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  • feedwordpress 09:00:40 on 2019/04/11 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , dessert, Emily Luchetti, Erin McHugh, , , , So Who's Counting   

    Emily Luchetti and Erin McHugh: “We Are Big Believers in Doing at Least One Fun Thing a Day, However Small.” 


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    Interview: Emily Luchetti and Erin McHugh

    How I love quotations—I collect them myself in giant troves, I collect books of quotations, and I love sending out my free daily "Moment of Happiness" newsletter with a terrific quotation about happiness or human nature (sign up here if you'd like to get it).

    So of course I was immediately intrigued by the new book from two friends and authors Emily Luchetti and Erin McHugh. So Who's Counting?: The Little Quote Book About Growing Older and Still Kicking Ass is a book of quotations that remind us that with age comes the opportunity to ask, "What's next? What do I really want? What have I learned the hard way?"

    I couldn't wait to talk to Erin and Emily about happiness, habits, aging, and self-knowledge.

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

    Emily: Exercise. Either a hike or working out at the gym in a TRX/weights class. The former I do on weekends with my husband and a friend. The classes first thing in the morning during the week. I feel more productive, energized, and ready to take on the world once I have gotten my body in gear.

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

    Emily: Don’t worry so much about what other people think. And don’t compare yourself to others. Be your own authentic self. Now that I am older I take many things less personally. I can keep myself and others happy. I don’t have to forfeit what I want over others’ needs.

    Erin: That it isn’t an inalienable right. Happiness is work, and it needs constant attention and upkeep. Feed it and it grows. And that, along with the time to pursue it, happiness is worth more than any commodity on earth.

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

    Emily and Erin: What turned out to be a revelation for us while we were working on So Who’s Counting? was getting to delve in and discover more about the people we quoted, not just the quote that ended up on the page. We conferred on every passage in the book—more than once—and researched where each came from, whether it was a speech, a letter, a passage from a book. But in doing so, we went down the most intriguing and rewarding rabbit holes. We found that Julia Child’s family had a cook growing up, and young Julia could have cared less about food. We were reminded about Muhammad Ali’s conscientious objection to the Vietnam War draft, how it caused him to lose all his titles, left him on the sidelines during his best fighting years, but became the beginning of his journey as a humanitarian. How Maya Angelou’s life was burdened by a past as a sex worker, and a childhood in the Jim Crow South. And though these were people we had never met, we found then began to influence us in profound ways.

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

    Emily: I took the quiz (I love things like this!) and am an Upholder. “I do what others expect of me—and what I expect from myself.” In my younger days only the first part of this sentence would have been true. I took care of others needs and put myself last. A real plus about getting older!

    Erin: I’m a Questioner. By profession I’m a writer and an interviewer: so it’s no surprise that curiosity drives me even when I’m practicing neither!

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

    Erin: Time—especially as one grows older—seems to whiz by. You’ve got to keep it in your grasp! A good calendar with some structured activity, whether it’s yoga, writing, getting together with friends, and whatever else pleases you, is key. Then the distractions don’t seem as...well, distracting. And Emily and I are both big believers in doing at least one fun thing a day, however small.

    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.?

    Emily: When I turned 60, I became aware of time in a good way. It hit home that we each only have one life and should live it to the best—whatever that means to you. For me, it’s a different answer each day. Some days it will be all work, sometimes all play. Sometimes something totally new, sometimes something I have done a zillion times. That’s what makes life exciting. I never really celebrate my birthdays but at 60 I wanted to make a statement to myself and saw it as an opportunity to do something I always thought would be fun but never did, I had a luncheon (cooked by Chef Jonathan Waxman) for about 70 women in the food world. It was electrifying to be in that room. Since then I have tried to make more time for these friendships and connections. We are always all so busy. You need to make a concerted effort to get together. And it’s worth it.

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

    Emily: “Someday is Today.”

    Erin: Singer Lauren Hill says at the end of one of her songs, “Everything is everything.” From the first time I heard it, I have found it such a valuable reminder for me. It means “Every little thing matters,”  “Every moment counts,” and “Even the tiny things sometimes end up being the thing that makes the difference.”

    Has a book ever changed your life—if so, which one and why?

    Erin: I wrote a book a few years ago called One Good Deed: 365 Days of Trying to Be Just a Little Bit Better, in which I tried to do just a small, positive thing each day as I went about my business. Almost immediately it clocked the way I looked at the world, and how I approached life on a daily basis. It trained both my head and my heart to be aware, mindful, kinder. I treasure the experience and take myself back to its pages constantly to remind myself that better doesn’t have to be hard.

