Rebuilding Step #1 – When To Blog?

I am continuing to define and refine the purpose and theme of this blog.  What this blog is going to focus on primarily is the building blocks that are required to live a happy and content life.  Most of us acknowledge that we could be doing this “life thing” better.  Many of us have that nagging voice in our head telling us what we’re missing out on, what we should be doing, what we shouldn’t be doing, etc.  I am going to begin keeping a log of the frustrations that I experience and begin to address each frustration one by one.  As I’ve stated, our lives are made up of a lot of small things that when aggregated, cause a lot of trouble.  I am going to examine each frustration and figure out why the frustration exists and what can be done about it.  The hope is that with this gradual untangling, that we can gradually gain a better idea of how life can be lived in a way that makes us happy, joyful and content.

Now, in order to begin this journey (in a public sense), I first need to find time to blog.  This is going to be a challenge.  With two kids, there is rarely a quiet moment in our house.  With two kids and a full-time job, there is very little time to do anything other than the absolute essentials when I am at home.  Even now, my kids are asking for breakfast….and it’s 9:20 a.m. on a Sunday.  My first life-rebuilding goal is to find time to work on this blog.

Now, I know that I have no readers at the moment, so I realize that I am talking to a pretend audience.  But I am still going to do what I intend to do going forward and that is to invite reader input.  How do you make time to do something when every minute of your day already seems to be allocated to something important?

Okay, fantasy audience…let’s hear what you have to say!


Calendar Fail

In my last post I talked about how I was going to start using Google Calendar.  Well, confession time…I never used it.  I set it up but never ended up using it.  Why?  That’s a good question.  The bottom line is that I/we never felt the need to use it.  Maybe the laid back summer months have temporarily restored a sense of equilibrium to our lives.  Or maybe it just seemed like too much work…too much detail…too much OCD-ness for the two weekend days and the few hours we have each night.

So, I am replacing the calendar with a list instead.  At work, I use the Microsoft Outlook program to keep track of my to-do list.  I always set the due date for each task to the current day.  So, the next morning when I get on my computer, every task is in red because it is “overdue”.  So I go into each task and reset the Due Date.  That forces me to review each task everyday.  On that list, I also have non-task list items such as reminders.  Everything I do at work is driven off of this task list.  It has helped me to stay on top of things and keep everything managed.  So, I’ve decided to use the Calendar app on my phone to do the same thing.  The Calendar app also has a task list function and so I am setting up a personal to-do list that I will review once or twice a day.  This will be much easier to manage than a calendar.  By forcing myself to look at it each day and by committing myself to performing one task on the list each day, I will be very productive and a lot happier.  If I feel like I need to spend more time with my kids, I can add a to-do item to the list that specifies a particular activity that I will do with one or both of my kids.  Then I can use the calendar if I need to.

We’ll see how this works but I have a feeling it will.

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It’s been awhile, but I am back.  But I haven’t really missed a beat.  Why?  Because I just fulfilled my last resolution.  On Friday night, I started a calendar.  Instead of keeping it on a sheet of paper (which is originally what I had in mind), I am keeping the calendar online using Google Calendar.  I updated it with every commitment that I could think of, including normal routine things like work, bathing the kids, etc.  So, going forward, when making any commitment(s), I will first consult my calendar to see if there is room in our schedule to fit it in.   With the calendar, I will now have a visual picture of where the busy times are.  So, now I can do a better job of spreading events and commitments out so that we can maintain a sense of balance and equilibrium in our lives.  If we find ourselves getting burned out, we will now have a documented record of what has transpired over recent weeks and see if perhaps we have been overcommitted in our schedule.  If we are lamenting over not spending enough times with the kids, we can begin scheduling time to spend with them.

Living off a calendar sounds restricting, and it may very well be, but the advantage may be gaining a sense of control over our lives that we have never had before.  We shall see….


Make Time For What Is Important

I am sure that an entire book can be written on the craziness of life and how to manage the whirlwind of activity that accompanies the lives of 21st century Americans (and other similar cultures).  Hey, that’s a great book idea!  Hmmm….

