Is getting things done really the answer to happiness?

Is getting things done really the answer to happiness?

In the busy, corporate world in which many of us live or with which many of us interact in some way or other, productivity and efficiency are often seen as the holy grails! Get things done and everything will be fine. Further, many of us have been brought up with a similar attitude; that is, happiness comes from achievement and success. But does this really work? Sometimes, probably, but this week Dr. Happy poses a slightly different approach for you to consider…

Happiness is…a never ending “to-do” list!

Happiness is a never ending “to-do” list? How could that be true? Isn’t happiness more about completing your to-do list and experiencing the satisfaction that comes from achievement?

Well, this week our very own Dr. Happy (aka Prof. Tim Sharp) argues something a little different; read on and enjoy…

Have you ever felt that if only you could tick off all those items on your list then you’d be happy and able to relax? Have you ever thought that if only you could clear all those items from your in-box that they you’d be happy and able to relax? Have you ever thought than when you’ve done everything you need to do…

Well, I think you get the idea but if not, let me ask just one more question – do you ever think you’ll complete everything there is to complete in your life?

I know for me, and I’m guessing for all of you, that the answer is a pretty clear and simple “no”!

None of us will ever finish everything off; it just doesn’t happen (or if it does it lasts all of about one millisecond!). So the problem is that by defining this as a prerequisite for happiness we’re effectively setting ourselves up for failure and locking ourselves in to a life of frustration and disappointment. And that doesn’t sound to me like something that will help in the pursuit of happiness.

I’ve previously referred to this as “the tyranny of when”; that phenomenon we’ve all experienced at some time or other during which we say to ourselves (and sometimes to others) that “I’ll be happy when…when I have more money, a better job, a better body etc”. This tyranny is a no win battle, just like the attempts to complete everything on our to-do lists.

So what’s the answer? Well, I believe the answer lies in acceptance. Happiness come from accepting that a to-do list is part of life; unfinished business is part of life; there will always be things to do, emails to respond to; tasks to complete. If we wait until we’re all finished we’ll never get there. But if we can become comfortable with the never-ending nature of what we have to do as employees, workers, husbands, wives etcetera then happiness can be ours despite a never ending to-do list.

In fact, I’d go a step or two further and say that we can learn to revel in our tasks and thoroughly enjoy what we have to do (because what would it really be like having nothing to do?) Changing the way we think about being busy can turn stress into excitement and busy-ness into happiness!