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

    Emily: "Never trust a skinny chef." For sure, I know how hard it is to not succumb to sweets. Especially when there are several ten-pound boxes of chocolate on the shelf. But it is possible to enjoy desserts and maintain a healthy lifestyle. It’s all about moderation. I started a movement around it called dessertworthy. Pastry chefs like to bake but we also like to exercise, eat veggies, and fit into our jeans. People don’t automatically assume a wine maker is an alcoholic or a pharmacist is a drug addict.

    Erin: Writing a book is never a simple task. It’s long, arduous, vexing...but always rewarding.

    SWC COVER

     
  • gretchenrubin 09:00:37 on 2019/04/09 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , tidiness   

    Need Some Easy Steps to Start to Tackle Spring Cleaning? Try These Simple Tips. 


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    We often hear about "spring cleaning," and I have to say, I really understand why it's a tradition.

    For me, when the days become longer, the temperature becomes warmer, and all of nature is being renewed, I get the urge to sweep through my home and office and get rid of the junk. Everything outside my personal space feels so fresh, I want to re-create that feeling indoors.

    This impulse reminds me of a quotation I love, 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!” - Jules Renard, Journal

    However, it's easy to feel the urge to do spring-cleaning, but it's a lot tougher actually to begin.

    In the United States, spring is here, and if you want to create outer order as part of the new season, consider these manageable steps:

    1. Focus on one area.

    Some people get overwhelmed if they imagine spring-cleaning their entire surroundings. If that's your issue, focus on just one area.  Tackle clothes, or papers, or books, or toys. Often, once we start, it's easier to keep going—and even if you create outer order in just one area, that's a gain in any event. And while you're at it...

    2. Fix whatever is bugging you the most.

    Some experts argue that we should all start to clear clutter in a specific area, such as clothes. I disagree. I think we should fix the biggest nuisance.

    Most of us have many areas of clutter, but one particular area causes the most irritation. For me, it's the pile that accumulates in a corner of our bedroom. For someone else, it's the kitchen counter; for someone else, the front hallway.

    On the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast, my sister Elizabeth sometimes calls me a "happiness bully" because if I see an opportunity for someone to become happier, I can get pretty insistent. As part of this aspect of my personality, I recently convinced my friend Michael to let me help him create more outer order in his apartment. For him, the biggest problem was the top of a long chest of drawers in his bedroom. A massive pile had accumulated there, and although the rest of the room was in good order, that mess made the whole room feel chaotic. Fixing that area gave a disproportionate boost.

    In the office, it's often a window sill. Gosh, we love to jam stuff onto our window sills! The benefit of clearing a window sill is that not only does it create more order, it even creates more light, because the window isn't blocked up.

    3. Resist the urge to "get organized" by buying set of containers, matching jars, hangers, files, binders, or other supplies.

    Often we buy stuff that allows us to jam more clutter into place. Instead, use my favorite test with all your possessions: Ask "Do I need it? Use it? Love it?" If you don't need it, use, or love it, you should relinquish it. And when you've eliminated everything that you don't need, use, or love, you probably don't need to "organize" much. You can just put things away.

    It can be very fun to buy organizing items—they're so enticing! They make it seem like we could organize every aspect of our lives. Remember, it's harder to use these things than to buy them. Best case scenario is that you don't need any special gizmos at all.

    4. Make it fun to get the job done.

    How can you make this process more fun? Might you listen to a podcast, listen to your favorite music, invite a friend to keep you company, set yourself challenges like "I'm going get this entire closet cleared out in 45 minutes!"

    5. If the idea of doing "spring cleaning" doesn't appeal to you, because you don't want to dedicate an afternoon or weekend to clearing, try very small steps.

    Follow the one-minute rule.

    Observe Power Hour.

    Go shelf by shelf.

    My new book (can't resist mentioning that it's a New York Times bestseller) Outer Order, Inner Calm has more than 150 ideas for creating outer order. But these will get you started!

    A strange, almost paradoxical thing happens when we clear clutter: when we get rid of things we don't need, don't use, and don't love, we often feel like we end up with more. It's very common for people to remove two giant bags of clothes from  their closet, and then exclaim, "Now I feel like I have so much more to wear!"

