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  • Crystal Ellefsen 10:00:20 on 2018/12/07 Permalink
    Tags: , , , commitments, , , , , , , , , , ,   

    2018 Is Almost Over! Time for an “18 for 2018” Update. 

    In episodes 149 and 152 of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast, my sister Elizabeth and I talked about how we created a list of our "18 for 2018"—eighteen things we wanted to get done in 2018.

    I've been surprised by how enthusiastically people have embraced this approach to making changes and meeting aims for the new year. It's a really fun exercise.

    Well, we’re nearing the end of 2018, and I thought I’d review my progress so far.

    I have to say, I'm pleased with my list! I've crossed off every item.

    1. Start having weekly adventures with Eleanor.

    Eleanor and I have gone on many adventures in 2018, to the Cooper Hewitt (Eleanor's favorite museum), the Metropolitan Museum, the Frick, Color Factory exhibit, the Asia Society, and elsewhere. We also did a big adventure to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, though that doesn't really count as a "weekly" adventure.

    eleanor at museum 1 

    2. Fix my headset, runs out of battery really fast.

    3. Set up a home studio in this closet for my "Ask Gretchen Rubin Live" Facebook show.

    After talking to a lighting expert, I decided not to convert my closet, which he thought might seem claustrophobic to me and viewers, so instead, I bought a big standing light. He showed me how to adjust the light in the room for better video quality. Click here to view the schedule and join me on my next live show.

    4. Work with Barnaby so he’s better at coming when I call him.

    When I announced on the Happier podcast that I'd given up on this item, many listeners got in touch to encourage me to keep working on it—so I did! Now Barnaby does reliably come from anywhere in the apartment when I say "Barnaby, TOUCH."

    5. Clean out my massive tote bag collection. Each one is special.

    6. Take Eleanor to get her contacts checked.

    Although she (and I) resisted dealing with it, Eleanor is now very happy to be wearing contacts.

    7. Start making consistent progress on "Report to the Committee on Exploration." [should be crossed out//]

    We're in the very final stages of this project! My friend and I are creating this together, and our part is finished. All that's left is to receive the actual books. I'm so excited to see the final masterpiece. (If you want to read about a similar project called "Four to Llewelyn's Edge," I describe it here). We even have a gorgeous logo that was created by the brilliant Gabe Greenberg// for this imaginary inter-steller organization.

    8. Create a work calendar for the year.

    9. Finish My Color Pilgrimage and figure out what the heck to do with it; similarly, Outer Order, Inner Calm.

    Outer Order, Inner Calm is well on its way to publication on March 5, 2018. (If you feel inclined to pre-order, I really appreciate it! Pre-orders give such a boost to a book among booksellers, the public, and the press). Because of that book's publication, and also because The Happiness Project, Tenth Anniversary Edition came out November 2018, I decided to postpone worrying about My Color Pilgrimage until February 2019. I want things to calm down a bit.

    10. Tap more into my love of smell.

    I've been trying new perfumes more consistently and wearing my favorites more consistently. (One of my favorite times to wear perfume? When I'm going to bed.) I also signed up for two terrific perfume courses at the Pratt Institute. This weekend is my final class. Most important, I've been more aware of scent as I go through my ordinary day. It's easy to ignore smells, I find, if I don't make an effort to notice and appreciate them.

    11. Plan perfume field trip with a friend. [should be crossed out//]

    I did this twice and want to continue to do it. I've been to Perfumerie and Fueguia—I highly recommend both shops. I tried to go to Twisted Lily, which is near the Panoply studio where I recorded the Happier podcast, but it was closed. Eleanor and I went to an exhibit called "Design Beyond Vision" at the Cooper Hewitt—that was a great scent field trip. We visited a perfume museum when we were in Paris this summer. I'm always looking for a way to have a scent field trip.

    12. Get new phone for camera to improve the video quality of my weekly Facebook show, "Ask Gretchen Rubin Live".

    13. Figure out Instagram features and use it regularly.

    I still want to make better use of the many fun features of Instagram, but I am using it consistently. Eleanor has really enjoyed showing me how to use some of its quirkier aspects.

    14. Decide on a cause to give to as a family.

    We decided to give to Bottom Line, which helps low-income and first-generation-to-college students get to and through college; students get individual support to ensure they have the information and guidance they need to get into and graduate from college, from being a high-school senior all the way through to college graduation and career plan. I have a friend who works in philanthropy and is especially knowledgeable about educational organizations, and she recommended Bottom Line as an organization that does a really great job achieving its aims.

    15. Create the Four Tendencies workshop.

    As I expected, this item was one of the most demanding of all the items on the list. It took many months, lots of hard work, and the contributions of several terrific people. It's so exciting to have it finished! Ever since Better Than Before was published, people have asked for a Four Tendencies workshop. It's thrilling to be able to answer "yes" at last.

    16. Deal with the items we want to donate to Housing Works.

    In an extraordinary piece of luck, a Housing Works store has opened less than a block from my apartment. I've given so much to Housing Works (which, unlike many places, also accepts books). Working on Outer Order, Inner Calm has really helped me to stay focus on the satisfaction of donating items.

    17. Creating a list for listeners of the Try This at Homes and Happiness Hacks so far.

    At last! And just in time. You can download these two PDF resources here. I'll update these lists at the end of each year, and periodically after that.

    18. Get current with making physical photo albums with Shutterfly.

     

    What conclusions do I draw from my list?

