Will reading this make you happy?

Are you happy? The perennial question that never fails to ignite a debate. It’s day four of Ramadan and I wonder to myself: does fasting make me happy? Would I be happier eating an ice cream and sipping a cold beverage right now?

It depends. The best way I’ve found to frame my thinking has been Paul Dolan’s ‘Happiness By Design’. In it he talks about the Pleasure Purpose Principle. We derive happiness dependent on our predilection to either pleasure or purpose. If matters of pleasure make us happy (e.g. fancy meals or watching TV) then we should upweight them. If matters of purpose provide us with happiness (e.g. volunteering for charity) then more of those will bring a smile to our faces. Dolan argues that it’s about finding the balance – the design – to work out what works for you. Fasting brings a great deal of purpose and so I continue.

That leads into the first of this week’s articles I’ve been reading to start my week smarter. Why it’s easier to describe ‘what makes us happy’ than answer the question ‘what is happiness?’. What you really need to know is while we aspire to being happy—whatever this adjective may mean for us—we realize that happiness is something subtle, complex and volatile, and seems totally random.

And so to article two. A guide to meditation. I’ve been following the Headspace appsince the beginning of the year and have been getting better at being present, but boy is it hard. It helps that we have weekly yoga sessions at Triptease, but truly being in the moment, not thinking about the past and not being consumed by the future is much harder than it seems. The most important thing to do is to take the first step and attempt some form of mindfulness (even if you think it’s just hype). So read the handy guide linked in this paragraph.

And finally. Ever had that feeling that you finally got the thing you’ve always wanted and it turns out having it is nothing like wanting it? A thought provoking article on the value of youth and why it may be best spent wasted. Pair that with the most common mistakes young people make to help you realise (if you’re a so-called ‘millennial’ at least) that there are thousands of people who have gone before you, have learnt the lessons you are yet to face, and have gotten to the other side unscathed. Often we forget to step back and realise that.

That’s it for this week. On a side note, it’s been interesting to see more mainstream media coverage of Ramadan this year. Here are a few articles I recommend if you don’t know much about the holy month for Muslims:

Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience

How is it mid-June already? The year is passing by with change happening faster than I can remember. Not just in my own world, but in the world around us. Just this weekend I was at a concert (heaven forbid) and I spotted a person in the crowd Facetiming her family so they could join in (see the photo).

As time is passing fast I’ll keep it quick. Here’s a short round-up of three articles that will help you start your week smarter:

Managing Energy, Not Time Is the Key to High Performance

We live in digital time. Our rhythms are rushed, rapid fire and relentless, our days carved up into bits and bytes. We celebrate breadth rather than depth, quick reaction more than considered reflection. How can you keep on top of things? By managing energy and not time.

Ten Choices You Will Always Regret Making

Handling a lot of change right now? Choose the pain of regret over the pain of discipline and nine other top pieces of advice from Jeff Haden worth reading.

Finding Your Purpose and Living a Meaningful Life

From Hunter S. Thompson: Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective.

More to follow in seven days again – it’s likely to be a more Ramadan focussed edition next week.

Is the work life balance a myth?

It’s been three weeks since I hit publish on my last ‘start your week smarter’ post. Truth be told, I ran my first marathon and like everyone got caught up in the throws of work as we all do. However, ‘being busy‘ is not an excuse and so fear not, here are some articles to help you start your week cleverer than you were just seven days ago.

The work life balance is a myth

The Farnham Street blog is a haven of well written, thought provoking articles. In fact, the weekly newsletter makes for a perfect Sunday afternoon of reading and tea sipping. My favourite article this week focusses on the work life balance argument (something I grapple with) and how: we should stop thinking in terms of work-life balance. Work-life balance is a concept that has us simply lashing ourselves on the back and working too hard in each of the three commitments. In the ensuing exhaustion we ultimately give up on one or more of them to gain an easier life.

Click the link in the headline to find out why we live a life of paradox. Of seeking comfort in company and yet longing to be alone as we come to a sense of meaning and belonging “only through long periods of exile and loneliness.” On a more practical note if you’re looking for a balance, read prioritise your life before your manager does it for you.

Are go getters and true leaders the same thing?

Two articles got me thinking about the same topic this week. The first: Being a Go-Getter is No Fun speaks of the extra work and burden that is placed on those who often go the extra mile at work. A new paper from Duke University found thatresponsible employees are not terribly pleased when everyone turns to them at crucial moments.

When you pair that with The Counter-Intuitive Traits of the World’s Best Leaders you start to wonder whether that’s really an issue. In this post the author argues that the key to being the best leader is to be opinionated and adaptable. Perhaps Go-Getters too should be adaptable and just accept the responsibility that to some degree is self inflicted?

