Updates from January, 2018 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • gretchenrubin 20:43:41 on 2018/01/11 Permalink
    Tags: , Greer Hendricks,   

    “When I Dread a Task, I Remind Myself, ‘The Only Way Past It Is Through It.’” 

    Interview: Greer Hendricks.

    Greer Hendricks is one of my favorite people, and someone who had a huge influence on my life as a writer: she was the first editor to buy one of my books. She and I worked together to publish Power Money Fame Sex: A User's Guide. What a joy it was to write that book -- and what a joy to work with Greer! We were both early in our careers, and it was such a happy experience.

    She had a long run as a highly successful and respected editor, with more than two decades at Simon & Schuster -- and now she has switched positions, and become the author.

    With her co-author Sarah Pekkanen, she wrote the new psychological thriller, The Wife Between Us. Even before it hit the shelves, this novel generated a huge amount of buzz and excitement, with starred reviews, a movie deal, and comparisons to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. I just got my copy, and I can't wait to dive in!

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

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

    Greer: Exercise.  I work out first thing in the morning usually seven days a week -- a mixture of running, interval weight training and yoga (which I do with my husband on Sundays).  I find that no matter what curveballs are thrown at me during the day I am much better equipped to handle them if I’ve moved my body.

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

    Greer: I think most 18-year-olds probably think habits = boring, but I now believe that structure can set you free.  If you have habits or an infrastructure in place then you don’t have to spend time making decisions.  For example, my husband and I have coffee together outside the home every Saturday morning.  We devote this time to going over our calendars (with two working parents, two teenagers and two dogs scheduling can be tricky) and various other logistical details -- which ice hockey program seems best for our daughter, how much do want to donate to a particular charity, should we enroll our son in an innovative, but time-consuming allergy study.  I can’t say I look forward to these meetings, but they help our home run more smoothly.  And if we aren’t scrambling around at the last minute to sort out mismatched schedules we have more time for fun things like sneaking in a movie or a boozy brunch.

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

    Greer: Checking social media. After editing a lot of bestselling authors, I’ve now flipped roles: My first book, The Wife Between Us, co-authored with Sarah Pekkanen, one of my former authors, is about to be published, and I found that I was on Facebook and Instagram many times a day. I finally deleted the apps from my phone because they were becoming too distracting.  If I  need to check them I can go to my laptop (strategy of inconvenience).

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

    Greer: I am a firm believer in getting at least 7 hours of sleep, exercising daily and eating fairly healthily.  I think if you have these foundational elements in place it’s easier to be creative productive and happy. I also feel less guilty about the vices I do indulge in pretty regularly: a sweet treat during the day, and a glass of wine or two at the end of the night.

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

    Greer:I think I was actually one of the beta testers on your quiz.  In fact I remember a lunch with you where you asked me a bunch of questions and diagnosed me as an Upholder. I’ve since taken your quiz multiple times and indeed I am an Upholder  Although a part of me still wonders if I’m an Obliger who has just figured out how to uphold my commitments by being accountable to others. I have a writing partner, and we block out a huge chunk of the day to devote to our novels. I have a personal trainer and I plan most of my runs with friends.

    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.?

    Greer: Before I started writing I had been an editor at Simon & Schuster -- as you know since I edited your first book! When I landed my first job I remember asking a more seasoned editor how he got over losing books he wanted to acquire. I simply couldn't imagine that kind of devastation.  As I approached my 20 year anniversary I participated in a heated auction to acquire a new author and the author chose another editor. I was upset, but then I realized part of my dismay wasn’t for the right reasons. I was sad because the selection had bruised my ego, not simply because I felt distraught that I wouldn’t have a chance to edit and publish the book.  That’s when I realized that although I loved my colleagues and many of the authors I’d edited through the years, I needed a change. The joy I had felt for nearly two decades was no longer as vibrant and while I am sure there are many editors who can do their job without that kind of passion, I didn’t want to. I talked over the decision with my husband and gave notice a few weeks later.

    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? Or a particular book that has stayed with you?

    Greer: The only way past it is through it.  When I dread a task -- filling out tricky insurance forms, a challenging rewrite or a difficult conversation -- I remind myself of these words and forge forward.

    Also, one of my favorite mottos is one I learned from you: accept yourself, and expect more from yourself.  Over the years I have learned to accept that I don’t like to ski or that I am not great with numbers, but to also expect more - to work on making my relationships stronger, to try and conquer some of my fears (driving, for example), and to write a book, which has been a lifelong goal.

     
  • gretchenrubin 19:01:53 on 2018/01/06 Permalink
    Tags: , , , ,   

    Agree: Even One Task Fulfilled at Regular Intervals…Can Bring Order into Life as a Whole. 

