The Sidetracked Sisters' Happiness File

A few years ago I picked up a book, The Sidetracked Sisters' Happiness File - a retro (daren't call it vintage, 1985 is my my birth year) productivity/life management book by Pam Young and Peggy Jones. I bought it because the index card housekeeping system laid out in their previous book Get Your Act Together taught my slattern self how to keep house for the first time ever; perhaps index cards could sort the rest of my life too?

When the Happiness File arrived, I worked through the first few exercises before losing interest, left it on the shelf for a few years and finally donated it. It's a good book, I just wasn't in a place to do the work. I was all about minimising and simplifying at the time and naively thought that I wouldn't need to actively manage my goals and productivity, especially with a cluttery index card collection - everything would just slot into place when the stuff was gone, or I could use a simple, trendy bullet journal.

I was wrong, almost as wrong as the blusher on their cheeks. Is that a print error or is that just how the eighties rolled?
This year it's become clear that I need a life management system and so I bought another copy of The Sidetracked Sisters' Happiness File. I thought I'd share it because the first couple of exercises are useful even if you aren't working through the whole book.

To Be, To Do, To Have

Grab a cuppa, set a timer for an hour and write 3 lists of everything you want to be (i.e. more organised, fitter, a better listener); to do (learn to dance, read more, go back to school) and to have (a more flattering wardrobe, a dog, a cottage by the sea). Write it down, no matter how impossible it may seem - and under each want, write a few reasons why you want it. This helps you identify authentic desire from the 'shoulds' - if you can't think of 3 good reasons, then you can probably discard that goal for now.

The rest of the book explains how to put these goals into action using an index card file, however I think it's a useful exercise in itself.


 On My Mind


On a fresh sheet of paper write down everything that is playing on your mind, from 'we've run out of milk' to 'i'm late booking my dentist check up' to 'climate change is going to kill us all'. Literally anything that is on your mind. It can be overwhelming on the first round depending on how messy your life and mind are but if you repeat it regularly the lists get shorter as you are able to tick things off. 

My list is currently overwhelming. I let a lot of things slide when I was depressed over winter and I had a 3 month long respiratory infection that floored me - I have a lot to catch up on, as well as all those big changes I want to make. My list is several pages long and I'll probably add more - but now it's all down on paper, I can think more clearly and calmly. My mind is no longer swimming, perhaps just going for a paddle.

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