    The biggest conclusion is that making an "18 for 2018" list is a great idea. I'm sure that I accomplished much more in 2018 than I would have otherwise. Putting items on the list, reviewing the list, talking it over with Elizabeth, seeing the list on the cork-board next to my desk, the desire to score a perfect 18 by December 31—all these mean that I'm much more likely to get these things done.

    Plus it's fun! I got a tremendous kick out of this challenge.

    I've also concluded that it's good to have a mix of items, with different levels of difficulty.

    Some span a long period of time and take collaboration with other people, like #9 and #15.

    Some are fairly easy, but need to be done regularly for me to see the benefit, like #1 or #16.

    Some were fairly easy to cross off the list, like #14.

    Some are time-consuming, but just once, or every once in a while, like #6.

    Some are fun, like #10 and #11.

    Some aren't fun, like #18.

    But they've all made my life happier in some way.

    One question: Given that I completed all items, should I have aimed higher? Was I too modest in my list-making? Robert Browning wrote, "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,/Or what's a heaven for?" I can see an argument for both approaches.

    Are you finding it fun or burdensome to try to meet your New Year’s resolutions, observe your one-word theme for the year, or tackle your "18 for 2018?" 

    Want to share your list on Instagram? Use #18for2018 and #HappierPodcast and tag me: @gretchenrubin

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:18 on 2018/12/06 Permalink
    Tags: aging, , , How to Live Forever book, , Marc Freedman, mentorship,   

    “Society Grows Great When Older People Plant Trees Under Whose Shade They Shall Never Sit.” 

    Interview: Marc Freedman

    Marc Freedman is the President and CEO of Encore.org, and is a renowned social entrepreneur, thinker, and writer.  I've been interested in his work for a long time. Among other things, he highlights the significance of harnessing the experience and talent of people past midlife as a way to make the world better.

    This is important, because in 2019, for the first time ever, the United States will have more people older than age 60 than younger than age 18.

    In his terrific new book, How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations, Marc Freedman examines how we can make a more-old-than-young society work for all ages. But not only that–he also emphasizes how we can find fulfillment and happiness in our longer lives by connecting with the next generation.

    I couldn't wait to talk to Marc about happiness, habits, and productivity.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple habit or activity that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Marc: Walking. I walk about five miles a day, up and down the hills of Berkeley, California. It clears my mind—and it’s good for my dogs, too!

    Gretchen: What’s something you know now about building healthy habits or happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    Marc: I learned in my research for this book that those in middle age or older who invest in nurturing the next generation are three times as likely to be happy as those who don’t. I wouldn’t have paid much attention to that at 18, but it’s hugely important to me now.

    Gretchen: You’ve done fascinating research. What has surprised or intrigued you—or your readers—most?

    Marc: Experience Corps, which I helped create more than 20 years ago, taps the time and talents of older adults to help 30,000 children in urban elementary schools learn to read every year. It’s a tutoring program, right? Well, not exactly. The conventional wisdom is that the relationships provide a foundation for the tutoring help. Today I think that formulation has it backward. The reading lessons are the scaffolding around which a rich array of bonds can take hold. And these connections aren’t just a means to an end; they’re an important end in and of themselves. In other words, I’ve realized that Experience Corps is actually a relationship program. You could say it’s helping to clear the market for love!

    Gretchen: Which habits are most important to you? (for health, for creativity, for productivity, for leisure, etc.)

    Marc: I make no claim on healthy habits! I’m 60, travel all the time, and have three sons—ages 8, 10 and 12. I have tried to develop healthy sleeping and eating habits for decades and failed over and over again. I can say, in all seriousness, that my love of music and movies has served me well, leading to many relaxing moments, quality time with others, even creative insights.

    Gretchen: Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

    Marc: I used to eat any and all doughnuts. Now I only eat high quality doughnuts.

    Gretchen: Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger

    Marc: I’d say I’m a Rebel/Obliger hybrid. I want to get the job done in a way that makes me proud, but I seem determined to do it on my terms and my timetable. So, as you might guess, I have a lot of trouble with deadlines. In college, I set what I think is still an intercollegiate record for incomplete classes. In my first three semesters, I racked up nine incompletes—impressive, considering that I’d only taken 12 courses and four of them were pass-fail. Things haven’t improved much since then, I’m afraid.

    Gretchen: Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits or your happiness? (e.g. travel, parties)

    Marc: Travel, stress, deadlines, kids, dogs, parties, doughnuts. I’d say everything interferes at one time or another.

    Gretchen: Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you made a major change very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

    Marc: I have had my share of health scares, and after each one, I expand my capacity for gratitude and renew my commitment to take better care of myself. I’m really quite religious about walking every day now. Knee troubles that threatened to make that impossible but have now thankfully vanished.

    Gretchen: Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”)

    Marc: I often quote a Greek proverb that reads, “Society grows great when older people plant trees under whose shade they shall never sit.” I see now that How to Live Forever has been all about planting seeds, irrigating them, letting life bloom. It’s ironic that my own great mentor in much of this was a man named (John) Gardner. It is our role as older people to plant those trees under whose shade we shall never sit. Our task is not to try to be young, but to be there for those who actually are.

     
  • feedwordpress 15:33:06 on 2018/11/30 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , November,   

    What I Read This Month: November 2018. 