    "Even one task fulfilled at regular intervals in a man's life can bring order into his life as a whole; everything else hinges upon it. By keeping a record of my experiences I live my life twice over. The past returns to me. The future is always with me."

    -- The Journal of Eugene Delacroix

    Agree, disagree?

    How I love this book!

     
  • gretchenrubin 12:00:35 on 2017/12/28 Permalink
    Tags: , Courtney Carver, , , simplicity   

    “I Will Not Say ‘Yes’ When My Heart Says ‘No.’” 

    Interview: Courtney Carver.

    I love the subject of clutter-clearing. So, of course, I'm intrigued by the work of Courtney Carver -- her site declares: "Are you overwhelmed with clutter and busyness? It's time to create a life with more clarity, ease, and joy." Wonderful.

    Her new book, Soulful Simplicity: How Living with Less Can Lead to So Much More is just hitting the shelves.

    Gretchen: Do you have any habits that continually get in the way of your happiness?

    Courtney: Sugar! I’m so much happier without it but I love it. When I’m in a sugar rut, I’m moodier. When I quit sugar for long periods of time, I'm much happier. Like you, Gretchen, I'm an Abstainer when it comes to sugary treats:  it's easier for me to have none than one. When I've intentionally quit sugar for a period of time, I don't crave it or think about it that much after the first day or two. I love that feeling of not having to decide how much is too much because when I am eating sugar, I don't want one cookie, or one bite of dessert. I want it all. Why do I go back? Just thinking about it makes me less happy.

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

    Courtney: My morning routine fuels better health, creativity, and productivity. It includes some combination of writing, meditation, reading, yoga and walking. Whether I practice my morning routine for 5 minutes or 3 hours, it always allows me to move through the day with more purpose and focus.

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

    Courtney: I created my morning routine through habit stacking, and it has stuck with me for more than 10 years. I started with 5 minutes of yoga. After a week, I stacked 5 minutes of writing. The next week I added 5 minutes of meditation. From there I raised the time of each activity by a minute each week. Once I had a 30-minute routine, I was able to easily swap in new activities or extend the time spent on certain activities.

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

    Courtney: At first I thought I was an Upholder but after taking the quiz, I discovered I’m a Questioner.

    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.?

    Courtney:  In 2006 after months of debilitating vertigo and fatigue I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. After learning how stress can cause MS exacerbations, I decided to quit stress and simplified my entire life. While the changes I made took many years, my decision to prioritize love and health was immediate. I share more about my lightning bolt moment, and the changes MS inspired in my life in my new book, Soulful Simplicity. From changing my diet to becoming debt-free, clutter-free, changing careers and downsizing from a big house to a small apartment, simplicity was at the heart of every change. Living with less has given me the opportunity to create more health and love in my life.

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

    Courtney: I will not say yes when my heart says no.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple habit or activity that consistently makes you happier?

    Courtney: Writing down anything on my mind first thing in the morning makes me happier. It’s my way of clearing mental clutter before starting the day. I don’t share or read what I write so it’s more about the action than what ends up on the page

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

    Courtney: Consistency is more important than intensity. The all or nothing, weekend warrior approach to incorporating healthy habits usually results in burnout. Showing up regularly, even if it's only for a few minutes at a time contributes to creating long-lasting habits. I'm a big fan of habit stacking. For instance, when I created my morning routine, I started with 5 minutes of yoga. After a week, I added 5 minutes of meditation and 5 minutes of writing. Then, I added a minute a week to each activity. It took me weeks to build up to a 30 minute routine, but the method worked. The slow build resulted in a meaningful morning routine that I've been practicing for more than 1o years.

     
  • gretchenrubin 12:00:37 on 2017/12/16 Permalink
    Tags: , , ,   

    Use the Four Tendencies to Tackle Your New Year’s Resolutions (Or Not). 

    Because I study happiness, good habits, and human nature, I've done a lot of thinking about New Year's resolutions.

    In fact, when I was identifying the Four Tendencies -- my framework that divides the world into Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels -- thinking about various reactions to New Year's resolutions gave me an important insight into how people see the world differently.

    So how do the Four Tendencies respond to New Year's resolutions? How can they meet any challenges they face?

    Obligers:

    Obligers often say, “I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore because I never manage to keep them—I never make time for myself.” They're discouraged because they've tried and failed in the past.

    The solution is easy: Create outer accountability. Want to read more? Join a book group. Want to exercise? Join a class, work out with a trainer, meet a friend who expects company, think of the duty to be a role model for other people...there are hundreds of ways to build outer accountability. And that's what Obligers need. It's not a matter of motivation, setting priorities, putting themselves first; they must have outer accountability to meet inner expectations.