The deed poll is cheaper than Ryanair

A light hearted article to round out today’s post. A student changed his name by deed poll because it was cheaper than the Ryanair charge for a booking error. The low-cost airline might be doing a lot to turn around its image for being cost cutting and low on customer service but a cheeky story like this will never fail to get broad national coverage (and even a resulting Economist blog). Always worth checking twice before you hit book.

That’s it for the week. Enjoy the sunshine and same again in seven days!

Why being wrong is so right

This week brought with it three days off. A bit of time to think, listen to people in coffee shops and read up on where the world is going has provided some renewed gusto to my ‘start your week smarter’ write up. And so here are three articles you need to read this week, plus a whole load of links for longer reads at the end:

How Warren Buffet keeps up on information

Read, read and read some more. Cutting out chatter is what keeps Warren Buffet’s time lean and well used. I wonder how to approach this with the launch of Facebook Instant Articles and the prospect that we will now be bombarded with more news articles during daily digital snacking time. How will we learn to filter the sound from the noise? Buffet’s arguement is learn to not waste time on news or conversations that don’t have a direct interest. Incidentally this is something Facebook is learning to do for you.

Say no to meetings

Speaking of time management, here’s yet another article that looks at how our diaries are plagued with meetings and others borrowing your time. In the move from big agency to start-up I’ve noticed a marked reduction in the number of hours I spend in meeting rooms that is, in essence, time that could be spent working. (see points 1, 2 and 3 in this Buzzfeed listicle). Shameless plug – I wrote about this very topic back in November.

What’s on your moral bucket list?

I’ve been slowly working my way through a ’30 before 30′ bucket list (next weekend: running a marathon[!]) and while Henry Wismayer argues we should say no to bucket lists, I’m intrigued by the concept of a moral bucket list. The point that resonates for me in this article is ‘if you live for external achievement, years pass and the deepest parts of you go unexplored and unstructured’. I couldn’t agree more. This one is a a heavy read, but one worth carrying with you into the new week.

#ICYMI: articles you should bookmark and find time for:

Who’s funding the future? It’s is a must-read for anyone in the start-up world. A fascinating look at one of the biggest VC firms in Silicon Valley. 15 minute read.

Mankind is messed up. A slightly bizarre read, but a worthwhile analysis on the impact technology and changing gender roles is having on boys today. 5 minute read.

Why being wrong is right. Five lessons on being wrong from James Clear. I particularly like: choices that seem poor in hindsight are an indication of growth, not self-worth or intelligence. 3 minute read.

Let’s just hope your choice to read this post is indeed an indication of growth. More to follow next week post-marathon!

Want to be successful? Be obsessed

Just a day late so rather than starting your day smarter, just continue it instead:

Believe you can improve

Why do people succeed? How do our conscious and subconscious thoughts impact our ability to achieve greatness? This analysis by Carol Dweck identifies two types of mindset: (1) growth and (2) fixed. The question at the core of her work: what are the consequences of thinking that your intelligence or personality is something you can develop, as opposed to something that is a fixed, deep-seated trait?

If you don’t have time to read the whole article, Dweck argues that we should adopt a growth mindset, i.e. that intelligence or personality is something that can be developed. Why? Because the passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.

In related news, this Quora post from Elon Musk’s ex-wife is doing the rounds. Her advice for success? Be obsessed.

#Grief

Two things happened over the last fortnight that got me thinking about how engrained Facebook is into our lives. The first was the General Election. It was impossible to miss friends, family and mild acquaintances sharing that they had votes. In fact, more than one million people clicked ‘I’m a voter’ on the social network last Thursday. The second event was the tragic death of Sheryl Sandberg’s husband. She shared a eulogy on Facebook that garnered over a quarter of a million likes. What do the two things have in common?

They show how effortless it has become to become part of a movement. This article in the Guardian talks about how technology has enabled us to become a participatory society. I often wonder about whether tech actually makes us lonelier, but Catherine Shoard argues the opposite: thanks to platforms like Facebook we can rally together much easier than ever before.

Interestingly, according to findings from Facebook researchers, you are seeing fewer news items that you’d disagree with which are shared by your friends because the algorithm is not showing them to you. Take a look at a (somewhat long) summary of the research here.

Eric Schmidt’s 9 rules of e-mail

Here’s some practical advice from former Google CEO Eric Schmidt on how to handle e-mail. The tl;dr version:

  1. Respond quickly.
  2. When writing an email, every word matters, and useless prose doesn’t. Be crisp in your delivery.
  3. Clean out your inbox constantly.
  4. Handle email in LIFO order (Last In First Out). Sometimes the older stuff gets taken care of by someone else.
  5. Remember, you’re a router.
  6. When you use the bcc (blind copy) feature, ask yourself why.
  7. Don’t yell.
  8. Make it easy to follow up on requests.
  9. Help your future self search for stuff. If you get something you think you may want to recall later, forward it to yourself along with a few keywords that describe its content.