    For more than two years now, every Monday morning, I've posted a photo on my Facebook Page of the books I finished during the week, with the tag #GretchenRubinReads

    I get a big kick out of this weekly habit—it’s a way to shine a spotlight on all the terrific books that I’ve read.

    As I write about in my book Better Than Before, for most of my life, my habit was to finish any book that I started. Finally, I realized that this approach meant that I spent time reading books that bored me, and I had less time for books that I truly enjoy. These days, I now put down a book if I don’t feel like finishing it, so I have more time to do my favorite kinds of reading.

    This habit means that if you see a book included in the #GretchenRubinReads photo, you know that I liked it well enough to read to the last page.

    If you’d like more ideas for habits to help you get more reading done, read this post or download my "Reading Better Than Before" worksheet.

    You can also follow me on Goodreads where I've recently started tracking books I’ve read.

    If you want to see what I read in October 2018, the full list is here.

    Looking back at the month, I see I did a lot of reading in the children's/YA literature world and very little "work" reading.

    November 2018 Reading

    Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack! by M.E. Kerr -- this is a terrific YA book that I hadn't read since I was in my teens. It's set in Brooklyn, so I could really envision where it takes place. From the title, you might think it's a book about drugs, but it's not.

    Mrs. Caliban by Rachel Ingalls -- short, very thought-compelling. And although it's not like the movie The Shape of Water, it has a very similar plot. Weirdly similar. There's a lot to think about with this novel.

    Augustus by John Williams -- I have to confess, everyone loves his novel Stoner but I didn't finish it. But I love Williams's other novels. It's written as fragments of different kinds of documents, an approach I found extremely interesting.

    The Master Puppeteer by Katherine Paterson -- Paterson is one of the greatest masters of children's literature. How had I missed this novel? Short, wonderful, set in old Japan, where the protagonist is an apprentice at a famous puppet theater.

    Outline by Rachel Cusk -- very interesting approach to the novel. I'm reading her trilogy out of order but that doesn't seem to matter.

    Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi -- Boy I've been hearing about this book for months, so was glad finally to get the chance to read it myself. Fantasy, super-natural powers, fascinating world, gods returning, huge stakes. Just my kind of thing.

    Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis -- thought-provoking, very accessible, funny, lots of very honest reflections from her own life. Great for readers who struggle to make time for their dreams (or even to admit their dreams).

    Remembering Denny by Calvin Trillin -- for reasons not clear to me, I felt the urge to re-read this book. Really good. It's interesting to see Trillin looking back at the '50s from his time in the '90s while we're in the '10s.

    How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish -- I love everything these authors write.

    Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson -- somehow I'd missed this major work of YA literature. Very compelling.

    Juliet's School of Possibilities by Laura Vanderkam -- a fable about how to stay focused on what matters most in life. I love fables, epigrams, aphorisms, koans, parables, teaching stories, so I was particularly interested in Vanderkam's decision to express an idea through a story.

    Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson -- short, haunting. A wonderful evocation of a time in history, a place, and a stage of life. Now that I've finished it, I find myself recalling the characters and scenes at odd moments.

    The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert -- wonderful. If you've read Diana Wynne Jones's brilliant Fire and Hemlock, you're especially ready for this book.

    My Struggle: Book Six by Karl Ove Knausgaard -- you're either bored by Knausgaard or riveted by Knausgaard. I love these books and am puzzled and mesmerized by why that is. There are so many reasons it shouldn't work, and yet it works supremely well (I find).

    Daemon Voices by Philip Pullman -- I love, love, love the trilogy of His Dark Materials, so I couldn't wait to read Pullman's collection of essays on story. It reminds me of C. S. Lewis's essay collection On Stories, and I have no higher praise than that. Bonus: now I'm reading many books that Pullman discusses.

    Looking back on the list, I realize I should set myself the task of reflecting on the similarities and differences in the work of Cusk and Knausgaard, and what that suggests about the state of literature today. Hmmmm. Maybe I'll wait to see if someone writes a great article I can read on that subject.

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:21 on 2018/11/29 Permalink
    Tags: author interview, , , Erica Meloe, , , physical therapy, Why Do I Hurt?   

    “The Relationship of Our Body to Our Mind Is More than Just a Tagline. It’s a Real Thing.” 

    Interview: Erica Meloe

    Fortunately for me, I've know Erica Meloe for years. From time to time, for no apparent reason, I start to have a lot of pain in my neck—or more rarely, shoulder. Usually this pain goes away on its own, but there have been occasions when the pain was bad and didn't seem to be on the mend.

    In those cases, I turn to the brilliant, super-effective Erica Meloe. She's a physical therapist who has made such a difference for me—and for my husband, father-in-law, and brother-in-law, among others.

    She really understands the body in an extraordinary way.

    She just wrote a terrific book, Why Do I Hurt? Discover the Surprising Connections that Cause Physical Pain--and What to Do About Them.

    I'm particularly interested in this book because I've developed a minor preoccupation with the subject of pain (a frightening subject, but interesting).

    I couldn’t wait to talk to Erica about happiness, habits, and productivity.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Erica: I have been doing a lot of Spinning at Soul Cycle these days and I have never felt more exhilarated! I believe that movement in whatever form, is good for your body, mind and soul. I get an enormous amount of inspiration from exercise. Whether it is the community, the movement or just the feeling of sweating through a good workout, it stirs up my creative juices and I feel more alive. Another habit that I do almost every night is read. I am a huge Jane Austen fan, and try to read something from the Regency period fairly often. It really grounds me.