    Questioners:

    Questioners are good at keeping resolutions that they set for themselves, but they usually start them whenever the time seems right. Often, they won't wait for the New Year, because they object that "January 1 is just an arbitrary date. And it's not efficient to wait to do something that I could start now."

    If Questioners struggle, it's usually because they're not convinced that this resolution is the best, most efficient way for them to meet their aim -- or they don't trust the judgment of the person encouraging them to make a change.

    To do a better job of keeping a resolution, they should do their research, get clarity on why they're pursuing a certain aim in a certain way, and reassure themselves that this approach makes the most sense. Questioners sometimes face "analysis-paralysis," when they want perfect information before moving ahead. It's helpful for them to remember, "At a certain point, it's not efficient to keep researching. To get the benefit of my resolution, I need to get started without more delay."

    Rebels:

    Rebels generally don't bind themselves in advance, so a New Year's resolution might not appeal to them. They want to do what they want, in their own way, in their own time -- not because they promised themselves they'd do it.

    On the other hand, some Rebels love the challenge of a New Year's resolution: "My family thinks I can't give up sugar for a year? Well, watch me!" or "Starting January 1, I'm going to work on my novel, and I'm going to finish by December 31st."

    Upholders:

    Upholders often make and keep New Year's resolutions. Upholders are great at this sort of thing.

    People often ask me, "Is it a good idea to make New Year's resolutions?"

    The fact is, there's no one-size-fits-all solution for happiness and good habits. If making a New Year's resolution appeals to you, try it. If you dislike the idea, don't. There's no special magic to it. I think it's great to have milestones that remind us to consider our lives and how we could be happier, and January 1 is a great opportunity for self-reflection, but whether that's the New Year, your birthday, an important anniversary doesn't matter. It's whatever works for you.

    If you want to keep a resolution -- for the New Year, or at any other time -- knowing your Tendency can help you stick to it. This knowledge provides important clues for how to address any challenges that might come up.

    If you're an Obliger, spending a lot of time focusing on motivation won't help. If you're a Rebel, signing up for a class probably won't work. If you're a Questioner, you're not going to follow someone else's program without questions.

    Has understanding your Tendency changed the way you approach New Year's resolutions? I'd love to hear examples about the Four Tendencies in action. If you want to learn more about the Four Tendencies, get a copy of my latest New York Times bestseller, The Four Tendencies.

     
  • gretchenrubin 17:54:54 on 2017/12/14 Permalink
    Tags: , , Robin Benway   

    “When Writing, I Procrastinate for Weeks, Then I Write a Huge Chunk in a Few Days.” 

    Interview: Robin Benway.

    I've written many times about how I'm a huge, raving fan of children's and young-adult literature. I read these books as a child, and I continue to read them as an adult. I'm in three (yes, three) book groups where we talk about kidlit. (If you want to see my list of my 81 favorite works of children's literature, it's here.)

    The other night, I attended the National Book Awards party, where Robin Benway won the 2017 prize for Young People's Literature for her book Far from the Tree. She's written several other popular, award-winning novels for young adults.

    I have my copy of Far from the Tree, and I'm saving for my most delicious holiday reading -- can't wait to dive in.

    Because I'm such a fan of YA literature, I wanted to hear what Robin had to say about happiness and good habits.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple habit or activity that consistently makes you happier?

    Robin: Walking my dog in the morning and afternoon. I think I enjoy it more than he does! As a writer, it's easy to stay inside in front of the computer all day, but with Hudson, I get to go out and chat with my neighbors, see what's going on in the neighborhood, get the gossip, etc. I also talk to my mom most mornings, either via phone or text, and she always makes me laugh. I look to her as a model for being a happy person because she just wakes up ready to go each morning. It takes me about 90 minutes and two cups of coffee to get to that point.

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

    Robin: I was such a people-pleaser at 18 years old, and I cared so much about what people thought about me, which could be so exhausting! I turned 40 this year and I don't know if it's age or just getting sick of worrying about it, but I'm much more selfish now, in a good way!

    When I was working on the book that eventually became Far From the Tree, I kept missing deadlines because I just couldn't get the book to work. I finally called my editor and said, "I don't have any ideas, I need to start over." Missing a deadline (or two...or, ahem, three) would have been unfathomable to me 20 years ago, but it was the right thing for the book. It would have been so much worse to deliver a book that I knew wasn't working. I've learned to protect myself and my work almost like a mama bear, and I think we're both better for it.

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

    Robin: For health, water, sleep, sunscreen, and Vitamin D supplements. I also cook most of my meals at home. I'm a Type 1 diabetic, so knowing that I have healthy food waiting for me erases a lot of anxiety, so when I know I'm heading out for a few weeks of travel, I make a big batch of soup or turkey meatballs to freeze so I can walk in the door and have an actual meal. I also take a photo of the inside of my refrigerator before I leave so I can remember what to buy at the grocery store on the way home.

