Happiness Is… Using Your Brain

I have been out of school for two years now. The last time I was out of school for this long, I went back. I miss it. Not the politics of academia, but just sitting in a room of people discussing ideas and expanding my knowledge on topics that I do not tend to seek out on my own.

This month, I want to bring a little of that back into my life.

My goals for the month are to:

Read a non-fiction book. I love fiction. I could read fiction all day, especially anything that could be qualified as Chick-Lit. I do not make a habit of reading non-fiction despite the fact that I enjoy learning about new topics.

Read the news daily. I really hate the news. I don’t know why. Probably because it is so depressing. But I also hate not knowing what is going on in the world. I have subscribed to an email list called The Skimm, which I absolutely love. It takes all the news from the day and gives you the highlights in a condensed version. I try to read it every morning, but I have been slacking.

Read the articles in Vogue and Vanity Fair rather than just looking at the pictures. I love magazines, but I pretty much read a magazine for two reasons: entertainment news and fashion pictorials. These “fashion” magazines also have really incredible articles, but I rarely read them. I usually only look through them when I have a few minutes and am trying to unwind my brain rather that use it.

That’s it. That is the plan for November. I will be sure to let you know how it goes at the end of the month.

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Happiness Is… Making Time: Part II

Happy Halloween! Since it is the last day of the month, I am posting my report on this month’s Happiness Project. To see the Halloween themed post, check out What’s Your Favorite Scary Movie? from earlier this week.

This month, my plan was to make more time to do things that made me happy vs. working all the time. I do feel like I was able to make time for myself. My work schedule has slowed a bit and given me more time for other things. Like leaning out my email inbox and reading articles that I have been saving until I had time to read them.

As far as the specific goals I set for this month:

Getting back into a blogging routine. I did not do a great job of actually posting. I had limited access to wifi for about a week and wasn’t really able to post, but I did get my thoughts organized and came up with a plan of action for the next few months, so hopefully you all will see that coming through here shortly.

Read a book. I did not even crack a book this month. I read a few scripts for work, but that is in no way the goal I had. I just was not in a book reading mood this month. And since this month was all about taking more time to do what I wanted to do, I didn’t try too hard since the inspiration never came. I did come up with a reading list for the next few months so that when I have enough brain power to read a book, I know where to start. I did start watching a YouTube series that was based on one of my favorite books, which was very good, so that’s sort of the same thing, right?

Clear off my To Do List. This was a very successful goal. I got a lot done this month. I worked on and updated my budget, I wrote my syllabus for the class I am teaching next semester, reorganized my filing system, and got my supplies organized for the run of the show I opened this month.

I know that everyone relaxes in their own ways, for me, organizing is the number one thing I can do to alleviate stress. If I feel like I can head into the next few months with everything already setup and organized, I feel totally stress free.

So here we go, the holiday season is coming and I am totally prepared. Which is a good thing because I also have a retail job on the side, so I will obviously be spending a lot of time there in the next couple of months… hopefully I am prepared enough to stay on top of everything while the retail industry is in all hands on deck mode.

Happiness Is… Making Time

That last couple of months have been very busy, which you know if you have been following along. I had a different area picked out for this month’s Happiness Project, but since I am only getting around to starting it now…

For October, I will be focusing on making more time to do the things I really want and less time being stressed out about work. Lucky for me, I am getting some time off work the next two weeks. Now don’t get too excited, I also have a show opening up in like two weeks, so I will have plenty to do. My hope is that I can use this time off to recalibrate. Even though I have been able to cut down on the hours I am working each week, I have still not been able to catch up. If I can get myself back to a good starting point, maybe I can keep up through the coming months which are always super hectic on their own.

So, three goals:

1. Get back into a good blogging routine. Here’s the deal, I love writing this blog, but I have not really been able to make it a priority in the past few months and I hate that. So, I am going to try to get back in the swing of writing more regularly.

