Change Management, Development & Training, Good practices, HigherEd, Self-care

My little “astuce” to professional happiness

Today, is International Day of Happiness, a day where we celebrate being happy, and then sabotage ourselves the remaining 364 days into not being happy.

I am writing my thoughts as a reflection on what I have done the last few days to be happy in my professional activities. Of course, there have been several external hindrances, like people who believe that they own my time and my destiny and that I have to bow in front of their very busy time and availability and focus on their concerns, their work, and everything that is theirs only.

Nonetheless, my activities from this past week have been quite enjoyable and brought me lots of joy. This is, however, a result of consciously making small changes every day, over the last 18 months. The line of work that I do against discrimination exposes me to a lot of microaggressions, and the mental stress of personally being a victim and also working with victims of discrimination. I believe it is important for me to be happy, and love myself so that I can best support others, an inspiration by Maya Angelou.

I do not trust people who don’t love themselves and yet tell me, ‘I love you.’ There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”

Maya Angelou, poet, singer, civil rights activist

These are a few of the small changes I have been implementing to keep happiness in the core centre of my professional life.

📅Action for Happiness monthly calendars give a purpose to every single day
🧹Digital decluttering
🗄️Well-organised calendar for more focus
😊More daily self-care activities
💻 Being digitally versatile

Giving a purpose to every single day

In September 2020, I came across the Action for Happiness calendars, and since then I download their calendars every month and have these as my desktop background. This is what my desktop looks like right now, with Mindful March 2022. The everyday messages give a purpose to my day.

Action for Happiness calendar on my desktop

Having these calendars on my desktop has been a constant reminder for me to take care of myself. Obviously, it took me some time to declutter my desktop first to make the calendar visible in the first place. I have the same desktop image across on my PC, laptop and tablet, so a constant reminder on whichever device I use and even while on the move and abroad. You can download the calendars from

Digital decluttering

Some of the most recent changes have brought more immediate happiness though. I followed the video from Jules Acree to organise my digital calendar better, in particular, to use colours in my calendar that were not shouting at me. My activities are now all in pastel colours, more soothing to me, and definitely much more productive.

Use of Pastel Colours in calendar

This is the video you can follow for a similar approach: How I Plan My Week | Notion & Google Calendar Workflow Julee Acree has several digital organisation videos on her channel, which you may adapt.

Well-organised calendar for more focus

Pastel colours and re-organising my activities into topics have definitely brought more focus. Since then I have been blogging more, engaging more and more on topics that I am passionate about, and recently launched a new series of videos, called Celebrating Small Steps in Higher Education.

Latest video – Celebrating small steps in HE – Diversity in STEM, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome research ft. Sabeeha Malek

Full series available here

You are welcome to subscribe to support more videos around equality and diversity in Higher Education:

Several people have been in touch to commend me for the brave work that I am doing around EDI and how they are now using my insights in their own organisations. But none of these would have been possible without regular self-care.

More daily self-care activities

The re-organised digital calendar, also meant that I am able to easily see what activities are taking more of my time and what activities I would like more. At some point in time, I had found myself involved in more and more meetings, which were not bringing anything to me, they were dry, without content, and most of the time found I was the only one engaging, the sort of meeting that could just be an email. There were also meetings forced onto me for which I am not paid, and some meetings which people request but they do not attend themselves. It is important for me to avoid unproductive meetings as I have a 15+ hrs working day most of the time, to accommodate projects across different time zones.

My re-organised calendar helped me identify that I wanted and needed more time for self-care and professional development. I now have self-care as an everyday activity, some of which include group activities, or activities with my family members. This is my self-care calendar for the week commencing 21st March 2022.

A snapshot of my Self-Care calendar, with my other calendars out of sight

For the next 7 days, I have scheduled self-care activities that I enjoy doing and most importantly gives me the opportunity to engage with groups of people from different countries across different time zones, from the US to Australia. So yes, I do Tai Chi, Yoga (which is second nature now), I am learning to draw as a creative activity, and I have been learning Carnatic music since Feb 2021. At the moment, I am writing a poem, my very first, as part of a #creativeHE Open Mic activity which is so far on the topic of joy and creation, unless I struggle with finding more rhythming words and change it all. One thing that I am slowly incorporating is the discipline to not cancel the self-care activities at any cost, so no snoozing the ME time.

It is not just self-care activities that make me happy though. I also have some regular meetings, which after every recurrence make me feel energised; they are projects around topics that are core to my very essence, matters which define me. Many are part of my professional development calendar, they are actually meetings, but take place in a much more relaxed manner, with genuine respect and care for each other and revolve around sharing and collaborating.

Being digitally versatile

It has felt good writing down my reflections for being happy right now, it clears my head on what is important and what should be important. One of my regular Monday morning activities, even before any meetings, is to streamline my tasks, this includes re-assessing how I spend my valuable time and on what tasks/activities, digital decluttering and adopting new digital tools. I also have top-notch well-organised bookmarks synced on all my devices, which allows me to access anything from any device, a level of flexibility that brings me lots of joy, especially towards being a changemaker in Higher Education.

On Friday afternoon, if I have enjoyed the new tools, and new ways of working, I repeat these in planning activities for the forthcoming week. So, Friday afternoons, I am generally not reachable via email, as this is my planning, and reflection time for the week. Every week, I aim to incorporate a small change that I then assess, and thus I remain open-minded and versatile to digital technologies that can make my professional activities a happy process. On that note, I truely hope you can discover and adopt new ways of working that gives you happiness in your professional life !

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