Six Ways to Find More Joy Next Year
When we all said goodbye to 2020, we hoped that the new year would bring more joy. For many of us, that didn’t happen. COVID continued, along with racial unrest, political divisiveness, armed conflict in some places, and a host of other trials and tribulations. And yet, we all continue to look for ways to become more joyful. For me personally, some disciplines help more than others. So how can we find more joy next year? Here are six ideas. I hope you find some that work for you.
1. Begin each day by focusing on what matters most
Productivity gurus often recommend that we eat the frog or tackle the hardest task first. The thinking is that once you have accomplished the hardest task, the rest of your day will get easier. This works great if you are a morning person, and your brain is at its peak then. I’m pretty sure we weren’t all made the same way — and so, for some people, it’s better to begin the day at the gym or in some type of contemplative mode.
What matters most to you? Is it your spiritual journey, your physical health, cleaning your home, taking care of your little ones, emails that came in overnight, or that monumental item on your to-do list that you went to bed worried about?
I would suggest that you begin your day by focusing on what matters most to you. If you are clear about the things that matter to you and why they matter, hopefully, you are deriving some joy from pursuing those items.
And if you don’t find more joy from the items that you think matter most to you, then perhaps the end of the year is a good time to re-examine what matters most and why. Do you need to shift your priorities and start the new year differently?
2. Build your gratitude discipline
I didn’t invent the idea that a gratitude habit builds joy. The concept is likely ancient, but is it true? Research professor, Dr. Brené Brown claims to be somewhat surprised by the findings in her research that clearly suggest that gratitude comes before joy.
What will your gratitude discipline be? Many ideas have been discussed over the years, including:
- Keep a gratitude journal.
- Take turns at the daily family meal identifying something for which you are grateful.
- Send a note or an email daily to someone and express gratitude.
From my readings, it seems clear to me that a gratitude discipline gets us out of our own heads and focuses us on others. Who are the people in your life who help you feel more grateful and find more joy? Tell them how important they are.
3. Simplify your personal productivity system
I’m not going to claim to be an expert on personal productivity systems, but I do think that the KISS method (i.e., keep is simple, stupid) comes in handy. I’ve written before on how I keep a simple task list. People are different and it’s hard to find a universal system that works for everyone. But feeling personally productive brings me joy and I continue to hunt for ways to improve. The start of a new year seems like a great time to simplify your productivity system and start the new year with joy.
I tried a new trick awhile back that has really helped me find more joy. First before bed, I look at my list for the next day and identify the one or two activities (though I have a hard time stopping there) that will really bring me joy. On my very simple task list in a Google calendar appointment, I introduce them with the expression HL — as getting these items done will be the highlight of my day.
The next day, those items become priorities though they aren’t my only priorities. There will be a bill that must be paid or a task for a client that must get done. Not everything on my list will bring me joy but feeling like I got something important done helps immensely.
4. Start the new year with clarity on your direction
Another aspect to my personal productivity system that I try to keep simple are my monthly goals. I have gone back and forth over the years between weekly goals, monthly goals, quarterly goals, and annual goals. While I don’t have the perfect answer, I have a pretty good idea of what is important to me for the short term, middle term, and long term. Do you?
If you don’t, I’d suggest you start by clarifying what direction you want to be moving in. Take some time to think about it and start the new year with a clear focus.
Once you are clear on your direction, I find that monthly goals are far enough apart that I can see progress and frequent enough that I don’t forget about them.
You might not be surprised to learn that I have a calendar appointment on day one of every month, that says Monthly Goals. I list them there — and try to keep the number manageable. And I like to link up my monthly newsletter post in the middle of the month to reviewing my monthly goals. That way if I have forgotten something there is time to focus on it again.
And by the way, these goals are for you, not your client or employer’s goals.
5. Stay healthy — food, fitness, fun, and focus
It’s hard to find joy when your health is at risk. Take care of your health by eating right, hitting the gym, having a little fun regularly, and spending time on activities, like meditation, which improve your focus.
It’s a balancing act for me. If I run out of lemons and don’t start my day with lemon water, or it’s raining and I can’t get some sunshine, I do something else — like hit the sauna.
Only you can decide how important and how much focus your health deserves. We all have different genes. And the amount of focus that it takes to get healthy or stay healthy will vary at different stages of your life.
6. Finish your day by lowering your lights and enjoying time with the people you love
I read a lot of productivity blogs that suggest that we all have a few more hours of work in us after dinner. And for people who work a full-time job that may be the only time they have to pursue a personal project.
Only you can judge how to best pursue your personal goals. Perhaps your job is getting you where you need to be, and you can spend your off hours taking care of your family and friends. Or perhaps that’s not true.
I would simply suggest that people — family and friends — are important. And they deserve some time in your life. Also sleep is important, and staying wired by spending your evening hours on your computer, won’t likely help the people in your life, or your sleep.
So, turn down the lights a bit. Light a few candles. Relax and enjoy some real conversation without your phone taunting you. Danes call this hygge — the word has no good English equivalent — but refers to the coziness and comfort of being with people you love in a relaxing manner.
Perhaps embracing some hygge can help you find more joy next year.