2. Read a book. I mean really good and read it. Not an audiobook while I am running errands, but sit still and read an entire book. Maybe with a cup of tea.

3. Clear off my “To Do” List. There are some things that I have had on my list for months. Emails to send, friends to call, things to craft. I need to get to it. I absolutely love the feeling of having nothing on my list. I feel like only then can you really relax. I will have plenty more to add as we roll in to the holiday season, so better to finish off what I have left from the summer and start fresh for the fall.

Here we go!

Happiness Is… Getting Down to Business: Part II

Well, this month was a bit of a wash, goals-wise. I did not really accomplish any of the specific goals I set for myself this month, but I did make a lot of progress in the professional aspects of my life.

I have spent much less time in the last month working jobs and started projects that are more long term focused. I did not actually update my website, but I working on a new production that will hopefully give me more material to post on the site. I did not update my Twitter account, but I did reach out to a few professional contacts. I did actually do some rendering and worked on that quite a bit.

I think the specific goals are less important in the long run. The point of September was to stop feeling so overworked with jobs and to focus more on career-centered projects. That I did accomplish and I can honestly say, it is good to be back in the swing.

That’s all for now.

This month’s plan will come soon.

Happiness Is… Getting Down to Business

For September, I will be focusing my Happiness Project on business. Now, I am not talking about work, but my career. I have not been concentrating on this area of my life enough in the last few months, but now that I am starting a new design season this month, I am going to spend some real time working on the business aspects of my life.

My three goals for this months are:

To update my website. I have not done this in a while, but this month I am going to really take a look at it and make sure everything is streamlined. I know I need to update some of the features and make sure all of my professional social networks are connected to the site.

To tweet from my professional Twitter account. I rarely use this account. I rarely use my personal account. But this month I am going to make an effort to Tweet more. As I get started on this next production, I am going to Tweet throughout the process in hopes of making more of a habit of utilizing this account.

To work on renderings. I have been working on my sketching skills for the past couple of months, but this month I am going to take it to the next level. I have renderings for past productions that need to be redone. I have no renderings on my website and I am hoping to redo some of the ones I have done in the past and get them into my portfolio.

As always, I will let you know how it goes at the end of the month.

Happiness Is… Saving for a Rainy Day: Part II

During the month of August, I focused my Happiness Project energies on financial happiness. You can read the before post here. My three goals were to create a budget, determine financial goals, and find additional sources of income.

I did create and stick to a budget. I think I planned well based on my projected income and allotted a good amount for non-essentials as well as savings. I think the most important thing to consider while creating a budget is to be sure to have money for things you like to do. If you do not have money for entertainment and even “little luxuries” (like a new nail polish for fall), the process of saving money is miserable and, I believe, you are more likely to blow it.

I also came up with a few ideas of things to sell on Etsy. I am going to be getting started here soon and will post pictures and links when I get that all to a more finalized place, but I am very excited at the prospect of making money off something I enjoy doing rather than a constant state of working for the sake of money.

I am also about to start designing again this fall (now, really). I have been on a bit of a hiatus, but now I am getting back into the swing of it and I could not be more excited to make a living off the thing I am most passionate about once again.

I did not really spend enough time focusing on figuring out a budget for the big move. I am working on it, but this past month has been crazy at work. You may have noticed how spotty my posting has been, which is because I have been working way too many hours. I am preparing to leave one of the jobs I have now, which may seem counter-intuitive for a girl who has been spending the past month trying to make and save more money. The thing is, it is not worth having a little extra money if you are too stressed and exhausted to do the things you enjoy doing in life. I enjoy writing, I enjoy crafting, I enjoy reading; yet, I have done very little of this lately. So, I am leaving one job in an effort to improve my state of happiness, which is the actual goal of this whole project. I will probably try to find a job to replace this one where the hours are more predictable and hopefully in an industry that I may enjoy more. We shall see how it shakes out. All I know for now is that the money is not worth being miserable.

Happiness Is… Saving for a Rainy Day

The area I am focusing on for August with my Happiness Project is saving money. I feel like this is the case for most people, but for me, money is the number one area of stress and frustration in my life. For the month, I am going to work on a few goals that will hopefully alleviate some of my stress within the area.

I am by no means reinventing the wheel with my goals for the month, but I am hoping that having more specific goals will help me to focus on what I can change. One of the hardest things about money is that, while there is a lot I can change and control, there is a lot I cannot. Things happen. Hopefully, by the end of the month, I will have a plan that will also allow me to save more in case of surprises and not be devastated every time I have to take my car to the mechanic.

My goals for August are to:

Create a Budget: I have had success with budgets before. I know there are people that have a really hard time sticking to them, and what I have found works the best for me is the envelopes of cash. I don’t typically make a habit of carrying cash, but seeing an empty envelope and knowing that I cannot spend anymore money for the month is something I can understand. The bank card that links to a mysterious amount of money does not work well for me. There are times I refuse to check it because I get nervous about what I will find. Obviously this is not ok. The cash has worked for me before, and I am guessing it will work for me again. It takes some serious forethought, but if I can get organized this month, I should be able to continue to use this method.

Create Specific Goals: One of the things people say is most helpful when trying to better your financial situation is to make specific and attainable goals. This way it is not some amorphous thing you are trying to do. I am trying to save up money so I can move to Los Angeles. This month, I plan to figure out what that number needs to be. I would also like to save up a bit of money to take a few trips. I am going to need to go to LA to scope out living situations. I also need to get back to both New York and Chicago at some point this year to visit some friends. to accomplish all of this, I am hoping to price check these trips and see what I need to do to make them happen.

Find Alternative Sources of Income: My jobs right now can be a little precarious. One in particular. I hope to speak with my boss and see if I can’t bump up the number of hours I work each week. I also am hoping to find something else I can do to supplement my income. I dogsit sometimes, but that is not as lucrative in the city where I am currently living as it has been in cities past. I may try to pick up some more clients, but I am still looking into ideas for an Etsy shop. I am not really sure how stable that is either. But, there is surely something out there that I can be doing in my spare time to make some additional funds. Hopefully something I enjoy doing.

There you have it, the plan for August. I will report back at the end of the month to let you know how it all went. Hopefully by spending some time working on this area of my life, I can significantly reduce my stress and create a little more happiness in my life.

Happiness Is… Getting Creative: Part II

So, in case you missed it, I am doing a Happiness Project this year. This post is the conclusion to my first month, Happiness Is… Getting Creative. For more info on my project, or the Happiness Project concept by Gretchen Rubin, follow the links to my previous posts or to Gretchen Rubin’s website to start on your own Happiness Project.

July has proved to be a much busier month than I had intended. I feel like I was constantly on the road or preparing to hit the road. I had about 4 days this entire month where I was not working or traveling. And those days off were primarily spent packing, unpacking or cleaning. All of this to say, I did not have a whole lot of time to sit in a coffee shop and stew in creative juices. I do feel like I spent a large chunk of this month doing creative things, just not the things I was hoping I would do. So, here is the update.

My first goal was to spend time everyday sketching. I did spend some time drawing, but not daily. I found it challenging to draw something when I had nothing in particular to draw. I will start designing some shows here soon, so that will hopefully give me a little push to work on this a little more. Last weekend, I went to a museum in Pittsburg that specifically showcases the Cartoon Arts, called the ToonSeum. They were previewing an exhibit on Superheroes which is going to be fantastic. In the front of the museum, they have a little bookstore where I picked up a book I have been wanting for a while. It is called How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way written by Stan Lee and John Buscema. I will say, since making this purchase, I have been drawing most every day as I have been working my way through the book. So, maybe what I really needed was something that would interest me and teach me new techniques that maybe I will prefer to what I was taught previously. We shall see.