    Gretchen: What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    Erica: This is a great question! The first thought that comes to mind is, “That it doesn’t just happen to you, you have to create your own happiness." I think that our definition of happiness changes, as we grow older. And one of the biggest lessons for me is that what I think will make me happy, actually doesn’t make me happy.

    We think if "we get or achieve" certain things or goals, that is the ultimate in happiness. And what I have found, is that it is the little things that make me happy and fill me with gratitude. For example, going to see “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” with my niece, learning something new, or going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the “Versailles” exhibit, this is what makes me happy.

    Professionally, helping a patient to problem solve their persistent pain and get them moving better is so rewarding. And even more recently, seeing my book Why Do I Hurt? finally published!

    Making beautiful memories is what happiness is all about for me.

    Gretchen: You’ve done fascinating research. What has surprised or intrigued you – or others – most?

    Erica: What continues to intrigue and motivate me to search for more evidence is that the relationship of our body to our mind is more than just a tagline, it is a real thing. The body has amazing healing powers if we only tap into our own internal resources.

    As a physical therapist, I see so many people affected by persistent pain as is evidenced by the rising rates of consumer opioid abuse. When someone has persistent pain, more often than not, the source of that pain lies somewhere other than their symptomatic body part. Our bodies are such great compensators, that long after an injury or painful part has healed, there are some people who still experience pain.

    What surprises many of my patients is the fact that we also need to treat at least one or two other regions of the body in order for them to achieve any long lasting change. That is the epitome of treating the source versus just treating the symptom.

    What I also find extremely fascinating is that when you give someone a diagnosis, in my field for example, like a “herniated disc” or “your hip or knee is bone-on-bone,” this can be seen as a placebo or alternatively as a nocebo, which can be detrimental. The delivery of a diagnosis to a patient is the most important piece in health care delivery.

    I will stick to physical therapy, as it is my scope of practice, but think about this: “You have bone-on-bone in your hip which is seen on your most recent x-ray and you need a hip replacement." Versus, "You have some degenerative changes in your hip which are very common as you grow older. We call them the 'kisses of time.' You can rehab this or at some point in the future, you may choose to have a very common surgical procedure called a hip replacement. Your CHOICE."

    I believe the first one is a nocebo and the second one is a placebo. Being given a choice versus being told what to do has an enormous impact on how we process pain and ultimately in how we manage it. A health care professional’s words matter.

    Gretchen: What advice do you find yourself giving over and over? If you could wave a magic wand so that just about everyone followed certain habits or practices, what would you choose?

    Erica: I constantly find myself telling people that our body makes unconscious choices in how we move. We resort to old movement strategies or habits that our body sees as “normal.” Our bodies take the path of least resistance until we run out of options. We run a certain way (and we have been running that way for years) until we change something, like our environment, our shoes, our running pattern, and then breakdown occurs. It can manifest as fatigue, pain or lack of endurance as examples.

    Our old habit or strategy that has reached it’s “buckle point” as I like to call it, is now something that needs to be re-patterned or re-trained. I always tell my patients that we need to develop a new habit or a new normal. And that changes depending on the amount of load, stress or activity that we put on our bodies.

    Being open minded to developing new movement patterns, practices or habits is what makes us unique. If I could wave a magic wand (and I would use Hermione’s wand!) it would be to develop many habits or practices. The body responds really well to variance in the sense that if we vary our movements, positions and activities and make that a habit, our bodies would thank us!

    Gretchen: Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

    Erica: I thought I would be an Upholder when I took the quiz but my results showed that I am an Obliger! I am working at meeting my inner expectations and learning how to say “no,” more often! I do believe that when you work with patients and are in a healing profession, there is a tendency towards meeting others’ needs ahead of your own.

    Gretchen: Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”) Or a quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful?

    Erica: “Faith and Courage” and more recently, “Bring the Joy.”

    Gretchen: Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits or your happiness? (e.g. travel, parties, email)

    Erica: As an Obliger, I tend to over-commit and take on too many obligations. Often times, I find myself saying no to certain things because of a deadline or expectation on my part that I have to get something done.

    Gretchen: In your field, is there a common misperception or incorrect assumption that you’d like to correct?

    Erica: Yes, thank you! The biggest misconception is that physical therapy is a uniform profession. That is, the same results will be achieved with any physical therapist. This is simply not true.

    Practices, techniques, and philosophies differ. I have heard many stories where patients have not gotten the results they wanted from a medical provider, but have achieved noticeable benefits when they see a good PT who looks at the body differently from a holistic and integrated perspective.

    So I would encourage all patients to try a new physical therapist if they have not gotten the results they wanted. Their experience may be vastly different with someone else.

    why do I hurt? cover

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:49 on 2018/11/20 Permalink
    Tags: Alice Robb, , , , , , Why We Dream   

    “What You Think Is Existential Angst Might Actually Be a Lack of Sleep.” 

    Interview: Alice Robb

    Alice is a writer who lives here in New York City, in Brooklyn. She's written for many publication, including The New Republic and The Cut.

    She has a book that just hit the shelves: Why We Dream: The Transformative Power of Our Nightly Journey.

    Throughout history, people have been fascinated by dreams—why we dream, what dreams mean, and if you're my husband, how do you stop having the same bad dream over and over? (He dreams that he didn't study for an exam).