Anyway, one of the frustrating things in life is that feeling of not having control over the events of our lives.  We seem to find ourselves on a roller coaster ride of appointments, parties, commitments, obligations, and other events.  In fact, I am trying to hurry up and type this blog post because we have to leave for a birthday party in…uh…3 minutes.  We wonder why we don’t spend quality time with our kids or why things around the house aren’t getting done or why we never get to just…REST!!

A big reason why this happens to us is that because we let it happen to us.  That is because many of us plan things and commit to things without taking the time to look at the big picture and asking if we really have the time to do those things or if we do have the time to do those things or what is being sacrificed when we do those things.

We rarely plan for times of rest and relaxation.  We rarely plan for a day or even an hour here or there where we are going to spend time playing with our children.  When making commitments, we tend to look at our schedule or calendar and look for formal activities or obligations.  And if there are none, well then we have time.  But what would we be doing on that free Saturday on the calendar if we did not commit to anything?  You might spend some of that time getting things done around the house, you might spend some of that time reading books or playing with your kids, you might spend some of the time on a hobby.  You might actually spend the day doing good things.  Things that are perhaps as important as or more important than the commitments you make on other Saturdays.  Why aren’t those on the calendar?

Last night my wife was lamenting that she doesn’t spend enough time with our daughter.  I suggested that she pick a time during the weekend (an hour or so) when she is going to do that.  She didn’t but that’s okay, because that is what my next resolution is going to be about.

I am going to sit down with my wife once a month and we will look at the calendar and make sure we have time for what’s important and to make sure we….

Sorry, gotta go!



Well, it’s time for an update.  Since I started addressing the small things in life, I have made three commitments or action steps:

Cleaning my side of the bed and keeping it clean

Updating the photographs on my desk at work

Cleaning the inside of my car and keeping it clean

I don’t know if it’s the accountability that this blog is providing (even though Google Analytics is confirming that nobody is looking at it), but I have accomplished all three action steps and for the steps that involved ongoing maintenance, I have kept those commitments as well.  My side of the bed is clean and with the exception of my daughter’s jacket and a New York calendar that she insists remain in the car, I have kept my car clean.  And let me tell you, it has been surprisingly easy.  I think the main motivator to do the little amount of maintenance involved in keeping these commitments is the happiness I receive from having a clean nightstand and a clean car, and also from knowing that if I start making exceptions, then laziness will overtake me and I will quickly be back in the same boat (or car) I was before.

So, what is my next action step going to be?  I will think about it for a few minutes and post my newest small happiness-inducing action resolution.


Clean Car!

Well, it took a couple weeks but I finally have a clean car.  Actually, it was clean last weekend but I haven’t had the time to write about it since then.   The first weekend I got most of the junk out of it and I was somewhat content with that.  Last weekend, I finally took it down to a car wash where you hose the thing down yourself and was happy with that.  Later in the day, however, my wife and daughter came back from going to tea and from running other errands and my wife informed me that she just took my car to a car wash.  I informed her that I had already spent money to have it washed that morning.  She said she didn’t notice.  But that’s okay because the car wash she took it to was one of those expensive car washes where they clean the inside as well as the outside.  The inside was cleaned and vacuumed, the windows were washed inside and out and the tires were scrubbed cleaned as well.  So, I went outside and finished the job by cleaning out the trunk, leaving me with a car that hadn’t been that clean since the day I bought it.  The perfect way to start this new resolution!

Now, let me make something clear.  My resolution was not to clean my car.  No, my resolution was to KEEP IT CLEAN!  That’s the challenge.  I’ve come up with strategies before as to how to accomplish this.  But I’ve decided to go with my wife’s advice.  She said, “It’s simple.  When you get home, you bring in everything – even if it takes you 8 trips!  Have you noticed that my car is always clean?”.    I’ve heard that advice before but I hate making return trips to my car after getting home, so I have always rejected her advice.  However, I’ve come to the realization that making return trips isn’t asking too much.  I can do it.  So, that will be my new policy, or habit.