    For productivity, running to-do lists on my Gmail account. I make a draft email and constantly update it so I can access it from anywhere. It keeps me from waking up at 3 am worrying about all of the things I have to do. (Most nights, anyway.) I've tried so many organizational apps, but the email draft is the thing that works best for me.

    For creativity, I meet friends for writing dates in coffee shops around Los Angeles. It's like having a workout buddy, but instead we just sit and write. When I was working on Far From the Tree, those dates were crucial because I was doing everything in my power to not write the book given how much I was struggling with it early on. I knew friends were waiting for me to show up, though, and I would drag myself out of the house and end up writing a few thousand words with them.

    For leisure, I truly love making up stupid songs to sing to my dog. Again, this is something that I enjoy way more than he does.

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

    Robin: When I travel, I cut myself some slack for healthy habits. I once heard a great piece of advice that said there are three main aspects to health: diet, exercise, and sleep, and to try to maintain two of the three when traveling, so that's what I try to do. If I'm running on 4 hours of sleep, I'll get the salad and walk around in the airport. And then of course there are days when all three things go out the window!

    When I’m writing, I will procrastinate for weeks on end, and then I'll write a huge chunk within a few days. For Far From the Tree, I wrote the last two-thirds of the book in roughly two weeks, which obliterated any and all of my healthy habits. It didn't even feel like writing, it felt like I was channeling the characters, and I was afraid that if I stopped writing, their voices would be gone. So I just didn't stop!

    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.?

    Robin: At one point, I was working on a book idea that just wasn't going anywhere, and I truly thought my career was over. I couldn't make the idea work, no matter how many times I reworked it. I told my editor I needed to step back and figure out my next move. It's hard to look back now and think about how heartbreaking that time was. Writing has been my friend, my comfort, since I was eight years old, so to lose that connection AND feel like it might never come back was so painful. I felt like I was the biggest failure. I couldn't even talk about it with my friends, I felt so ashamed.

    Then a week or so after saying that I needed to step back for a while, I was in the car and heard the opening lyrics of a Florence + the Machine song. I instantly —I mean, INSTANTLY— knew that I wanted to write a book about three siblings who had been separated as babies and placed for adoption. I had such a clear vision of the middle sister, Grace, getting pregnant and putting her own daughter up for adoption, and how that loss leads her to look for her birth family. I knew all of the characters' names, their stories, everything. To this day, I have no idea how or why that happened. There's a very strange alchemy when it comes to creativity, and I think it was one of those moments that's truly inexplicable, especially given everything that's happened with the book and how well people have reacted to it. It recently won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, which is an honor beyond anything I could have imagined for my career. I feel very grateful that I get to keep writing books, and that people still want to read them.

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

    Robin: My driver's ed teacher gave me the best piece of I've ever heard. In the driving simulator, he used to say "Look there, get there." He meant, "Pay attention to the road so you don't mow down a pedestrian," but I think it's a great rule to live by. If you want something, aim in that direction and go for it. Take the class, take a chance, do the thing. No one gets what they want or achieves a goal by accident. Even Powerball winners have to buy the ticket.

     
  • gretchenrubin 22:06:09 on 2017/12/08 Permalink
    Tags: , , , ,   

    Looking for Holiday Gifts? Consider These Suggestions. (Warning: Blatant Self-Promotion!) 

    'Tis the season to buy presents, and most of us can use some good suggestions. So be warned, I’m going to make a plug for my various creations -- books, journals, calendar, coloring book, and even mugs.

    The Happiness Project was a #1 New York Times bestseller, on the bestseller list for more than two years, translated into more than 30 languages, and was even a question on the quiz show Jeopardy! (Which was quite surreal, I must admit.) I spent a year test-driving the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific research, and lessons from pop culture to figure out how to be happier.

    Happier at Home is about how to be...you guessed it...happier at home. Of everything I've ever written, this book is my sister Elizabeth's favorite. Time, possessions, neighborhood, clutter (of course), the sense of smell -- I got to write about so many great subjects in this book. Also a New York Times bestseller.

    Better Than Before is all about how to make or break habits -- so if you know someone who's planning to make 2018 a happier, healthier, more productive year, this book might be a big help. It turns out it's not that hard to change your habits -- when you know how to do it in the way that's right for you. Also a New York Times bestseller.

    The Four Tendencies is my newest book, and is all about a personality framework I discovered. When you know if you're an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, many things in life become much clearer. And when you know other people's Tendencies, that's a big help as well. Great for health-care professionals, managers, colleagues, teachers, parents, sweethearts. Also a New York Times bestseller.

    Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill -- ah, what a joy it was to write that book! I wrote it thinking, “I want to write an accessible, manageable book about Churchill so that people can learn enough about him to want to tackle the giant biographies.” I wanted everyone to be as interested in Churchill as I was. What I've learned, however, is that the people who enjoy my book most are the people who already know a lot about him. So if you know someone who is a big Churchill fan, he or she might enjoy it. Also a bestseller.

    Happiness Project One-Sentence Journal -- a one-sentence journal is a manageable, realistic way to keep a journal. Writing one single sentence is something that most people can manage, and one sentence is enough to hang on to memories.

    Better Than Before Day-by-Day Journal -- this journal is designed to make it easier to stick to your good habits. There are tips, quotes, trackers, "don't break the chain" boxes, and everything else to make it easier to achieve what you want.

    Happier 2018 Page-a-Day Calendar -- this calendar one page for each day of the year, with a strategy, tip, quotation, or reminder. I like formats that let me read one item a day; it makes it easy to digest information and put it to use. (Some people have asked if the content differs from the 2017 calendar. Yes, it does.)

    Happiness Project Mini Posters: a Coloring Book of 20 Hand-lettered Quotes to Pull Out and Frame -- I love the trend of adults returning to the love of coloring books -- meditative, creative, fun, and also makes it harder to snack. As someone who is obsessed with color, I love any excuse to pull out my colored pencils or fancy markers.

    Mugs! For a fan of the Happier podcast, I have a "Happier" mug. And for fans of the Four Tendencies, I have a mug for Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel -- each one featuring my favorite motto for that Tendency. For instance, the Rebel motto is, "You can't make me, and neither can I."

    What's the most memorable book you've received as a gift?

     
  • gretchenrubin 14:00:32 on 2017/11/17 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , ,   

    The Surprising Truth About Why Your To-Do List May Be Failing You. 

    The most important thing I've learned about happiness, habits, and human nature? There's no one magic, one-size-fits-all solution that works for everyone.

    We've all heard the expert advice: Do it first thing in the morning! Do it for 30 days! Start small! Give yourself a cheat day!

    But here's the thing: those approaches work well for some people, some of the  time. They don't work all the time for everyone.

    The most important thing is to know ourselves, and what works for us.

    One place where I've seen this issue arise? With to-do lists.

    Over and over, I see the advice, "Write down your to-do list, set your priorities, work your way through the items, this is the way you'll get things done most successfully."

    But I've been talking to people about this advice, and I've discovered that to-do lists just don't work for many people. They make them, they try to use them, they fail.

    And they often think, "Something's wrong with me, I have no will-power, I can't stick to a list, why can't I use this simple tool that works so well for so many people, what's my problem?"

    To which I say: "There's nothing wrong with you. How could we tweak the tool, to see if there's a way to make it more effective for you?"

    Since I've started looking for new approaches to the to-do list, I've found several versions that work for people:

    To-do list:

    If the classic to-do list works for you, terrific. I make them all the time myself, and find them very helpful. That's no surprise: Upholders tend to do well with a to-do list. But if it doesn't work...

    Could-do list:

    A Rebel told me that the minute she made a to-do list, she wanted to resist it (the very term "to-do list" is not Rebel-friendly). So she changed the vocabulary. She explained,

    ‘To-do’ lists almost never get done by me, because as soon as I have to do something, it’s the last thing I want to do. A ‘could-do’ list, however, reminds me that I can choose whether or not I complete the task.”

    Brilliant.

    Variation: the Might-could list: I'd never heard this term until an audience member used it during my book tour. I love it! It's not a to-do list; it's a might-could list.

    Ta-da list:

    In episode 134 of the "Happier" podcast, for our weekly "Try This at Home" tip, Elizabeth and I suggested making a ta-da list. Make a list of everything you've already accomplished. You're often pleasantly surprised and energized to see how much you've done, and giving yourself credit for your efforts often make it easier to keep going.

    To-day list:

    It's easy to feel overwhelmed at the sight of all the errands, tasks, and aims that require our attention. If you can't bear to contemplate the complete list, try making a to-day list. Just list the things that you'd like to get done today.

    We're told that "everybody" should use to-do lists, and that "everybody" finds them useful. Nope, not in my observation.

    How about you? Are you a fan of to-do lists, or have you found another version that works for you?

     
  • gretchenrubin 22:17:07 on 2017/11/02 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , ,   

    Revealed! 7 Brilliant Books About the Nature of Creativity. 

    For sparking my own creativity, I find people’s descriptions of their own creative processes more useful (and certainly more interesting) than books that analyze creativity or suggest creativity exercises.

    I love many books on this subject, and here are just a few of my favorites.

