Published: February 7, 2021

The 55th EDITION
The 55th: Time Affluence and Happiness


The Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca once wrote,

“Life, if well-lived, is long enough.”

Two thoughts immediately come to mind.

One: what does it mean for a life to be well-lived? (I’ll come back to this.) Two: the phrase “long enough” makes me think about time — because of course, time passing is how we might measure the stretch of enoughness.

TBH, I didn’t spend much time thinking about time 😉 in my 20s. Something happened when I hit 50 though. Suddenly, I’m very aware of time… or more specifically, the limited nature of it and how I’ve been spending it.

As it happens, the phenomenon called “socioemotional selective theory” explains what happened to me. This theory posits that as we get older, we grow more attuned to how we can wisely allocate our time.

The theory is based on the idea that humans change their goals as they age due to the uniquely human ability to understand time. […] Whereas the pursuit of long-term rewards makes sense when one perceives their time as expansive, when time is perceived as limited, emotionally fulfilling and meaningful goals take on new relevance.

This is not to say that I’ve become very productive or that I no longer procrastinate, dither, or delay. I still do all that. It’s just that I’m acutely sensitive to it when I do.

Awareness, as they say, is the first step.

The Happiness-Time Continuum

How happy we are can be traced directly to how we spend our time. This was the subject of a recent episode of Ten Percent Happier (podcast).

Ashley Whillans, the author of Time Smart and someone who has spent an incredible amount of her professional life studying time and happiness, talked about how we can increase our level of happiness by being “time affluent” – having the time to do the things that bring us joy AND meaning.

She suggested that we do a time audit to increase our awareness of where our time goes and how we spend it, taking note that our activities typically fall somewhere in this grid.

meaningful-joyful grid

Of course, it’s not possible or practical to only fill our days with activities in the meaningful + pleasurable quadrant.

The idea is to have a healthy mix with the goal of minimizing activities in the lower-left corner and optimizing for more of our time spent in the upper-right.

How to do a time audit:
  • Pick a typical workday (not a weekend, where you may have a lot more leisurely activities planned). Research shows that Tuesdays are most representative of a typical workday. So, pick a Tuesday. 😃
  • At the end of the day, review the buckets of activities that happened in the morning, afternoon, and evening.
  • Ask yourself these questions:
    • What activities gave me joy? What activities were meaningful?
    • What was a stressful and unpleasant activity for me? Can I spend less time doing this kind of activity going forward? If not, can I reframe what this activity is about?
    • What here that is unpleasant, unprotective, or of little significance, is under my control?
Bottom Line

Back to the Seneca quote and the well-lived life. I may be able to get away with simply saying that a well-lived life is relative, subject to different interpretations and definitions. But leaving it at that would be a cop-out. I believe that if we start becoming more aware and attuned to how we’re actually spending our time — aiming to have more activities that give our life meaning and joy — we’ll be on our way to a well-lived one.


Starting a business when all you’ve done is work for someone else means a steep learning curve. It’ll feel like you’re drinking from a fire hose. There are many, many things you’re going to need — and will want — to learn. Fortunately for us, we now live in a world where we can take bite-sized and on-demand programs that we can schedule around our busy schedules.

If you’re starting out in your self-employment or business ownership journey, you’ll want to review the list of best-selling business basics classes.*

*P.S. This is an affiliate link.

  • We all know how time got really weird last year. Every day felt like a Monday that never ends. There’s no commute that starts and ends the day. And somehow, the weekends no longer bookend the weeks. So, as we’re still in the midst of it all, how can we regain some semblance of focus and balance after an incredibly chaotic year? Dr. Gloria Mark, who spent years studying the effect of digital media on our moods and behaviors, has a few practical suggestions.
  • Timeboxing: The most powerful time management technique. Timeboxing is the most studied, most verified technique for sustaining good routines, maximizing productivity, and acting on your values in general. If you haven’t tried it, could it be your reason is one of the three discussed in this article?
  • And for a bit of fun. When stakes are high and anything can happen, leave it in the hands of two trusted Gen Xers, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. Fey and Poehler will re-take the helm when they co-host the 78th Annual Golden Globes Awards later this month, though they won’t be in the same room. Tina will be broadcast live in The Rainbow Room in NYC while Amy will be in the Beverly Hilton Hotel in California. #pandemicstyle


