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Be an Innovation Rebel

“May you live in interesting times” is an old Chinese proverb. This past year we have seen so many changes in our world and 2012 looks to be just as interesting. During 2011 we have seen many changes in the way we work. We saw many new great solutions for small business evolve and mature as solid platform solutions. Products like Hubspot, Rightsignature, Harvest and MindMeister and Evernote are changing the way teams work regardless of physical location. I had the opportunity to visit many coworking sites around the country including Workbar in Boston, Indy Hall in Philly, Link Coworking in Austin and New Work City in NYC among many others. We also looked at improving productivity through models like GTD (Getting Things Done) and Seven Habits of Highly Effective People continued in part two of the Seven Habits productivity school series.

When we are at the end of the year many of us plan for next year and the big overarching goal is to build a happier life in 2012. This year for me has been amazing and life changing for the positive in every way. I left a job I was miserable in, moved to a city to be with the woman who will be my wife, found a beautiful house on a lake in a cool town outside of Boston that resembles Bedford Falls in It’s a Wonderful Life, started a job that is moving my career forward and it has started to make me think about my real calling in life (more on job, career and calling later in the post) but most of all, I have for the first time in my life allowed myself to be happy. As you look out on the next year with many things on your mind I hope that I can share with you some things that may help you build a happier life in 2012.

Find Your Happiness Formula

As the world gets busier and busier we are challenged with doing more with the finite amount of time in the day/week/year. Central to keeping things in perspective is being happy. Happiness and being happy is different for each person. However, it is safe to say that making sure we take the time to enjoy the people in our lives and the beautiful world around us is part of what I refer to defining your “happiness formula”. A few ears ago a man named Martin Seligman, known as the founder of positive psychology, was very good at bringing together groups of people that could tackle specific problems. And the problem they set out to solve was the external conditions that affect happiness. And what they found was really interesting. There are two fundamental different kinds of externals: the conditions of your life and the voluntary activities that you undertake.

Conditions are fact’s about your life that you can’t change (race, sex, age, disability) as well as things that you can (wealth, marital status, where you live). These are constant over time, or at least during a certain period of your life (half of marriages end in divorce).

Voluntary activities, on the other hand, are things that you choose to do, like meditation, exercise, learning a new skill or taking a vacation. Because such activities can be chosen, and because most of them take effort and attention, they can’t just disappear from your awareness the way that conditions can. These activities, then, offer much greater promise for increasing happiness while avoiding adaptation effects.

Using this new idea, Seligman along with his team came up with something called the “happiness formula”. H = S + C + V

It’s components are: the level of happiness that you experience (H) is determined by your biological set point (S) plus the conditions of your life (C) plus the voluntary activities (V) that you do.

I am currently about a half-way through the excellent book The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt. The book takes the reader through the different periods in time where people were trying to discover what happiness means. The whole point of the book is to find what it is that truly makes people happy. He says that most people approach their work in one of three ways: as a job, a career, or a calling.

  • If you see your work as a job, you do it only for the money, you look at the clock frequently while dreaming about the weekend ahead, and you probably pursue hobbies, which satisfy your effectance needs more thoroughly than does your work.
  • If you see your work as a career, you have larger goals of advancement, promotion, and prestige.
  • If you see your work as a calling, however, you find your work intrinsically fulfilling you are not doing it to achieve something else. You see your work as contributing to the greater good or as playing a role in some larger enterprise the worth of which seems obvious to you. You have frequent experiences of flow during the work day, and you neither look forward to “quitting time” nor feel the desire to shout, “Thank God it’s Friday!” You would continue to work, perhaps even without pay, if you suddenly became very wealthy.

That really stuck me at the core of what I was doing in evaluating my life plan and how I view the world. I have had good and bad jobs and had a really interesting career being an entrepreneur, a film maker and a consultant. But what was really my calling? It made me think of what my future wife says to me when she wants to help people be the change they wish to see in the world. She is a coach to people and a catalyst for transformative change in the way people see themselves and their lives. She is “Life Calling Sherpa” if you will, and this is why that even though I am the happiest I have been in my entire life, that I need to work to discover my calling.