    Each one of these books is fascinating and can be read with pleasure by anyone, whether or not you're interested specifically in creativity.

    Bob Dylan, Chronicles

    This a haunting, brilliant book, and I don't even listen to Bob Dylan's music (fact: I don't really listen to any music very much). For instance, I've read and re-read his description of his reaction to folk songs.

    Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being: Letters

    In the last few years, I've developed a new interest in reading books of letters, and this is my very favorite. O'Connor brilliantly describes her work and writing process -- in her own inimitable language.

    Edward Weston, The Flame of Recognition

    These journal entries are brief and marvelous. His description of his reaction to green peppers! Mind-blowing.

    Twyla Tharp: The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

    This book is a bit more prescriptive than the others. Crammed with insights, ideas, and illustrations from her own life about how to spark creativity.

    W. Somerset Maugham, The Summing Up

    This is a perceptive, fascinating book about writing and observing.

    Virginia Woolf, A Writer’s Diary

    I've read this book countless times. Countless. I've practically memorized several passages.

    Mason Currey, Daily Rituals:How Artist Work

    This book is different from the others -- it summarizes the daily habits of writers, painters, scientists, choreographers, and other kinds of creative people. It demonstrates an important truth: there is no single "best way" to spark creativity. Different approaches work for different people. The most creative and productive people figure out what they need to do their best work, and make sure that they have the environment they need.

    What are some of your favorite books about creativity? I love this subject, so would love to add some suggestions to my To Be Read list.

     
  • gretchenrubin 21:13:37 on 2017/10/27 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , Weight Watchers   

    Why, and When, People Succeed Using Weight Watchers. (Especially Obligers) 

    As someone who studies issues related to human nature, happiness, health, and good habits, I've long been intrigued by Weight Watchers -- when and why it works.

    And one thing has struck me with particular force.

    In my book Better Than Before, I identify the 21 strategies we can use to make or break our habits. The Weight Watchers program harnesses many strategies that can help people eat more healthfully: for instance, the Strategies of Monitoring, Scheduling, First Steps, Clarity, Scheduling, Loophole-Spotting, and Safeguards.

    All these strategies are very powerful.

    But there's one aspect of Weight Watchers that explains why, for some people, it works so well -- and also explains why people might find themselves frustrated, by re-gaining the weight after they leave the program. And that's an aspect related to a person's Tendency, and the Strategy of Accountability.

    As a reminder, my Four Tendencies framework divides people into Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels, based on how we respond to outer expectations (like a work deadline) and inner expectations (like a New Year's resolution). Want to take the free, quick quiz to identify your Tendency? It's here. More than one million people have taken the quiz.

    The Obliger Tendency -- the Tendency that includes the largest number of people -- describes people who readily meet outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations. Obligers would say, "Commitments to other people must be met, but commitments to myself? Meh."

    Therefore, to meet an inner expectation, Obligers must have structures of outer accountability. Like...Weight Watchers. While many people find accountability helpful (note, however, that for some Rebels, accountability may be unhelpful), for Obligers, it's crucial. When Obligers get that crucial outer accountability, they can succeed. But if that outer accountability disappears, the expectation will no longer be met.

    Lesson? Obligers must maintain outer accountability. Indefinitely.

    And this explains a lot about the success of Weight Watchers.

    One Obliger wrote:

    I have no doubt that I am an “Obliger.”And since you have made me aware of this fact, it has changed my life in subtle yet meaningful ways. I battle with my weight, and I’ve joined and unjoined Weight Watchers more times than I care to recount. Oftimes, I wonder why I’m there, when I understand the program and could save myself time and money by just applying the knowledge I already have at home. And then I stop going to meetings: I fail miserably on my own and am beyond disappointed.

    Defining myself as an Obliger has changed my approach and expectations. I signed up, yet again, but this time with a different mindset.  I now go to meetings not as much for the information imparted as the sense of community and accountability.  Because that is what I really need.  And instead of hating to admit that I need a community, I am embracing the idea and running with it.

    I joined a livelier, more fun-loving group that I feel a greater commitment to. I laugh a lot and feel empowered to tackle the rest of the week when I leave.  I committed to tracking my progress online daily with other members. The Weight Watchers program hasn’t changed. The way I employ it and make it work for the type of person I am has changed immeasurably. Now, instead of going against my grain, I’m letting the grain be my guide.

    Another Obliger wrote:

    I’ve been trying to shed some weight for years and feel like I’ve tried just about every old (and new) thing. I’d tried Weight Watchers several times, but since learning that I’m an Obliger, I decided to sign up for their coaching option, where you can have personal calls with a coach. I signed up two weeks ago, and it’s been a huge difference from previous attempts. I’m 1000% sure that’s because of the exterior obligation to my coach.