“When I think about what I want to do next, the first lens I put on it is, ‘Is this the right thing to do for my family?’ And that’s not totally selfless. That’s also very selfish because you sort of think, am I going to be happy and therefore, am I going to be a good person at home?”

Graham Bell, CEO of World of Books Group, LTD


Annual hip replacements are projected to increase by 71%, knee replacements by 85%, by 2030. This, due in part to the changing psychology of patients, specifically baby boomers — now in their late 50s, 60s, and 70s — who represent about half of these joint replacements.

“This is the first generation that is trying to stay active,” said Dr. Nicholas DiNubile, an orthopedic surgeon in Havertown, Pa. “My parents weren’t active at all. If they went out and did something and were sore afterward, they’d never do it again. But baby boomers stay active, in droves.”

Robots are now assisting surgeons to ensure optimum fit of the new joints. Although many doctors still perform these procedures without their assistance, the robots’ ability for precise implant positioning makes their role likely to grow over the next decade. So, if/when it’s our turn to get a bionic hip or knee, it just might be a robot that’s installing it! #inourlifetime


… when we all got jiggy with it?

It was January twenty-three years ago when actor/rapper Will Smith released his chart-topping “Gettin’ Jiggy With It”. The song earned Smith a Grammy Award in 1999 for the Best Rap Solo Performance. Though apparently, the song was later ranked #19 in AOL’s Worst Songs Ever. Huh?


The Person She Became Through Her Fitness Habits

Most people start new fitness goals for health reasons or because they want to lose weight or look better. Or they want to be able to do something, like run a marathon.

When business leader Tara McMullin started her fitness habits in 2016, it was a decision driven by her professional and business aspirations. To carry out the changes she wanted to make in her work, she needed to untangle some of the limiting beliefs and habits that weren’t serving her well. And the easiest place to start was to not be such a couch potato anymore.

Four years later, Tara has become a new person with a new identity — not to mention, she looks visibly different. And it all started by adopting a new fitness habit. In the first episode of Season 6 (themed “Reimagining Ourselves”), Tara shares the how, why, and what behind this transformation.

Listen or read the highlights here.


Briefing Notes is researched, written, and edited by me alone. Each issue takes hours to produce and paid subscriptions to journals, magazines, and books to get the widest source of insights. If you find value in the newsletter, I’d so much appreciate you subsidizing my coffee habit 😊 It helps with the research and the writing!

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In December 2019, I decided to stop coloring my hair, which I had been doing since my 20s.

I didn’t do it for health or any profound reason other than I just wanted to see how my un-dyed hair looked now. I wanted to sort of see if I could embrace my natural look (tentative phrasing here is intentional).

Three months after that (tentative) decision was made, the world started closing up. I wouldn’t have been able to see my hairdresser anyway, even if I’d wanted to. Going dye-free became a blessing in disguise.

It’s been over a year since my last hair color. I now see how I look with my natural hair. For the record, I’m so glad I did this. Not to mention, the couple of hours there every few weeks that I’ve reclaimed.

Here’s to a meaningful, pleasurable, and otherwise well-lived week. And remember: Mask up!

Cool beans,
Lou Blaser


A former management consultant and IT leader, Lou Blaser is the editor of Briefing Notes and the host of the Second Breaks podcast. She is also the author of Break Free: The Courage to Reinvent Yourself and Your career. Lou’s work is focused on helping experienced professionals navigate an evolving work landscape so they can continue their impact and relevance in a changing world.

The world of work is changing.

Stay smart about it.