Am I happier?  Yes!  I feel more in control, especially when I am in my car.  Things are where they should be.  My life feels less messy.  I’ve also had a few times during the past week where I was with a group of people going to lunch or coffee.  Each time, I was able to say I had room in my car to take someone.  It feels to good to know that I don’t have to do a quick car cleaning in order to squeeze someone in.  It feels good to know that I will not be embarrassed if someone accepts my half-hearted offer for a ride.  Now did anyone accept any of my offers this week?  No.  Why?  Because I have two child seats in the back and therefore, can only fit one person.  But at least I can make the offer now!

Big improvements in life make us happy but lots of little improvements have the same effect.  What’s my next little improvement?  I don’t know.  But I will think of something and let you know soon.


Onto The Car!

Well, I will start off this post by giving you an update on what I am doing and how I am doing.  My current “project” on this blog is to focus on the details of life and ask myself how I can make each of these details a little better.  Instead of just focusing on the big areas of improvement – finances, career, health etc., I will also focus on the small things in life that are often overlooked but add or subtract from our overall happiness level significantly.  My first project involved cleaning the area next to my bed and keeping it clean.  So far I have been successful at doing that.  My other project involved updating the pictures on my desk at work with more recent photos – i.e. replacing the 6-month old photo of my son with a more recent photo that resembles what he looks like now at 2 and a half.  On Sunday afternoon last week I stopped by the local CVS, went on Facebook to pick out some recent photos and picked them up the next morning.   It turns out the photos of my daughter were fairly recent and still representative of what she currently looks like, so I left those alone for now.  But the one photo of my crawling newborn was replaced by two really cute photos taken recently.  I can say with all honesty that my life and overall happiness level has been enhanced by the completion of these two very small projects.

So, what is my next one?  Cleaning my car!  I always enjoy getting into a clean car.  My overall life feels more organized when my vehicle is clean and kept up.  But it rarely is.  So, that is what I am going to do.  Now, the project isn’t cleaning my car.  I already do that, albeit somewhat infrequently.  No, the project is keeping it clean.  That will be tricky.  How am I going to do that?  I’ll have to give that some thought.  In the meantime, I will take the first step and clean her up!!




Out-of-date Photographs

On my desk at work I have pictures of my wife and kids.  Most of us have personal items at our work location (photos, calendars, cartoons, memorabilia, etc.) that serve as reminders of our life outside work.  Mostly we have photos – photos of family, photos of friends, photos of ourselves at exotic locations.  I have a photo of my wife and I along with several photos of my kids.  The photo of my wife and I was taken in 2007.  We, more or less look the same.  The photos of my kids though, are becoming…well, obsolete.  Why?  Because they are growing at an alarming rate!  The photos are cute but they don’t necessarily represent the versions of my kids that are waiting for me to come home from work tonight.  My son is 2 1/2 years old, but the picture on my desk was taken when he was maybe 6 months old.  It’s cute but it’s not the boy that will be running to the door to greet me when I arrive home from work.  Also, the longer these picture frames sit at my desk, the less I notice them because they have just become part of the scenery at my desk.  They no longer stick out.  They are no longer fresh.

So, what am I going to do?  Update the photos, that’s what!  I have plenty of good ones and they are going on my desk.  Updating the photos on my desk will make me happier during the day.  I will notice them more.  I will be comforted by them more.  I have no doubt that there will be a greater sense of joy and happiness as a result of having a fresh, new, up-to-date set of photographs sitting on my desk.  It’s a little thing.  It’s not paying off the credit card.  It’s not buying a car.  It’s something small.  It’s a tiny detail.  But the little details when added up, make a big deal in our lives.



Clean Side Of The Bed

Okay, I’m getting into this.  Over the course of time I have become increasingly irritated over the constant messiness and accumulation of stuff on my nightstand and the floor on my side of the bed.  Every once in awhile it will be cleaned up and then gradually become home to all kinds of things including, but not limited to…books, magazines, one or two pairs of shoes, half-filled water bottles, toilet paper, clothes that are dirty but not dirty enough to put in the hamper but not clean enough to put back in it’s original clean location, cell phone cords, etc.  It’s been clean before and I know how good it feels to have a clean nightstand and a floor clear of things to step on in the night.  It feels good to have space on the nightstand to actually set something if the need arises.

So, I just went into our room and cleaned things up.  The items cleaned up included those listed above as well as an extra blood drawing kit sent to me in the mail for some recent blood work I had done.  Found a spot for the box of vials and everything else.  The two books on my nightstand actually….get this….went into the nightstand book case.  Yeah.  Weird, huh?

The trick will be to keep things clean.  But I’m up for the challenge.

I’m a little happier already!


Surprise! Changing the blog subject again :-)

In my last post I talked about the new direction I was going to take with regard to what I was going to be writing about.  Well, surprise, surprise…I’m changing it again.  So, what is it now, you ask?  Actually nobody is asking that question because absolutely nobody is reading this blog.  And I mean that 100% literally.  So, my decision to change the ongoing blog subject will have zero impact on anybody!  But in the event that there is a reader or two, I will explain.  It’s actually very simple.  I’m going back to my original plan to write about things that make life better.  I will be trying out various things that make people happy and writing about them.  But there will be a slightly different approach this time.

This time, I will not be reading advice other people have and trying it out.  What I am going to do this time is take the ordinary things in life and observe what impact they have on my happiness level and what I can do to improve those things and make my life happier.  I am going to go through every detail of my life, examine it and ask what kind of impact it has on my life, how necessary it is, whether or not I should keep it and if I do keep it, what I can do to make it better.  I am going to examine the little things in life…the details.

Over the course of my life, I have observed that everything in life has an incremental effect on happiness.  It either slightly increases it or slightly decreases it.  I first noticed this after I got my first pair of contact lenses.  I worked up the courage to make the switch to contacts knowing that it was going to mean sticking something in my eye each day.  The day after I switched, I noticed my happiness level increased considerably and it never went back down.  Why?  Because I could see clearly and didn’t have to mess with glasses.  Up until this time, I wore glasses but I didn’t like how I looked in glasses and I didn’t like the inconvenience of constantly having to wipe them off when I did wear them.  I also constantly walked around with a glasses case in my pocket.  So, I wore them only when I absolutely needed them, which was at night or when I was inside and needed to read something far away.  (i.e., a classroom chalkboard).  I really needed them during the day as well but unless I needed to read something far away, I could get by.  The first day, I emerged from the house with my new contacts in, I was amazed at how clear everything was.  I drove to work and was amazed at the beauty of the mountains in the distance.  I arrived at work and could see things I was never able to see before.  I realized that all this time that, not only was my eyesight bad, but that I had been missing out on the simple joy of seeing things.  My overall happiness level incrementally increased that day and never diminished.

Since then, I have noticed other little things that make me happy that I had never noticed before.  I’ve noticed that when I come home from work and my wife has cleaned the house, I feel happy inside.  I have never cared about making the bed but my wife insists on it, so I do it.  I’ve noticed that when I am in the bedroom with the bed made,  I am happier than when I am in the bedroom when it has not been made.  I can go on, but I’ve noticed in  life that little things have an impact on the quality of our lives without even realizing it.

I have always taken a top-down approach to resolution-making.  You make goals at a conceptual level and then break it down to action steps.  I still believe that and you have to take that approach for major life goals.  But life isn’t just about the big things.  It’s about the small things as well.  Getting out of debt will make me very happy.  That’s a big thing.  But there are probably a lot of little things in my life that go unnoticed that once changed, could have just as great of an impact on my happiness level as debt-elimination.  So, I’m going to begin taking a bottom-up approach to resolution-making as I examine the little details in life and the effect that each of these details has on my life.  Hopefully you will benefit from the insights that I am able to glean from this little experiment.

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