In January, I read a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. It’s an account of how the author spent one year “test-driving” the theories and practices of happiness. Before starting her research, she’d had an epiphany: “The days are long, but the years are short.” She realized time was passing and she was not focusing enough on the things that really mattered to her.

The book resonated with me. As a writer, life is a constant juggling act. I’m always mindful of striving for balance between family and work.   More often than I’d like to admit, life gets out of balance. The result: my family and I get very unhappy.

Enter The Happiness Project.

I loved Gretchen’s method: after analyzing what made her happy, what made her unhappy and what felt “right” and what could be a better fit, she identified twelve areas of her life that needed attention and devoted one month to exploring each in an effort to enrich her life and make her truly happy.

Among practical and profound tips for living a happier and more fulfilled life, the book also made me realize that all my New Year’s resolutions and goals didn’t necessarily have to be tackled at once. Why not break them down, assign them specific months in 2013?  Why not look at it as my own personal Happiness Project? It seemed like a good way to make it easier to achieve my goals without feeling overwhelmed Also, I hoped to keep each ball in the air as I add others (after the previous goals had gained traction). As we prepare to enter the last third of 2013, I wanted to review what I’ve done so far and what I have left to tackle in the final third of the year.

Here’s what I’ve been working on:


1. January – Set office hours and guard them

I have definitely been more mindful of “reporting to work.” Because of that, I’ve been more productive this year. I’ve met my Special Edition goals and have been working on some other projects, too.


2.  February – Limit social media time to make room for other things in life

This is a struggle for me. I can get *so* caught up in social media – especially FaceBook and Pinterest. I’ve had to really reign myself in. Sometimes I fall off the wagon, but I get right back on. Many of you know I’ve been MIA on FaceBook recently. I will continue to strictly limit my time until after I meet my October 1 deadline.


3. March –  Learn to say, “No, thank you”

Another difficult task. However, I’ve started to look at time as currency and I’ve been on a pretty strict “budget.” This, along with maintaining my “office hours” had helped me be more productive.


4. April – Mental declutter: Let go of what weighs me down/doesn’t make me happy

This was one of the best things I’ve done for myself. However, I’m often plagued by “mind squirrels.”  I use affirmations to keep the under control.


5. May – Refill the well: dedicate at least one hour once a week to art journaling

As much as I hate to admit it, this one had been hit and miss. I need to focus on it more. See, by revisiting these goals, I’m reminding myself what I need to work on.


6. June – Make more time for reading

This had been going well. I should’ve kept a list, and I think I’ll start. I want to concentrate more on the classics – one of my goals (not on this list, but on my actual list of 2013 goals was to read all of Jane Austen’s works this year. I’ve read three so far… I have some catching up to do. Right after I finish MY LIFE NEXT DOOR by Huntley Fitzpatrick. It’s one of the best books I’ve read all year.


7. July – Physical declutter part 1: tackling my closet

Just in time for RWA! I did go through my closet and try on EVERYTHING. I sent donated fifteen bags of things I no longer needed. Then, of course, I went out and purchased things for the RWA conference. Not fifteen bags worth, but I didn’t feel as guilty adding more to my closet.


8. August – Physical declutter part 2: tackling my office

This had been interesting. I’ve been deep in deadline since returning from the RWA conference. So, I’ve used the Fly Lady’s suggestion of throwing away or donating seven things every day. It’s a slow method, but I can see the progress. This task will probably stretch to the end of the year.

That’s it so far. I still have the following  on the list:

9. September – Time to get healthy: yoga, water and vitamins

10. October – Continuing education

11. November – Gratitude

12. December – Take inventory and plan for the new year

I’ll check in toward the end of the year and report on my progress. In the meantime, have you revisited your 2013 goals? Or what would you like to accomplish between now and the end of the year? I have some books that I brought back from the conference to give to a couple of people who post.


Celebration's Bride

Nancy’s book CELEBRATION’S BRIDE is available now. RT Book Reviews gave it a fabulous 4.5 star review, saying ” Thompson rocks the pages with her quirky cast.  Her couples’ imperfections make them realistic and alluring….”  I hope you’ll enjoy reading the book as much as I enjoyed writing it.

34 thoughts on “Revisiting The Happiness Project: A Different Way To Look At Goals

  1. I love this book, Nancy and have been working on a lot of these things. Your blog is so timely. I’ve been organizing all week long. I also purged my closet. I just don’t have the room in the UK that I had in my big TX house. In fact our “guest” room is smaller than my walk in closet used to be. 🙂 By the end of the year I hope to be organized in all areas of my life not just family schedules and writing ones.

    1. I know you can do it, Kathy! You’ll feel so much lighter with all the excess clutter gone. Let me know if you have any tips for organizing art journaling supplies. That hobby tends to encourage clutter collecting. I look at a scrap of paper or empty box a normal person would throw away and I want to incorporate it into my journal. Haha! Art supply organization will definitely be on next year’s organization list.

  2. This is such a great list, Nancy! Very down-to-earth, too.

  3. Shana Shana says:

    Fabulous list! My problem is I keep having books out the month before a book is due. So even while I want to cut back on social media, I have to be on it more and more. I need to find a way to fix this publishing schedule!

    1. I hear you, Shana! It’s so hard to give every facet of this business due focus. But you do a great job at it!

  4. eap says:

    I admire your tenanciousness!

  5. Karin Anderson says:

    I have a policy about resolutions – Don’t make a resolution that you cannot fulfill. If I can’t think of an attainable goal on New Year’s Day, I don’t make a resolution. Unfortunately, this was one of those years.

    A goal for me for the rest of the year is to decide what to do about going back to school. I REALLY don’t have the money, but I’m sick of working retail.

    1. Karin, I hope you can figure out a way. Education is such a great investment. Good luck!

  6. Thank you for your post, Nancy. I too am struggling with focusing my time and energies on what I’m supposed to and avoiding distractions. Allow me to share with you and other JQ bloggers/readers a process that has worked for me.

    If I want to stop or cut down on an activity that’s fun in the short run but is otherwise of little or no value, it’s not enough for me simply to tell myself to stop it. I must replace it with something that’s more meaningful and valuable.

    For example, ever since I got onto Facebook four years ago, I’ve realized I was spending way too much time on it. Mostly I was just goofing off. I tried to limit the amount of time I spent in Zuck’s kingdom to 20 minutes a day. Didn’t work.

    But when I determined to spend more time at my creative writing, and devote myself to that instead of Facebook, I was able to do just that. The time and effort I used to spend on long comments to every post that even mildly interested me is now channeled into something more productive and potentially rewarding.

    So far it’s working. I’ve finally kicked the habit. But I must guard against relapses. I can and do still log onto Facebook. But my writing is more important to me. So it takes priority.

    In short: If you want to give up or cut down on something, think of what you want to replace it with. Then do it!

    1. What fabulous, sage advice, Mary Anne. I will remember it and put it to good use.

  7. MiaMarlowe MiaMarlowe says:

    Thanks for the common sense suggestions, Nancy. Now if I can only implement them…

    1. Seriously, Mia! I’m such a goal-oriented person that I have to have checkpoints during the year to keep myself on track or if I need to make adjustments.

  8. Stefanie D says:

    I don’t make any resolutions because I find it so hard to keep them. However I do try to have some goals during the year and I try to reach those. That can be something very practical (fe repainting our shed) or something more personal.

    1. That’s a good policy, Stefanie. It proves that goals are such a personal thing.

  9. Nancy, I just love this and must look into that book ASAP! The part of your list that really resonated with me (although they all did, somewhat) was the declutter. I have, more and more, begun to realize that the clutter is bogging me down. Problem is, I love everything and have sentimental attachments to far too many things! Time to let go!

  10. Kathleen, you might want to try the “seven things” method at first. Look around your office with the intention of throwing out/donating seven things (every day). It can even be something as small as a piece of mail or an old tube of lip balm that is past its prime. I usually end up tossing more than seven things, because once I get going, it’s kind of fun. The biggest thing is that sometimes decluttering can seem overwhelming. With the “seven things” method, you can usually do it in a minute or less.

  11. bn100 says:

    don’t really make resolutions

  12. That’s ok, bn100, resolutions aren’t for everyone. You have to do what works for you. 🙂

  13. Lori Harris says:

    What a wonderful book! I’ve really been trying to focus more on the things that make me happy this year, so this really hits a powerful note with me. I like the idea of focusing on one goal at a time. Seems so much more manageable.

    1. Lori, I really enjoyed the book. I think you will, too. It helped me see things in a different way and the idea of breaking down the goals was a real break trough for me. Let me know what you think of it when you read it.

  14. Wonderful post, Nancy, and I’ve heard other authors mention The Happiness Project. I really like the way you’ve broken things down – devoting one month to one element of the project would seem to increase the chances of making it stick enough to become a habit.

  15. Great post, Nancy! I also loved this book – I think it was February where she talked about wanting ‘gold stars’ which really resonated with me. I also flutter around the Flylady – you’re exactly right that keeping all the balls in the air while writing is such a challenge. I’m all about finding a system that works. I just got her second book, ‘Happier at Home’, and am going to read it for the school year. BTW, I have a 10/1 deadline too – we can cyber celebrate!

    1. Hi, Michelle! I want to read ‘Happier at Home,’ too! We’ll have to compare notes. Good luck with your 10/1 deadline.

  16. Jan Jackson says:

    Thanks for sharing this book, Nancy. I know I need to spend more time on things that make me happy. I like the way you broke the goals down and revisited them, figuring out what works for you.

    Thought provoking and helpful,

    1. I think you’ll like the book, Jan. Sometimes it’s helpful to get a new perspective on things.

  17. Lorelei B. says:

    Oh, you know I’m going to read the happiness project now. I need it BAD! I love your list and they are pretty much close to what I’d like to improve on. Currently I’m stuck in the declutter stage (I will always be stuck there!) But I like that suggestion, about getting rid of 7 things everyday.
    Mary Anne is right, great advice, but the moment I want to get off of FB, interesting articles or deals pop up and I can’t resist! 😆 Typical. I am trying to limit checking 3 times a day, for 30 min. (Note that I said TRYING…) 😉
    Great post!

    1. Lorelei, I hope you’ll try the “seven piece toss.” It takes a while, but it really works. 🙂 At the very least it keeps additional clutter from building up. 🙂

  18. Hey Nancy, thanks for sharing your progress on these monthly goals! Impressive. Plus super timely–I was just going to dedicate this coming month to decluttering my house (and life). And to help with that, I’m planning to re-check out a book from my local library–The Hoarder in You: How to Live a Happier, Healthier, Uncluttered Life Paperback, by Robin Zasio. I’ve listened to it in audiobook form a few times now and each time I do, I start getting rid of things immediately! And believe me, I’m a person who is attached to things and usually feel like I will regret it if I throw something out. It’s really helped me start looking at possessions in a whole different light. (Btw, the author is one of the advisors on the A&E Hoarders show, but don’t worry–the book is written for everyone.) 🙂

    1. Debbie, The Hoarder in You sounds like a fabulous book! I’m definitely going to check it out!

  19. Kirsten says:

    I don’t really make goals, but I like nr. 6 Make More Time For Reading 😀 Books can bring me great happiness and there are still so many I have not read but wish to. Maybe that should be something to enrich my life?!

  20. I like the way you think, Kirsten!

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