    I couldn't wait to talk to Alice about happiness, habits, and productivity.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple habit or activity that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Alice: When I started freelancing a few years ago, I realized how important it is to find ways to divide the day between work and leisure; no one is going to say, “Good job, go home,” at 6 o’clock. At the end of the day, when I’ve decided I’m done working, I make a list of everything I’ve left unfinished. This helps me switch gears; I don’t have to worry that I’ll forget what I was in the middle of or lose momentum the next day. I save it in a draft email in my inbox, and I wake up with my to-do list already made. Most of my projects are ongoing—I was working on the book for years—and I’m not always at a natural breaking point when I need to stop.

    Gretchen: What’s something you know now about building healthy habits or happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    Alice: What you think is existential angst might actually be a lack of sleep.

    Gretchen: You’ve done fascinating research. What has surprised or intrigued you—or your readers—most?

    Alice: Most of us have been taught to ignore our dreams; many people I’ve spoken to say things like, “I never dream.” But even if you don’t often remember your dreams, you’re still having them. And it’s easy to improve your dream recall—just by spending a few minutes during the day thinking about dreams, deciding you want to remember them, or making a habit of writing them down when you wake up. You might even find that you remember your dreams tonight, after reading this interview.

    Gretchen: Which habits are most important to you? (for health, for creativity, for productivity, for leisure, etc.)

    Alice: One of the great things about freelancing is that I can structure my routine around what makes me feel and work best. I used to struggle to fit it in exercise in the morning; by the time I got to work, I felt like I was already halfway through the day. Now, I exercise in the early afternoon, and it helps me break up the day and avoid that afternoon slump; it also feels very luxurious to go to the gym or bike around the park when most people are at the office.

    Another habit that’s important to me is keeping a dream journal. I became diligent about writing down my dreams several years ago, and I was amazed at the level of detail I quickly became able to reconstruct. Apart from the psychological and creative value of this exercise, it’s become a part of my writing routine; writing a couple hundred of words first thing in the morning—words that take no effort—helps me transition into writing that’s more challenging.

    Gretchen: Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

    Alice: I used to think of procrastination as a terrible habit, but I’ve come to accept it as a part of my process. My productivity is always going to skyrocket in the run-up to a deadline; I’ve pretty much always worked best with time pressure. So, rather than torturing myself and feeling guilty long before I’m actually going to do anything about it—opening the Word document and then just opening Twitter on top of it—I clear my schedule for the time leading up the deadline and plan to take advantage of that period when I’ll be most productive. [Gretchen: In Better Than Before, I explore the difference between "marathoners" and "sprinters," and Alice is clearly a sprinter.]

    Gretchen: Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you made a major change very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

    Alice: I read Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea when I was in college, and I was astonished; it was the first time I’d read a reported book of non-fiction that was as gripping as any novel. That was the book that made me realize I wanted to be a non-fiction book-writer.

    Gretchen: Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”) Or a quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful?

    Alice: “Sometimes there is writing, and sometimes there is typing.” A very kind editor said this to me when I was struggling with a piece. When you’re blocked, you can start to feel like you’re never going to write again; it’s helpful to remember that everyone gets stuck sometimes, and that if you push through and don’t put too much pressure on yourself—just keep typing!—you’ll eventually start writing again.

    why we dream

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:18 on 2018/11/15 Permalink
    Tags: Dan Schawbel, digital connections, , , remote work   

    “We Asked Workers What Brings Out Their Creativity and They Said ‘Other People.’” 

    Interview: Dan Schawbel.

    I first connected with Dan years ago, but we only recently met in person. Which is ironic, because his first book, Me 2.0, was focused on building digital connections. Now he has a new book that's just hitting the shelves -- Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in an Age of Isolation that urges us to have more face-to-face interactions.

    This is the second interview I’ve done with Dan.

    Dan has recently entered the podcast world as the host of 5 Questions with Dan Schawbel, where he interviews interesting people, asking them five questions in ten minutes.

    Dan is an introvert who prefers to work remotely, yet maintains a very large network. He emphasizes that while for many people, it’s easy to get addicted to the technology devices that we carry around with us,  we should remember the value in human connections.

    Gretchen: You’ve done fascinating research. What has surprised or intrigued you – or your readers -- most?

    Dan: Since 2012, I’ve led 45 research studies surveying a total of nearly 90,000 people from twenty different countries. I’m passionate about research because it’s how I pushed back against ageism when I was younger, and it’s the best way for me to provide unique value to my industry. For Back to Human, I worked with Virgin Pulse to survey over 2,000 managers and employees from ten countries and discovered that employees who work remotely are much less likely to want a long-term career at their company. The reason why this is both fascinating, and important, is because we’ve always talked about the positive side of remote work, which includes freedom, flexibility and the reduction of commuting costs. This research shows that there’s a “dark side” to working remote, which is the feeling of being isolated, lonely and having less team and organizational commitment due to a lack of face-time. 

    Gretchen: Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful?

    Dan: Chapter 3 in Back to Human is called “Practice Shared Learning” and my motto in that chapter is “when I learn I share.” In order to keep up in today’s fast-paced business world, and stay competitive, we have to share what we know with others instead of keeping it inside our heads. The average relevancy of a learned skill is just five years and all industries are facing constant disruption. We have to rely on each other if we want to stay relevant and informed in our careers. When I come across an article, a piece of research or a contact that could benefit someone else, I share it with him or her or make an introduction. By getting in the habit of sharing with your teammates, you make their lives easier and they will reciprocate, thus creating a culture of learning in your organization. 