    The process of creating outer order makes us more engaged with the things we keep, and so our lives feel more abundant, even though we've removed a layer of stuff. This is another reason that spring cleaning makes our surroundings feel more energized and vibrant.

    What are some of your favorite tips for spring cleaning?

     
  • feedwordpress 09:00:16 on 2019/04/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Laura Gassner Otting, Limitless,   

    “I Think the Best Antidote to a Rut Is Action, So I Try to Remind Myself that Anything Beats Nothing.” 


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    Interview: Laura Gassner Otting

    Laura Gassner Otting founded the Nonprofit Professionals Advisory Group, and has been involved in many nonprofit boards around the country. She writes and speaks frequently about the world of mission-driven work and getting "unstuck" in our lives. As she describes herself: "I help people discover how they align what they do with who they are, to achieve limitless potential."

    As if that's not enough to keep her busy, she has also just published a new book: Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life.

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

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

    Laura: I hang out with “framily,” those people who aren’t the family I was born to—they are lovely but geographically distant—but the friends I have made as an adult who have become my close knit kibbutz. These are the people who know my hopes and dreams, who see my stress and anxiety, who cheer me on during my successes and pick me up during my failures. They don’t keep score, they don’t play the comparison gave, they know we are all on our own path. They bathe in emotional abundance, rather than scarcity. I am better for the fact that they are in my life, and I work hard every day to make sure that I uplift them in return.

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

    Ever the gold star chaser, I was entirely certain that if I just collected all the right degrees and titles, I’d be happy. But it wasn’t until I was much older, fueled by my own journey and also twenty years of studying, recruiting, and stewarding leaders through massive career shifts, that I realized that success as externally (and often myopically) defined, didn’t equal happiness. It wasn’t until I realized that we need to create our own definition of success, and lean into that specifically, that the success we achieve will truly bring us the happiness we seek.

    In your new book, Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve Your Own Path, and Life Your Best Life, you have a different take on success, and its role in bringing happiness. What has surprised or intrigued you—or your readers—most?

    Over the course of my research, what I’ve learned is that success doesn’t bring happiness when it’s merely us following someone else’s path to someone else’s definition of success. It’s why Lean In didn’t ring true for so many; some were angry about the privilege that Sheryl Sandberg used to achieve her success. I didn’t blame her for that; frankly it would've been folly not to use it. My issue wasn’t how she achieved success, but how she defined it, as this one unflinching, myopic view of the fastest and most expedient path to the corner office.

    What I now know is that happiness through work comes from consonance, from when the “what you do” matches the “who you are.” Each of our true definitions of success will be a personalized rubric of calling, connection, contribution, and control.

    • Calling is a gravitational pull towards a goal larger than yourself—a business you want to build, a leader who inspires you, a societal ill you wish to remedy, a cause you wish to serve.
    • Connection gives you sightlines into how your everyday work serves that calling by solving the problem at hand, growing the company’s bottom line, or reaching that goal.
    • Contribution is an understanding of how this job, this brand, this paycheck contributes to the community you want to belong, the person you want to be, or the lifestyle you’d like to live.
    • Control reflects how you are able to influence your connection to that calling in order to have some say in the assignment of projects, deadlines, colleagues, and clients; offer input into shared goals; and do work that contributes to your career trajectory and earnings.

    We will all want and need these in different amounts at different ages and stages throughout our lives. I’ve set up a quiz that people can take to understand how much of each of these elements they want in their lives, and how much of each they’d like to have. And, of course, it gives some immediately actionable tips on changes to make right here, right now to get unstuck and become limitless. That quiz is at www.LimitlessAssessment.com.

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

    When I turned 39 years old, I walked into my kids’ elementary school and saw the principal, whom I hadn’t seen in a few months. “Ellen,” I said, “You look amazing. Either you’ve been really sick, or there’s a new man in your life, and you look too good to have been really sick!” And she replied, “There is a new man in my life, and his name is Mike. Coach Mike.”

    And she dragged me to a boot camp where I spent six weeks trying to run the first mile of my life. (Seriously, I’d had 634,598 excuses to get out of P.E. throughout my childhood and the only reason I was picked last for every team was because there wasn’t a position after last.) But then I did it. I ran my first mile without stopping.

    Fast forward nine years, and I’ve run three marathons and row on a competitive team. Whenever the coach calls out, “OK, athletes, next we’re going to…” I get giddy. Still can’t believe anyone would think of me as an athlete, and loving the multitudes within myself that I am discovering as a result of letting myself be (very) uncomfortable in the middle of my otherwise comfortable life.

