Recipe for a Happy Life

After last night’s work panic, I decided to sit down and write a post that’s been formulating for a while. It is partly a guide to productivity, partly a guide to a happy life, partly just some life lessons I’m learning through experience. Some of it might apply generally. Some of it is specific to me. At any rate, here are the things that I try to do in order to retain sanity.

1. Be in bed by 11pm more often than not
2. Don’t make important decisions after 9pm
3. Eat three recognisable meals every day
4. Clear the desk at least once a week
5. Have something to look forwards to
6. Plan the next day each evening
7. Plan the next few weeks each fortnight
8. Write everything down immediately
9. Unplug the internet ever so often
10. If life feels overwhelming, go to bed

I hadn’t realised, until I wrote them down, how many of these are related to tiredness. I suppose that isn’t very surprising really. I can probably reduce these down further:

1. Make sleep a priority
2. Be organised and plan
3. Look after yourself

The only two which don’t fit into those categories are unplugging the internet, and clearing the desk. Part of my strategy for getting work done more efficiently is to remove it as far as possible from my computer. I no longer do all my work on my laptop – I have developed calluses on my fingers from writing for six or seven hours a day, and I go through Parker ink cartridges like they’re going out of fashion – and if I have to read a number of articles or cases online, I download them to my Kindle. It’s the only way I can avoid the siren call of Facebook, web forums, BBC News, email, online comics, anything at all that isn’t work.

The desk-clearing is partly psychological, because it signifies that I have done all the work I need to do that week, but it’s also a good chance to make sure that everything goes back to its proper place. In first year, a large amount of my work went missing because I didn’t file it. This year, the entire bottom shelf of my bookcase is devoted to folders: tutoring folder, midwifery folder, CSPS folder, land folder, contract folder, admin folder, international folder, random-bits-of-paper folder, summer reading folder, empty folders. I have lots of folders.

Planning weeks ahead and having something to look forwards to are closely related. I can generally get through a day, or even three days in a row, which purely consists of work, choir and sleep, but I doubt I could manage a whole week. A whole term without anything enjoyable would be unbearable. So I trawl the myriad emails and pick events I want to go to. I make lists of things I’d like to do at some point this year and write them into my diary. I say yes whenever someone wants to meet up for coffee. At the end of the year, if my grade is 5% lower than it could have been if I’d only done work, I’ll consider that a fair compromise for my sanity.


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