    Gretchen: Which habits are most important to you? 

    Dan: The most important habit I’ve had for over a decade is reading for an hour in the morning. I power through numerous industry related articles and bookmark the most interesting ones to use in future presentations, books and discussions. Reading for an hour gives me the ideas, news, case studies and research that I can talk about in client calls, meetings and in speeches. This habit keeps me extremely relevant on a given day. The time I spend bookmarking the best articles is time saved when I’m putting together articles, books, presentations or workshops. This habit also guides my research because I can see what’s already been published about topics I want to cover in future studies.

    Running is another daily habit that has reduced my anxiety, increased my health and brought out my creativity. I’ve been running three to five miles a day now and it’s given me time to myself where I can reflect and focus on what’s important in my life.  

    Gretchen: What’s something you know now about building healthy habits or happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    Dan: I wish I knew that starting or breaking a habit needs to happen one day at a time. Also, that you shouldn’t try to break or start multiple habits at once because that’s overwhelming. For instance, when I first moved to New York City, I found myself working in isolation, without much human contact. In order to break out of isolation, I created the habit of scheduling coffee dates, dinner parties and attending Friday night Shabbats. I also paid for events because paying would give me more incentive not to come up with a last-minute excuse not to attend.  

    Gretchen: What’s a simple habit or activity that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Dan: I enjoy having walking meetings because they get me out of my home office and I’m able to bounce ideas off of other people. In a research study I led a few years ago, we asked workers what brings out their creativity and they said “other people.” When I’m walking and talking, I’m able to be more creative and solve more complex problems. When I walk with friends, I feel a deeper connection with them than I would have if we were sitting in a coffee shop. There’s something special about movement that brings people closer together. 

     
  • Crystal Ellefsen 20:33:36 on 2018/11/13 Permalink
    Tags: , book cover, , , cover reveal, , outer order inner calm   

    Do you judge a book by Its cover? I do. Check out my new cover! 

    I’m thrilled to reveal the cover of my next book: Outer Order, Inner Calm. Ta-da!

    I have to say, I love this cover.

    But it wasn’t an easy process.

    Danielle Deschenes is the super-talented art director who created it (she also created the cover of The Four Tendencies), and she must have done fifty or sixty covers before hitting on this one.

    It’s funny—we looked at cover after cover after cover, and some were good but not great.

    For instance, one proposed cover was gorgeous, but just too much like the cover of Marie Kondo’s blockbuster bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

    And another cover was calm, but seemed…too calm.

    And it was all yellow. I liked the color, but I worried that so much yellow was harsh.

    In describing my own ideas for the cover, I’d said that I hoped it could:

    • incorporate the blue and yellow colors used in many of my other jackets and on my site
    • have a calm but energetic vibe, and not look like a book about meditation
    • make use of circles (I think that circles really draw the eye to a book jacket, see The Four Tendencies)
    • be eye-catching both on a bookstore shelf and in an online thumbnail

    We’d reviewed image after image, and time was passing, and at the very last moment, when we had to choose an image for the galley by the next day—even if had to be a temporary, placeholder image—she sent around a version very close to the final jacket. And everyone agreed: This is it.

    Take a look at what a masterful job Danielle Deschenes did at incorporating all of the suggested elements!

    Outer Order Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin

    And more than that, she suggested nature.

    This, to me, was the brilliant stroke. I love this suggestion of the sky, moon, and sunrise. This fits the book perfectly, too. The book’s epigraph is from Alexander Pope: “Order is Heaven’s first law,” and the theme of nature runs throughout.

    For instance, I quote one of my favorite passages from Jules Renard:

    "Oh! Old rubbish! Old letters, old clothes, old objects that one does not want to throw away. How well nature has understood that, every year, she must change her leaves, her flowers, her fruit and her vegetables, and make manure out of the mementos of her year!" – The Journal of Jules Renard

    And, given my current obsession with color, I love the way she uses color to suggest time unfolding and the serene energy of the natural world.

    I’m thrilled with it.

    Please note: If you don’t like the jacket, don’t tell me! As they say, this ship has sailed.

    At the same time that we were racing to finalize the jacket, I was working with editors and copy-editors to finish the text of the book.

    If you flip through the book, you’ll see that it’s written mostly in short, separate bursts of ideas and suggestions. At the beginning of each of the seven sections, I include a short essay, but for the most part, it’s a collection of quick, concrete tips. It’s meant to be something you read fast to get yourself psyched up to clear clutter.

    I was inspired to try this approach by a book that I’ve always admired: Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. I love the way Pollan presents his ideas in pithy, witty statements, and how he’s able to convey big ideas in such an accessible, fun, compulsively readable way. I’d always wanted to write a book in that style, and finally, I just couldn’t resist.

    As always happens, after I started writing about my own ideas, the form evolved to suit my voice and my subject. But if you look at Food Rules, you’ll definitely see the family resemblance.

    Also like Food Rules, the book Outer Order, Inner Calm includes illustrations, which I think really enliven it. In my previous book Happier at Home, I included photos of objects around my apartment, and that was a lot of fun. I’ve often thought I’d like to include more visual elements to my books.

    But I’ve never worked with an illustrator before, and it was interesting to see what Jon McNaught chose to illustrate, and how. I didn’t know I had strong views about illustrations, but it turns out…I do! I loved most of his illustrations, but there were a few things that I asked to change.

