Want To Be Happy? Optimize Your Downtime (3 Easy Steps)

Do you work hard?

I bet you do.

Here’s a more interesting question though – do you relax as hard as you work? Do you optimize your downtime as much as you do your work and productivity?

Most people don’t.

And that’s why there is so much unhappiness and lack of excitement in high performers.

Let’s put an end to it. Let’s make you happy again. Here’s how:

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Productivity and time management concentrate mainly on how to get more done, or how to do it faster.

But, as important as that might be, it is only half of the picture.

The other 50% often gets completely disregarded, yet, if done the right way, it holds the key to having more energy, focus and even more importantly, true happiness.

What’s that magical thing I am talking about?

Your downtime.

Your relaxation time. That time that you spend when you are not occupied with work. That thing that some call “life”.

You get so obsessed with trying to squeeze every ounce of productivity you have while you work, but you forget to optimize in the same fashion the time after the office lights come off and you head home. Ironically, that is the time when the magic happens. When you get to enjoy your life and the fruits of your labor. When you get to be happy.

The most important thing is to enjoy your life – to be happy – it’s all the matters.
~ Audrey Hepburn

But, it is hard to find your happiness if you spend 2.6 hours in front of the TV every day, like most people do. Unfortunately, as you grow older, you lose your sense of fun and start just “passing time” instead of enjoying it. You are so mentally and physically exhausted from your work that your idea of fun becomes just to sit on the coach and switch between Netflix and browsing the internet on your favorite device.

That is a slippery slope that leads to a rut, not to happiness.

If you want to be happy, you need to optimize your downtime with the same passion and dedication that you put into figuring out how to be more productive when you work.

Here’s a simple 3-step system that you can use to figure out what makes you happy and how to incorporate it into your life.

how to be happy

1. Make A List Of Your Happiest Moments (Ever)

Block off some time on your calendar, 20 – 30 minutes would be perfect, take out a piece of paper and your favorite pen.

It is time to dig deep into your past.

Figure out what were the happiest moments of your life. Write them down.

What are those moments that put a smile on your face every single time you think about them? What are your most fond memories?

Was it when you were a kid and you got to visit your grandparents at their house in the mountains? Was it in college when you played soccer? Was it your weeding, or when you had your first kid (grand kid), or when you got your first house, or when you moved to a new city?

Just write them down, one per line, and let’s move on to step #2.

2. Figure Out The “Why”

It is time to analyze your list.

What is it that made you happy in each of those moments?

Think about it and write it down.

You’ll have to do a little bit of soul-searching and self-analysis for this to work, but that is pretty fun, so don’t get intimidated. Just think about what was it about that moment or period that made you happy?

Most likely, you’ll find that it came down to really basic things. If you were the happiest when you played a team sport in college, chances are you felt good about it because you were part of something, you felt “included”.

If one of your moments was your wedding, for example, you might discover that it was that fact that you were the center of attention that made you happy. Or that you felt important, or loved, or because you danced for hours.

It all comes down to simple psychology. When your basic psychological needs are met, you are happy.

But, is not always that easy to pick out exactly what was it about a moment that put a smile on your face.

Let’s make things a little easier.

According to the famous Maslow’s hierarchy of needs this is how things usually stack up:


Another famous theory is Glasser’s Choice Theory that puts your basic needs like this:

  • Love and belonging – belonging, being loved, being respected, friendship, sharing, cooperation
  • Power – recognition, success, importance, achievement, skills
  • Fun – enjoyment, laughter, learning, change
  • Survival – health, relaxation, sexual activity, food, warmth
  • Freedom – choices, independence, freedom from, freedom to

Between these two theories, you should be able to find what was it about a particular moment that made you happy. Write it down across each of your moment  you listed in step #1.

3. Schedule “Happy Time” Every Day

What you have in front of you is a clear blueprint of what makes YOU happy.

It is not theory, it is not someone else’s version, it is based on your own experiences and way of thinking. It also holds the key to being happy.

Use it. Every. Single. Day.

If you discovered that your happy trigger is a feeling of inclusion, figure out how to make it part of your daily routine. Maybe you cannot be part of a college team anymore, but you can sign up for once-per-week tennis classes. Maybe you cannot relive your wedding, but you can organize a get-together or a barbeque every weekend.

Once you know what are the basic physiological needs that YOU need to have met to be happy, you can figure out a way to make them part of your daily life.

Simple, yet powerful, concept that often gets lost in the never-ending stream of shiny lifehacks that provide short-term results.

Your Turn Now

It is a simple 3-step system that delivers great results.

Unlike the stock market, when it comes to being happy, past performance often does guarantee future results. Why struggle to find new ways to be happy when you know what has already worked in the past? You just need to find your WHY and make it part of your schedule. It really is as easy as it sounds.

When you go from passing time to having a bit (or a lot) of fun every day, things start to change and happiness starts to compound.

Work hard, play hard – that is the key to success.

Work hard, pass time till you need to work hard again – that is the path to burn-out.

Optimize your downtime. Find what makes you happy. Use it. Every. Single. Day

Question: what are some of the things that make you happy? How do you make them part of your daily schedule? Share in the comment section below: