Five Things I've Been Doing To Be Happier and More Productive in 2018

My very good reason for often being unproductive

Now that the first quarter of 2018 is more than half over and spring is approaching, I thought I'd share some new habits I've developed this year. Having my health, a great job with the perfect hours, and my dream of being a mother finally come true, it feels a little ridiculous to admit that I occasionally suffer from feelings of worry and overwhelm. These are upper limit problems, I realize, but they are real for many people like me. By sticking to these five things (almost) every day, I've felt happier, more productive, and less overwhelmed for the last couple of months. I'm sharing this with the hope that I might inspire you to try one or more of these practices to see if they might help you!

1) Adopting a more effective list management system
I've always been a huge list-maker. I used to keep lists upon lists, and they were all on paper. Not only did the paper create more clutter, but it left little reminders all over the house and my purse of my (perceived) inadequate time management, feeding into my tendency to feel overwhelmed. I've migrated all of my lists to online formats, and I've particularly consolidating my to-do lists. I now only have two: To-Do Today or Tomorrow, and To-Do Eventually. There are always a couple things on the Today or Tomorrow list, things that don't pertain to a specific time on the calendar but need to happen soon. However, when I anticipate a new chunk of free time, I take an item from the Eventually list and move it over. Slowly, things are getting done, and I don't feel overwhelmed about it! The app I like for my to-do lists is Wunderlist*, but there are many similar apps such as ToDoist. I also use the Notes function on my phone and Evernote for important information that I might need to access from anywhere. Need an account number but don't have your wallet, or need access to a password that's tough to remember? It's all there. Something I have recently been doing a lot with Evernote is using the search function. I never realized how easy it was to find things in there by just searching a keyword!

2) Maintaining an empty Inbox
My husband has been big on this idea forever, first learning of it from the classic productivity tome Getting Things Done, but I just never got on board. Until now. I wasn't sure about the utility of this at first, because emails that you need to deal with later still have to go somewhere (I created an Action Items folder that I look at approximately once a day - bonus that it starts with an "A" and shows up at the top of my email folder). But going through and moving each email somewhere, whether it's the trash bin or another folder, really helps to avoid that dreaded multi-page inbox where things can easily get lost. As a bonus, I get a small flash of happiness and accomplishment each time I see the empty page when I'm finished!

3) Reciting a few daily mantras 
If you want to change thinking patterns, you have to disrupt the well-worn groove in your brain circuitry that leads to those thinking patterns. One way to do this is by reciting mantras. If this seems a bit "Daily Affirmations With Stuart Smalley" for you, it doesn't have to be anything long or cheesy. I keep a Notes file open on my phone with a few reminder statements, like "I have the space and ability to not be overwhelmed", and I just read it at least once a day.

4) Faithfully writing a short gratitude entry in my journal every night
I once heard that you should "bookend" your day with habits - something good at the beginning, and something good at the end. My end of the day habit has been to write Three Good Things that happened each day in my journal. It's been tough to find time to write long journal entries with an active toddler in the house; I'm often left with just a few minutes before bed when I don't truly feel like pouring my heart out onto paper. Despite this, I still love journaling, and writing down three short notes about good things that happened that day keeps me regular on the habit while providing a daily review of gratitude and happy thoughts.

I can come up with at least 3 things I'm grateful for in this picture

5) Delaying my daily social media time
I still really like social media; it's my main method of blog promotion, and I see a lot of interesting and inspiring things there. But it's very easy to get overwhelmed by the constant flow of both positive and negative information, to the point where some people describe feeling saddened when they log on. I've dabbled with social media fasts, but I don't know what it is about just simply delaying the time at which I look at my social media accounts that really seems to be working for me. I still get some fun time in, but it doesn't seem to snowball into an all-day activity this way. I can't account for the exact difference in minutes, but I know I've spent a significant amount of time less each day scrolling and responding to comments. 

In review, these habits seem like a lot to take on at once, but actually it's been very easy to incorporate all of these habits into my life. Are any of these things that you have put into your daily routine? How has it worked for you?  

* Non-affiliate links


  1. I love doing a three good thing activity daily and it has actually been shown in healthcare workers (and likely everyone) that just by doing this for a few weeks or a month can have signiicant positive impact on sleep quality, depression, anxiety and gratitude :)

    Thanks for sharing your accomplishments and your tips. It is very inspiring and I appreciate it a lot.


    1. Thanks Gavin! I totally notice a difference when thinking of the 3 good things each night. I agree more people should take up the practice!


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