    Outer Order, Inner Calm started out as a “hooky book”—a book that I worked on when I wanted a break from working on The Four Tendencies. I’d sneak off (in my own mind) and work on the inexhaustibly absorbing subject of outer order. I had so much fun writing this book, and it’s exciting that it’s about to hit the shelves in March.

    If you’re inclined to buy the book, it really helps me if you pre-order. I have a pre-order bonus that’s not quite ready to launch, so if you do pre-order, gold star to you, and just hang onto your receipt or confirmation number, and stay tuned for pre-order bonus details. Pre-orders give a big boost to a book among booksellers, the media, and other readers.

    Want to support me and your local bookstore at the same time--and get a freebie for yourself, too? Pre-order Outer Order, Inner Calm at your local bookstore, and snap a photo of your physical receipt and save it to get the pre-order bonus when it's ready.

    Do you judge books by their covers? As a devoted reader, I think I should be able to say “no,” but I have to admit that the answer is “yes.” Though usually, it’s a matter of being intrigued by a great cover rather than being turned off by a bad cover.

    For a reveal of the illustrations and book tour details for March 2019, stay tuned!

     
  • gretchenrubin 12:00:28 on 2018/11/08 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , ,   

    Want to Give the Gift of a Book This Holiday Season? A Gift Guide for All Kinds of Readers. 

    It's holiday time! And that means it's time to choose gifts for the people in our lives. Which can be fun, but can also be frustrating and difficult.

    One of the best gifts to give is a book. How I love books. Plus they're easy to wrap, easy to transport, and easy to re-gift if necessary.

    But that leads to the question...what book?

    Here are some suggestions for different categories of gift-recipients, with suggestions of books that I love.

    If I'd made this list last week, or if I did it next week, I'm sure I'd come up with an entirely different list. I love so many books, it's hard to pick out a few. But this is a start.

    For a new parent: Operating Instructions, Anne Lamott

    For the parent of small children: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

    For a person interested in spirituality: Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather

    For a person who loves celebrity memoirs: Born Standing Up, Steve Martin

    For someone who loves to cook: Home Cooking, Laurie Colwin

    For a fisherman: A River Runs Through It, Norman McLean

    For a history lover: Their Finest Hour, Winston Churchill

    For someone who loves a great study of character: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark

    For a nature-lover: Into the Wild, John Krakauer

    For a person who's interested in sports and leadership: The Captain Class, Sam Walker

    For someone who loves fantasy: American Gods, Neil Gaiman

    For someone who loves to write: A Writer's Diary, Virginia Woolf

    For someone who loves science fiction: Lord of Light, Robert Zelazny

    Book that changed my life: Why We Get Fat, Gary Taubes (Want to read my interview with Gary Taubes? Request it here.)

    Book that was made into a movie, and both are brilliant: Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk

    Book that I played hooky from work to stay home to read: The Stand, Stephen King (I recommend the standard, not the unabridged, version)

    Book that people keep telling me to read: Bad Blood, John Carreyrou

    For someone who's starting to date or looking for a job: First Impressions, Ann Demarais and Valerie White

    For someone with a short attention span or who loves very short stories: Revenge of the Lawn, Richard Brautigan

    For someone who loves essays: Selected EssaysGeorge Orwell

    For a person interested in human nature: The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James

    For a person interested in film: In the Blink of an Eye, Walter Murch

    For a person interested in friendship: Truth and Beauty, Ann Patchett

    For a person interested in journalism: The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcolm

    For a person who loves a twist at the end: The End of the Affair, Graham Greene

     

    If you're buying a book for a child or young-adult, check out my list of 81 Favorite Works of Children's and Young-Adult Literature. So many good books!

    Of course, I can't resist recommending my own books.

    If you're giving one of my books as a gift, and want to put in a free, personalized bookplate to make it more special, sign up here to request one. Feel free to request as many as you want (within reason). Alas, because of mailing costs, I can offer this to people in the U.S. and Canada only. Sorry about that!

    If you'd like to see what I've read, follow me on Goodreads. Or look on Facebook, where every Sunday night, on #GretchenRubinReads, I post a photo of the books I've read that week.

    As I write about in my book Better Than Before, I've changed my reading habits so that now, if I don't like a book, I stop reading it. So if you see a book listed in Goodreads or on Facebook, you know that I liked a book well enough to finish it.

    I love to choose, give, and receive books!

     
  • gretchenrubin 12:00:29 on 2018/11/06 Permalink
    Tags: , , , guide, , , ,   

    Gift Guide for Kids in College and Middle School, Suggested by My Daughters 

    One of the great joys of life is giving people gifts that they want and need—and a big happiness stumbling block is not having any good ideas for what such a gift might be.

    I decided to ask my daughters what they'd suggest, for people wanting to buy gifts for children their age.

    My older daughter Eliza is a sophomore in college. She suggests:

    • temporary tattoos (such as these)
    • fun flip-flops for the shower
    • Command hooks of various kinds
    • twinkle lights
    • nice pens
    • a smart speaker
    • soft blanket
    • fun keychain
    • bean bag or inflatable chair (I have to admit, I had no idea what an "inflatable chair" was, but Eliza explained that it's something like this.)
    • a fun collapsible umbrella
    • gift card to Starbucks or food places

    My younger daughter Eleanor is in middle school. She made the point that this is a tough age for gift-giving, because kids are too old for toys but too young for many items that adults would enjoy.