    Of course, Weight Watchers is just one of many kinds of accountability groups that people use. Law school study groups, exercise classes, weekly work status meetings, attendance records, library fines...there are countless ways to create outer accountability.

    I've even created an app, the Better app, where people can discuss issues related to the Four Tendencies, and -- this is key -- can join or launch accountability groups, for accountability to meet whatever aim they want.

    The key thing for Obligers to recognize is that they require these systems of outer accountability, even to meet an inner expectation. It's not that hard to create outer accountability -- once you know that's what you need. And Obligers continue to need that outer accountability. Obligers sometimes tell me that they don't like this aspect of being an Obliger, that they don't like needing outer accountability, or they don't like the fact that they can't "graduate" out of needing it. But in my observation, this is just how it works for Obligers. It's more useful to figure out how to deal with your Tendency, rather than to wish it were different.

    Note that Obligers vary greatly in what kind of accountability works best for them. Some might feel more accountable to a group; some, to an individual coach; some, to knowing that they're going to step on the scale before a meeting. Some Obligers become teachers, leaders, or coaches themselves, because they know that if they're guiding others, they have to set a good example.

    The Four Tendencies framework has other implications for programs like Weight Watchers, for the way other Tendencies would use them.

    For instance, while Obligers need accountability, Questioners and Upholders also often benefit from accountability -- and sometimes, even Rebels benefit. Knowing that someone is watching, monitoring, and noticing what we're doing often reinforces our determination to stick to a good habit. As an Upholder myself, I don't depend on accountability to meet expectations -- but nevertheless when I'm being held accountable, it does make me feel all that much more...accountable.

    However, sometimes accountability can be counter-productive. If accountability isn't working for you, don't use it! There's no right way or wrong way; only the way that works for you.

    For instance, Rebels don't like being told what to do, or being told when and where to show up. For Rebels, it's helpful for a program to emphasize that "This is what you want," "This is what you choose," "This is the kind of person you are," "This will give you more freedom," "This is fun for you, you enjoy it," "These people are helping you to get what you want."

    Examples? "I want to eat more healthfully," "I'm a healthy, active person who respects my body and doesn't load it with lots of processed foods," "I love fresh, delicious, natural foods," "Big food companies can't tell me how eat," "I'm not addicted to sugar," "I choose to be free from cravings," "I enjoy this kind of program," "When I lose weight, I'll feel more comfortable on airplanes and walking around, and that will make me feel freer, and more able to travel."

    As for Questioners, they demand justifications for everything they're expected to do. So to work for Questioners, a program must provide information about why certain things are being encouraged, forbidden, emphasized; why systems are set up the way they're set up; why an authority is worthy of respect, etc. For instance, if someone tells a Questioner, "Take a fifteen-minute walk every morning," this may strike that Questioner as arbitrary. Why fifteen minutes? Why every morning? Why a walk? Questioners need justifications.

    To work for a Questioner, any system -- such as a point system for food -- must be justified. Why does X food have this many points, but Y food has this many points? Questioners would succeed much better when they understand the research, reasoning, and structure of a regimen.

    Questioners also tend to love to monitor and customize. So for them, activities like tracking, keeping food logs, or using a step-counter may be useful, because they enjoy getting that information on themselves. And they also like to customize, so it's useful to tell them, "You might try doing something in this other way, if that works for you." Or, if it's important to do something exactly as suggested, it's important to explain the reason. "Take this medication with food, or else you might get severe nausea."

    Upholders tend to do well in this kind of program. In fact, just about any program, curriculum, device, and so on will work fairly well for Upholders, because meeting outer and inner expectations comes more easily for them.

    The Four Tendencies vary in the number of members. The largest Tendency, for both men and women, is Obliger. It's the one that the greatest number of people belong to, so any program or group should take that fact into account. Next largest is Questioner. Most people are Obligers or Questioners. The smallest Tendency is Rebel, and just slightly larger is Upholder.

    Programs like Weight Watchers can take these differences among the Four Tendencies into account. For example, read here about how Dr. Judson Brewer is tailoring his eating program to take into account the Four Tendencies.

    Have you tried Weight Watchers, or similar programs? I'd be especially interested to hear from Obligers.

    In my book The Four Tendencies, I explore this issue at much greater length, along with related subjects like Obliger-rebellion, why Obliger-rebellion often shows up in health-related matters, why Obligers often pair up with Rebels, why sweethearts don't make good accountability partners, and more. Obligers + accountability is a big subject!

     
  • gretchenrubin 19:35:12 on 2017/10/24 Permalink
    Tags: , , , NaNoWriMo, ,   

    Signing Up for “NaNoWriMo”–National Novel Writing Month? Here’s Why It Works. 

