant to read Gretchen’s books. I’m a bit familiar with her as the client that I do most of my work with has worked with Gretchen for years. I recently helped out organizing information and updates on Gretchen’s website redesign and read over all of her resource files and podcast descriptions in the course of the web build. Not only do I have a reasonably firm grasp of what Gretchen’s about — I’d also noticed that she often says things that remind me of me, so I figured I’d enjoy her books. 

And boy howdy, was I right. In case you don’t already know this, I’m a colossal planning nerd. I’ve never met a chart, table, metric, or label maker I didn’t love. Although I’ve met a lot I thought I could improve on. Just a bit. 

I also like to track things. My iPhone and Apple Watch are packed with measurement apps. I track to-do’s, weight, steps, minutes slept, meditated, blood pressure, the circumference of my neck, and the last time I went to the loo. I also track my time every day for client and non-client work. I’ve got spreadsheets to track my tracking. 

You get the gist. 

The Happiness Project is Gretchen’s account of a year-long endeavor to be ‘happier.’ Sounds a bit vague, I know. She dives deep into happiness research and shares precise definitions of happiness, fun, and passion. There’s a list of 12 commandments (#3 ‘Act the way I want to feel’), another list of Secrets of Adulthood (‘What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while’) and a few ‘Splendid Truths’ (Fourth Splendid Truth: You’re not happy unless you think you’re happy).

The project part comes into play as a very detailed, monthly approach to identifying areas to focus on to build more happiness (work, family, marriage, leisure/fun, spirituality) and then setting super-specific resolutions that, if kept, are developed to increase happiness. 

Take January, Gretchen focuses on building her energy, since for most of us, if we’re feeling draggy, we’re less likely to be happy (or do anything to change it). Her energy resolutions include…

  • Go to sleep earlier.  
  • Exercise better. 
  • Toss, restore, organize.  
  • Tackle a nagging task.
  • Act more energetic.

Good resolutions. Even better: lassoing all those resolutions into tidy rows in a spreadsheet for easy tracking. 

It goes without saying that I dig it!

What I like the best is the daily check-in. I love daily check-ins to create accountability. For some of us (well, me, I can say for sure) if I measure it, I pay attention to it. 

What with my feeling a bit of ennui and at loose ends, The Happiness Project provides a robust approach that appeals to my nerd-love of tracking that just might help me pay attention to the areas in my life could use some attention right now. Not that anything’s terrible, just that… it could be better. 

So I’m doing my own happiness project. 

I’m still working out the pieces, but here’s what I’ve got so far.

First, I’ll decide on my 12 areas of focus. In the original book, Gretchen followed this schedule:

  • January – Energy
  • February – Marriage
  • March – Work
  • April – Children
  • May – Play
  • June – Friends
  • July – Money
  • August – Spirituality
  • September – Passion (as in “what’s your passion,” not sexy time)
  • October – Mindfulness
  • November – Attitude
  • December – Bootcamp (focus on all the resolutions)

Those buckets aren’t a perfect match for me, although they are pretty close. I can definitely drop April’s child theme. I might replace it with a purer ‘Health’ focus, as I’ve been thinking more about being healthy since we headed out on the road. Speaking of which, another inclusion for me might be about community — since we don’t stay in one spot too long, we don’t really have a community around us the way we used to have. Right now it doesn’t bother me, but I think over time it will become more of a concern.

I like to start things at the beginning of the month, so over the next few weeks, I’m going to focus on identifying my own buckets and resolutions to begin officially on August 1st. Like Gretchen, I suspect that I will also start with focusing on energy, as that’s been on my mind since I had a slight health scare in April. Sleep is important, folks. Get it while you can!

So what do you think? Have any of you read The Happiness Project? Looking for more happy in your life? Let me know — it’d be fun to find more happy with friends!

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