    She suggests:

    If you're looking for unexpected, delightful gifts for recipients of any age, check out the MoMa Gift Store.

    What are your suggestions for good gifts for these ages?

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:17 on 2018/11/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , October,   

    What I Read This Month: October 2018 

    For more than two years now, every Monday morning, I've posted a photo on my Facebook Page of the books I finished during the week, with the tag #GretchenRubinReads

    I get a big kick out of this weekly habit—it’s a way to shine a spotlight on all the terrific books that I’ve read.

    As I write about in my book Better Than Before, for most of my life, my habit was to finish any book that I started. Finally, I realized that this approach meant that I spent time reading books that bored me, and I had less time for books that I truly enjoy. These days, I now put down a book if I don’t feel like finishing it, so I have more time to do my favorite kinds of reading.

    This habit means that if you see a book included in the #GretchenRubinReads photo, you know that I liked it well enough to read to the last page.

    If you’d like more ideas for habits to help you get more reading done, read this post or download my "Reading Better Than Before" worksheet.

    You can also follow me on Goodreads where I've recently started tracking books I’ve read.

    If you want to see what I read in September 2018, the full list is here.

    October 2018 Reading

    The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher -- One of my very favorite works of children's literature is the masterpiece Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. It's on my list of my 81 Favorite Works of Children's and Young-Adult Literature. How I love that book! Through reading about Pearl Buck, I learned that Dorothy Canfield Fisher wrote for adults, so off I trotted to the library. I very much enjoyed this book—a real period piece.

    Fables for Parents by Dorothy Canfield Fisher -- These are short stories. I enjoyed them all, and two are unforgettable: "The Forgotten Mother" and "A Family Alliance."

    Harvest of Stories by Dorothy Canfield Fisher -- More short stories.

    Lives Other Than My Own by Emmanuel Carrère -- A bookish friend recommended this to me, and I headed to the library to get it. I found it so interesting that I then read...

    My Life as a Russian Novel by Emmanuel Carrère -- Also very interesting. So then...

    The Adversary: A True Story of Monstrous Deception by Emmanuel Carrère -- Interesting, very dark, like his other books, didn't unfold as I expected.

    The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James -- My daughter Eleanor and I both raced through this book. Great suspense, more than one great twist.

    Fighting Angel by Pearl S. Buck -- My Pearl Buck obsession has run its course, I believe. This is the last book I feel compelled to read. Wait, never mind—I still want to re-read The Good Earth. This book is a memoir/biography about Buck's missionary father. If you're curious, I did an episode of "A Little Happier" where I discuss an anecdote that Buck tells about him elsewhere: "A Puzzling Story from the Life of Pearl S. Buck."

    The Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright -- So, so, so, so, SO good. On the list of 81, of course.

    Then There Were Five by Elizabeth Enright -- I've read it fifty times, if not more.

    Spiderweb for Two by Elizabeth Enright -- If you know me, you're thinking, "Hmmm, Gretchen is re-reading for the millionth time her favorite works of children's literature, and she's focusing on Elizabeth Enright. Does that mean she's feeling stressed out about something?" Answer: yes. That's my tell. But I'm feeling much calmer now.

    Lethal White by Robert Galbraith -- I will read anything that J. K. Rowling writes, under any pseudonym she chooses. In hardback!

    Nonrequired Reading by Wislawa Szymborska -- Little essays. Thought-provoking.

    Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler -- I read this years ago, and it was nothing like I remembered, which surprised me. A good, absorbing read.

    The World I Live In by Helen Keller -- Fascinating. What a life, what a mind.

    Nothing Good Can Come from This by Kristi Coulter -- I heard about this book on the terrific podcast But That's Another Story. A great book about quitting drinking, and much more. Bizarre coincidence: in the interview, Kristi Coulter mentioned that she loves Elizabeth Enright (see above)! And also Laurie Colwin, whom I also love.

    Aroma: The Cultural History of Smell by Constance Classen, David Howes, and Anthony Synnott -- Research for my next book. Can't learn enough about smell.

    Butcher's Crossing by John Williams -- I'm astonished I've never read this book before, or even heard of it. A really great book. Symbols and metaphors shooting off in all directions. (Though, if you've read it, do you agree with me that the ending was a bit off?)

    Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry -- Love, love, love this novel. Beautiful, haunting.

    Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry -- Love this one too, but if you're thinking, "Of the two, which Berry novel did she like better?" I'd say Jayber Crow.

    The Outcasts: Brotherband Chronicles, Book 1 by John Flanagan -- I love this world, I keep reading more and more of these novels. This was a gift from a friend, such a treat.

    So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane -- Fun! A girl finds a magical book in the library, say no more.

    The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo -- In galley. Great insights into the challenges of being a manager. Zhuo is a manager at Facebook.

    What No One Ever Tells You by Dr. Alexandra Sacks and Dr. Catherine Birndorf -- In galley. Great insights into the challenges of being a new mother.

    If You're In My Office, It's Already Too Late by James J. Sexton -- Do's and don'ts from a divorce lawyer. I read about this book in the newspaper, and I just had to get a copy. In a nutshell: be nice to your sweetheart.

    Quantum Change by William R. Miller and Janet C'de Baca -- I've read this book before. It is absolutely fascinating. It's like nothing I've ever read before. I suppose it reminds me of The Varieties of Religious Experience.

    What are you reading this month?

     
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