My second goal was to start an Etsy shop. The problem here is that I still have no idea what I would want to sell in my shop. Until I do, it seems like a terrible idea to start a shop. I have only really done crafting that was specifically geared toward gifts or things that I needed to get done. Maybe next month I can do a little more soul searching as to what I might actually want to make and sell. If anyone has any ideas, PLEASE, send them my way.

My third and final goal for July was to start writing a novel. Which I did. I have started one. Writing is challenging in itself. You have to sit and focus on just one thing at a time, which I really struggle with. I like to be doing at least two things at once at any given moment. Writing a few blog posts every week requires an hour here and there. Writing a novel requires hours upon hours of just sitting and writing. We will see where this goes, but if my attention span for this month is any indication, it will be a very long time before I have anything nearing completion. Now I fully understand why people have to take a year off to write or go to a secluded cabin and stuff like that. Distractions are the enemy of writing.

I would say that my Happiness Project for July was not quantifiably successful, but I still feel pretty good about it. I am heading in a good direction, which I am guessing is all I am going to be able to ask for some months. Monday I will continue this project with Month 2, so stay tuned.

Happiness Is… Getting Creative

The Happiness Project is a book by Gretchen Rubin that is part memoir, part self-help. She created a plan called The Happiness Project, where she chooses one area of her life each month to improve upon to make herself a happier person. Within each area, she comes up with resolutions (small, attainable goals) to complete each month. I read the book last fall and wrote about it here. I have made multiple attempts to create my own Happiness Project, but have not had much success. I believe I have figured out the issue. Each attempt I have made, I chose to start with health and fitness. It seemed like a good place to start and the resolutions were easily quantifiable (i.e. Drink 8 glasses of water each day, be physically active for 30 minutes each day), however, in retrospect, it’s totally uninspiring.

This time around, I am going to begin with the core of my being: Creativity.

The focus of July is to Get Creative. I am hoping to foster more creativity in my life and expand my creative skills.

So, my goals for July are to

Sketch Daily: I am a visual artist, unfortunately, I do not have great skill when it comes to drawing people (a major flaw as a designer of clothing…) This is a necessity in my career and something I have been working on (more or less) for years. However, it does not feel like art when you have to work at it. I need to work at it. So, I am going to sketch every day in July and hopefully develop the skills I need to have in order to further my career.

Start an Etsy shop: There are a lot of people who have their own Etsy shops. Most of which, do not have a Master’s Degree in sewing (not exactly my degree). These people are making money doing things that I am very good at, and I feel like I should cash in on that. I have no idea what to sell in this shop, but that is the focus for the month. Find something I can sell and hopefully start making some more money doing something I already do. If you have any ideas, please feel free to send them my way.

Write a novel: My mother always wanted me to be a writer. I always loved to write. It is by no means my greatest passion in life, but everybody is writing books these days. Most of them are memoirs, but I am not quite ready for that just yet. I have thousands of ideas for novels (or plays, or screenplays, or television shows) floating around in my head. This month, I am going to write one down (at least part of one) and see how it goes.

So, there you have it, My Happiness Project plan for July. I will write on this topic again at the end of the month and let you know how it all went! In the meantime, check out the book as well as her website if you want to read more about The Happiness Project.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

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This book is the memoir of a woman who basically created a step by step process to becoming a happier person. It is not a good book to just pick up and read, in a way, it requires action. I can’t imagine reading this book without working to create a happiness project of your own. She did a lot of research on happiness and has some good insight on what, throughout time, people have believed would make them happy. She goes through month by month working on specific area of her life.

As everyone has different issues, I did not relate to every chapter of her book. There were some months that I could have skipped altogether except for the quotes from philosophers or transferable tricks she learned that are peppered through the book (http://www.happiness-project.com). I would really consider this a sort of self-help book. She even has a website dedicated to helping people start their own projects. If you find yourself in need of a change of attitude or have ever thought, “I would be happy if only…” then I recommend reading this book and trying out a happiness project of your own. I am going to start mine next month.