This one’s from Mama PoP…
I was reflecting on Mrs PoP’s recent Happy Friday post where she discussed Time Perspective Therapy. Readers posted their scores on two online Time Perspective exams that they took to gain insight into how they stack up to scores for a “best” time perspective (and therefore elevated happiness?).
As reported by Mrs. PoP, Zimbardo says that the ideal time perspective consists of “a blend of a high level of past-positive, a moderately high level of future orientation and a moderate level of selected present hedonism. In other words, you like your past, work for the future—but not so hard that you become a workaholic—and choose when to seek pleasure in the present.”
Reading everyone’s scores and individual analysis was interesting, and it seemed as though many people were not too surprised by their scores. It struck me that one commonality that many readers of Planting shared on this exercise is that as a group we tend to score somewhat low on the Present Hedonism subscale. Me, too. Now, you may think this is not important, but my relatively low score in this area hit a little too close to home.
Am I Prioritizing Fun?
The dictionary defines hedonism as the pursuit of pleasure, but I like to think of it more loosely as having fun. To be specific, I was thinking about how I could increase my “present hedonism” score with everyday pleasures. There should be loads of ways to have fun without breaking the bank or the budget. It shouldn’t require “retail therapy” or expensive five course dinners.
I remember about a year ago being so wrapped up in my work that I couldn’t remember when I had had any “fun.” In fact, I actually tried to define “fun” and had a hard time coming up with ideas. It seemed that either I never actually got to have fun or that I wasn’t recognizing it when it happened! I was ruled by a To Do list that never got all the way to done.
My daily list of tasks included many projects that were time intensive and could never get done in one day. I mixed work responsibilities with home-related tasks and bounced all over the place trying to get things crossed off before bedtime. When the page got too messy, I re-copied all of the pending projects to another page and added more jobs so there were always 15 items waiting for my attention. Sometimes I prioritized the projects and sometimes I just did the ones that were quickest so I could earn a fast reward of crossing something off.
But here’s the thing: If a life is made up of the activities of our days and if each day’s activities are determined by the “To Do” list, then that life is largely determined by THE LIST! I am sure someone famous has discussed this point better than I can, but I will tell you that I had an “Ah-ha” moment when I really looked at my results from that Time Perspective Inventory.
What Did I Do?
My solution was to redesign my “To Do” list. I kept it simple and I’ve been testing it out for about a week. So far, at the end of each day I have had the opportunity to see exactly what I have accomplished in three areas of my life: Work, Home, and Fun (are you getting the hedonistic connection here?). My simple form has only 5 rows so I could still list 15 projects if I wanted to do that many in a day.
I still need to work on listing an appropriate number of tasks, and I am breaking the bigger projects into what can reasonably get done in one day. Since I do my professor-work every day (including holidays, vacations, and weekends), I need to be able to balance it with tasks that I do that I don’t get paid to do such as laundry and house management. Thus, the three categories are needed for every day, not just the traditional work days. Actually writing down what I want to do each day for fun helps me to look forward to the specific activity as well as acknowledge each evening that I did do something enjoyable along with the work that I accomplished.
What Does My Fun Look Like?
So far, my fun has consisted of walking in a local park with my friend, reading a novel, watching a movie using my new Roku, teaching my friend how to upload her CDs to her computer and iPod, and attending a craft fair. A daily activity at 5:00 PM is walking my cat on his leash, but I never really thought about that as fun.
It turns out that on some days, Z is the reason I get outside to enjoy our beautiful weather, and that is definitely fun. With the use of my new and improved “To Do” list, I am more deliberate about “choos[ing] when to seek pleasure in the present.”
Are there big benefits happiness-wise to deliberately choosing fun? I think so. For those of us who might tend to be workaholics, it may be a real sanity-saver. It doesn’t feel contrived and I recommend it to you. I have already noticed that a shorter and more focused list correlates with feeling less stress!
What does your “To Do” list look like? How do you manage to fit in fun and what is fun? More importantly, how is your list influencing your life? Does a “To Do” list have a huge impact on how you spend your time and therefore your life?