A simple method to track happiness
I first heard about this on the Tim Ferriss Podcast during his interview with Jim Collins. Jim had a giant spreadsheet tracking multiple things from his day, but this caught my attention:
Was it a great day?” A plus two is just a great day. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t — there might not have been a really difficult day. It might’ve been a day of a really hard rock climb. It might’ve been a day of really hard writing. But it felt really good, right? It might’ve been a day of an intense conversation, but really meaningful with a friend or something. But what it adds up to is a plus two. Plus one is another positive day. Zero is meh. Minus one is kind of a net tone negative. And minus two is, those are bad days, right? And you put it in before you go to bed because if you try to remember, if I were to ask you Tim, right now, 17 days ago, or even five days ago to give the score, you’re going to be distorted by how you’re feeling today.Tim Ferriss Podcast with Jim Collins transcript
After hearing about this, I knew that this was something I should give a try.
So I devised a version of this Happiness Tracker for myself.
Every day in my iPhone, I open my notes and I mark the date, write the Top 3 things that I did that day. It doesn’t matter if my top 3 things are a meal I ate, a song I listened to, a date night, etc. Just the top 3 things I enjoyed for the day.
Then I give my day a score:
- 2 is a great day
- 1 is a good day
- 0 is a so-so day
- -1 is a bad day
- -2 is a really bad day
This is really simple process and takes about 1-2 minutes each night, but the result is that I have an actual happiness tracker. What do I actually enjoy the most in my life. What should I be doing more of? What should I be doing less of?
And the really great part, is that I can now do as Jim Collin’s does and go back and see how I was truly feeling last week, month, year, etc.
Converting my Happiness Tracker to do some real analysis
To do further analysis on my life by, I convert my notes into a CSV file at the end of each year, and ingest them it into a spreadsheet.
From there, I can see what day of the week I am most happy, and now that I have over a year’s history, I can go back and compare year over year:
So as you can see, in 2020, I was 7% happier than in 2019, even though my weekends took a big hit due to the pandemic.
And though my weekends were on average not as great as in 2019, I was able to use my Happiness Tracker to determine that becoming Accidentally Retired and taking a mini-retirement was the right decision for me.
But more importantly, tracking my happiness, has helped me to really ensure that I am doing the things in my life that make me happy. It has also helped me to realize that I wasn’t happy working as a CEO any longer, and it forced me to engineer my exit.
I hope that you too consider picking up the habit of tracking your days, and if interested, let me know and I’ll send you a copy of my Happiness Tracker.
UPDATE: I have now published The Happiness Tracker Spreadsheet. Download it here.
Ha – Seems like you were not in the best mood to converse with on Wednesday’s in 2019! Seriously, this is such an interesting concept. I would love to see how my happiness fluctuates between years with visual data. I’m just not sure exactly how to interpret the data and make changes for the following year?
Once you start actively doing this, you start to get a feel for what are really great days, the good day, so so days, etc. Because of that you become more aware of the things that really make you tick. There are other ways to do this surely, you could make a list of 30 things that make you happy and then track every time you them, that sort of thing.
The year over year comparison is really more of a curiosity for me. Am I really happier than last year or not? This is a definitive way to find out.
But the real changes come from being more aware of what is bringing you joy.