    Have you heard of "NaNoWriMo?" "National Novel Writing Month" is an engaging approach to writing a novel. The writing "month" is November, and starting on November 1, participants work toward the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel by midnight on November 30.

    Are you planning to join NaNoWriMo?

    As I describe in The Happiness Project, I did this program myself. I'd run into an acquaintance on the street, and she mentioned that she was writing a novel in a month. I was immediately intrigued. "How, why?" I asked.

    She told me that she was following a program laid out in Chris Baty's book, No Plot? No Problem! A Low-stress, High-velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days. You start without any preparation, don't edit yourself, and by writing 1,667 words a day, you write a 50,000 word novel in a month.

    Now, for many people, this wouldn't be an exciting prospect, but I went straight to a bookstore and bought the book myself. I followed the book's instructions, and wrote my novel in the month of September, but far more people join the NaNoWriMo community each November, and each year, a big surge of people do it together.

    By doing joining the official "month," you join an international group of people who are pursuing their writing projects at this particular time, and you can announce your project to the group, attend local events, award yourself with participation and writing badges, update your word count each day, verify your word count by writing your draft on the site, choose a "writing buddy," and so on.

    In all my work, I think about the question, "What makes us happier, and how can we get ourselves actually to do the things that make us happier?" And one challenge for many people is: "I know I would be happier if I worked on a creative project, but how do I actually get myself to make consistent progress on this project or side hustle?"

    A common happiness stumbling block is the feeling that you have a creative or entrepreneurial idea and impulse, but you're not putting that creation out into the world.

    I've been fascinated by NaNoWriMo for years, as a way to tackle this problem, and it's interesting to think about why its design has helped so many people to complete ambitious projects.

    For one thing, it's interesting to think about how it works for the Four Tendencies.

    For Upholders, write-a-novel-in-a-month provides a clear set of expectations. Note: as an Upholder, I didn't join the group or do my project in November. I did it on my own, in September, when it made the most sense for me. Just reading the book was enough to get me to do it, without that structure. Which may have meant that I missed out on some fun, too, of course.

    For Questioners, the program gives a concise justification for its perhaps seemingly arbitrary rules. "Our experiences since 1999 show that 50,000 words is a challenging but achievable goal, even for people with full-time jobs and children. This is about the length of The Great Gatsby. We don't use the word 'novella' because it doesn't seem to impress people the way 'novel' does." This brief explanation establishes authority, shows that experience has born out the effectiveness of this program, and explains why the goal has been set at a certain number.

    For Obligers, NaNoWriMo provides many kinds of accountability, which is crucial because a) Obligers need accountability if they're going to follow through and b) different Obligers respond differently to different forms of accountability. Here, you can set up accountability by announcing your goal publicly, joining a group, earning visible gold stars in the form of badges, attending a meeting, pairing up with a "buddy," getting your word count verified daily and at the end of the month by the program, etc.

    For Rebels, NaNoWriMo is a fun challenge. It's like running the Boston marathon, for creativity. "My friends don't think I can write my novel in a month? Well, I'll show them!" Rebels often like to meet their aims in unconventional ways -- like NaNoWriMo. And with this program, you can drop out at any time, obviously, and you're not locking yourself in for long. "Can I do this for a month? Of course I can!"

    Obviously, even people who aren't Questioners like to understand the reasons behind what they're being asked to do, and even people who aren't Rebels like a fun challenge, and even people who aren't Obligers can benefit from accountability. That said, I do think that certain aspects of the program will resonate most deeply to particular Tendencies.

    Also, in my book Better Than Before, I outline the twenty-one strategies we can use to make or break our habits.

    NaNoWriMo taps into these habit strategies:

    Convenience: by writing on the site, it's easy to save your work, get credit for it, and track your word count.

    Monitoring: when we monitor, we tend to do a better job of following through, and this program is all about monitoring what you're creating. I remember that when I was writing my novel, I spent a lot of time checking my word count, to see if I'd reached the magic number of 1,667.

    Scheduling: you're writing every day, and as my Secret of Adulthood holds, it's often easier to do something every day rather than sometimes or most days.

    Loophole-Spotting: no excuses, no loopholes!

    and very important...

    First Steps: for many people, it's hard to get started. This kind of boot camp, start-now approach is a way to get a project off the ground.

    Have you ever tried NaNoWriMo -- if so, how did it work out? If you haven't done it, does this kind of program appeal to you?

    If you want to read more about my experience writing a novel in a month (a novel that's safely locked in a desk drawer now), I describe it in the chapter "September: Pursue a Passion" in my book The Happiness Project.

     
c
compose new post
j
next post/next comment
k
previous post/previous comment
r
reply
e
edit
o
show/hide comments
t
go to top
l
go to login
h
show/hide help
esc
cancel