Make Your Work Rewarding

The future of work is already here. It is really just distributed, you might say. Concepts such as collaborative consumption, the freelance economy, microtasking, mobile workers, coworking spaces, and crowdsourcing all point to how work is increasingly shifting away from the 20th-century model of Taylorism (think scientific management applied to labor processes such as assembly- line production and fixed workplaces) to a more flexible, “hyper-specialized” and connected workforce.

Coworking and the tools we use

Approaching Life with Balance in Mind

Here are five ways to help you:

Here are five ways to bring a little more balance to your daily routine:

1. Build downtime into your schedule.

When you plan your week, make it a point to schedule time with your family and friends and activities that help you recharge.

If a date night with your spouse or a softball game with friends is on your calendar, you’ll have something to look forward to and an extra incentive to manage your time well so you don’t have to cancel.

“It helps to be proactive about scheduling,” says Laura Stack, a productivity expert in Denver and author of SuperCompetent: The Six Keys to Perform at Your Productive Best. “When I go out with my girlfriends, we all whip out our cell phones and put another girls’ night out on the calendar for one month later,” she says.

Stack also plans an activity with her family — like going to a movie or the park — every Sunday afternoon. “We do this because if there’s nothing on the schedule, time tends to get frittered away and the weekend may end without us spending quality time together,” she says.

Michael Neithardt, an actor and television commercial producer in New York City, wakes up three hours before he has to leave for work so he can go for a run and spend some time with his wife and baby.

“A lot of my friends tend to wake up, shower, and go straight to work. And they often complain about having no time to do anything,” he tells WebMD in an e-mail. “I find that if I can get those three hours in the morning, I have a more productive and peaceful workday. I can sure tell the difference when I don’t.”

2. Drop activities that sap your time or energy.

“Many people waste their time on activities or people that add no value — for example, spending too much time at work with a colleague who is constantly venting and gossiping,” says Marilyn Puder-York, PhD, a psychologist and executive coach in New York and Connecticut. She recommends taking stock of activities that aren’t really enhancing your career or personal life and minimizing the time you spend on them.

You may even be able to leave work earlier if you make a conscious effort to limit the time you spend on the web and social media sites, making personal calls, or checking your bank balance. “We often get sucked into these habits that are making us much less efficient without realizing it,” Stack says.

3. Rethink your errands.

Consider whether you can outsource any of your time-consuming household chores or errands.

Could you order your groceries online and have them delivered? Hire a kid down the street to mow your lawn? Have your dry cleaning picked up and dropped off at your home or office? Order your stamps online so you don’t have to go to the post office? Even if you’re on a tight budget, you may discover that the time you’ll save will make it worth it.

Stack also suggests trading services with friends. Offer to do tasks that you enjoy or that you were planning to do anyway.

“You could exchange gardening services for babysitting services,” Stack says. “If you like to cook, you could prepare and freeze a couple of meals and give them to a friend in exchange for wrapping your holiday gifts.”

4. Get moving.

It’s hard to make time for exercise when you have a jam-packed schedule, but experts say that it may ultimately help you get more done by boosting your energy level and ability to concentrate.

“Research shows exercise can help you to be more alert,” Brooks says. “And I’ve noticed that when I don’t exercise because I’m trying to squeeze in another half hour of writing, I don’t feel as alert.”

Samantha Harris, a lawyer who works for a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia, says she recently started sneaking in a trip to the gym two or three mornings a week before her family wakes up. “It’s been a real boost in terms of the way I feel for the rest of the day,” she says. “I feel like my head is clearer and I’ve had a little time to myself.”

5. Remember that a little relaxation goes a long way.

Don’t get overwhelmed by assuming that you need to make big changes to bring more balance to your life. Brooks recommends setting realistic goals, like trying to leave the office earlier one night per week.

“Slowly build more activities into your schedule that are important to you,” he says. “Maybe you can start by spending an hour a week on your hobby of carpentry or planning a weekend getaway with your spouse once a year,” he says.

Stack points out that even during a hectic day, you can take 10 or 15 minutes to do something that will recharge your batteries. “Take a bath, read a trashy novel, go for a walk, or listen to music,” she suggests. “You have to make a little time for the things that ignite your joy.”

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