You haven’t got time to read this

Start your week smarter has two changes this week. The first is it’s coming to you on a Monday; thank heavens for bank holidays. The second is that I’ve changed the headline format. I’ll be interested to see if makes a difference in the number of views and comments the post gleans.

And so, as usual, here are three articles that are helping me to start my (4-day) week just that little bit smarter:

#IfIWere22 I’d make time

There is a lovely series doing the rounds on Linkedin and Twitter in which senior business figures are giving advice to their 22-year-old selves. The favourite tip I’ve read so far is from Arianna Huffington. She quotes writer Brian Andreas in her post: “Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life.”

With more time management technology on the rise (Google just today announced its acquisition of time management app Timeful) it’s clear that scheduling is becoming big business. What if we just stopped for a minute, an hour, or even a whole day and tried to solve our own time famines? We don’t need to have back to back schedules, rammed diaries and endless appointments. What if we just valued having a bit more time to enjoy ‘the now’?

I know that I’ll be trying to address that this week.

Some other articles in the series worth reading are Richard Branson’s and Andy LaCivita’s

Why do brands make us so emotional?

This insightful article explores gender and the role brands could, or should, play in society. If executed correctly, the author argues that shifts in attitudes can come from big companies trying to sell their wares.

I’m unsure. Personal experience has shown me the difficultly of using a brand purpose to actually impact societal change. Trying to convince many agencies, brand managers, marketing chiefs and ultimately business owners makes it much easier to end up adopting the status quo. There’s also a bigger question about whether that change should come from business, or from art and other areas that aren’t driven by a profit margin.

Nonetheless, it makes for a thought-provoking read.

The psychology of Facebook

Following on from last week’s article on how Facebook and Candy Crush got you hooked, this is a worthwhile read from the Buffer app blog. It looks into how Facebook taps into the brain’s pleasure centre, providing instant gratification and self fulfilment that keeps us going back for more.

Very timely after a conversation I had today about how we don’t often see sadness or hard times in a post. The “she said yes!”, “just bought a house!”, “here’s our first born!” updates aren’t precursed by the “this is my second proposal”, or “it took me three years of saving and eating beans to get here” and “after years of trying!” posts. I do wonder whether this will change, and if I had the chance I would tell my 22 year old self to pay more attention to the book and how it would impact society.

That’s it for the week. Enjoy yours; I hope this helped to make you feel a little smarter!

How Facebook and Candy Crush got you hooked

Seven days. Thousands of news articles. Here are three that will make me start the coming week smarter:

How Facebook and Candy Crush got you hooked

I spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking about the internet and what it is doing to us psychologically. Just yesterday I was talking to a group of people I’d just met about how – in London at least – it feels like we aren’t capable of holding a conversation with a stranger. Why? Because moments of loneliness can be satiated by technology. This WIRED article talks about the trigger, action, reward and investment cycle that we’ve become addicted to. It makes for sobering reading: ‘when we’re lonely, we turn to Facebook. When we’re feeling out of the loop, we turn to Twitter’. What use are strangers to us?

The state of storytelling in the internet age

There’s currently an exhibition called ‘Always Print the Myth’ on over at the V&A and this week I went to one of the opening events with PR Pro Alan Edwards and Editor of GQ, Dylan Jones. It was three hours well spent as two media veterans went through the archives and talked about how PR has evolved over the years. They didn’t speak enough about the current and future challenges that have come along due to the internet, so I took to Medium to find out more. The article linked in the headline is a good one about how we read about stories today. Attention spans are getting shorter and advertising revenues are going to drop. I’ve lost you already, haven’t I? Just click the link.

Stop telling me to be happy

I love the discourse on seeking happiness. OK it’s a bit deep, but rest assured this article is a bit more light hearted and talks about happiness in the context of marketing newsletters. Oh yes. I’ve been spending some time at Triptease thinking about the value of our newsletters and about the content we put into the world in general. I think over the coming months we’ll start to see ‘responsible content marketing’ come into play. Brands churn out so much, but how much of it is actually adding to the world?

A few more links #ICYMI:

London’s history and culture are being destroyed in the name of greed. Where do you stand on the matter?

Why we rejected the news you sent us. It’s always good to read journos talking about what works for their publication. This time from The Next Web.

How do people perceive others? This is a long read so make sure you’ve got 15 minutes to give it your full attention. It talks about perceptions in the workplace and the balance of being nice vs. being competent. I think you can be both. What do you think?

That’s it for this week. More to follow in seven days.