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

    I am an Upholder. The last thing I do before I go to bed is check my schedule for the next day, and mentally walk through and schedule in time to complete my tasks, be present for others, and take steps towards my personal and professional goals. My husband likes to joke that “If it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t exist.” To wit, I schedule in shower time after a workout, picking up my kids, and answering email, all things which (eek, the kids!) would either be forgotten or expand across the day (gah, email!) if unchecked.

    And, really, there’s nothing like clear expectations and a full set of data when it comes to making plans and dreaming big dreams, right?

    Oh, and yeah, I’m that person who puts the thing on my to-do list that I have done, even if it wasn’t on there before. Nothing is more beautiful than an organized day and a clean slate morning.

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

    I am the human embodiment of Newton’s First Law of Physics: a body in motion stays in motion. So when I’m in a groove, I’m golden. But when travel, bad eating, sickness, injury waylay me, I’m at risk of falling off the path. That said, I think the best antidote to rut is action, so I try to remind myself that anything beats nothing, and then I call a friend and ask them to join me the next day in The Thing I Need to Do. Accountability always gets me back on track, even when everything in my core is clinging to malaise.

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

    Show up. Shut up. Do the work. (Pretty Upholder of me, huh?)

    For me, it’s about being fully present, getting better by listening and learning, and doing the hard yards in the dark that nobody sees (or cares about) so that I can show up in a way for my message, my family, my community, and my causes.

    Has a book ever changed your life—if so, which one and why?

    At the risk of being so cheesy and fangirly: The Happiness Project. [Awwww thanks!]

    When The Happiness Project first came out, I scoffed and thought, “What does this women of privilege know about being happy? Her life must be really happy already.” But then I thought, “Well, I’m pretty privileged and I’m not happy.” So I bought the book.

    And then, on pretty much the first page, you called yourself out about the privilege, and from that moment on, you had my heart.

    I made my husband read it the second I finished it, and even though this would normally not be his thing, he dutifully read it for me—perhaps because he’d not seen me so animated about a book in quite some time—and we began to immediately implement the changes you outlined. This book changed our lives because it changed the way we looked at our lives, and what they could be, and how we use our privilege and the choices we made every day to be happy.

    So, I’ve been waiting a long time to say this, but: thank you.

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

    I’m on a crusade to get us to stop listening to the messengers riding in on the Four Horsemen of the Success Apocalypse: balance, purpose, happiness, and passion.

    Purpose! This idea that the only careers that matter are ones that fix the world, the one that demand the shirt off our backs, the ones where service is only service if it also means sacrifice.

    Balance! This fleeting, ephemeral, impossible to reach idea that work and life must be perfectly separate and always equal to one another, as if work and life should have nothing to do with one another.

    Happiness! That terrible phrase that kills our dreams before they even leave our mouths, “I’ll be happy when…” I’ll be happy when I go on vacation. I’ll be happy when I pay off my debt. I’ll be happy when I get married. I’ll be happy when I find a new job. Why can’t we be happy now?

    Passion! We’ve all seen her. That beautiful, perfectly beach waved flaxen haired beauty, staring off into the sunset over the dunes or, um, Coachella. “Follow Your Dreams!” It’s the spoken word illegitimate sister of the Live Love Laugh tattoo!

    The four horsemen set up a false choice. A binary choice between whether or not we have purpose or are pushing paper, whether or not we have perfect balance or the edges of our lives bleed together, whether we are happy by these false standards, or whether we have passion or are miserable sell-outs. I’m calling bull on all of it. The four horsemen build a create a false foundation on which we build a life, and then we realize that that life was meant for someone else. It’s no wonder we can’t live boldly into that life.

    You can’t be insatiably hungry for other people’s goals, for other people’s definitions of success. So, what does success look like for me? What would make me truly happy? If we could all, collectively, say, “Screw the Joneses!” and fail at living into everyone else’s expectations, so that we can make room for our own.

    Besides, why are we taking advice from girls in flower crowns, anyway?!?

    limitless book

     
  • gretchenrubin 16:42:15 on 2019/04/02 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , questions, tour   

    Report from My Book Tour! Some Observations and Insights from the Road. 


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    I'm visiting many cities across the United States as part of my book tour for Outer Order, Inner Calm. Many writers don't like to go on tour, but I love it. I really enjoy getting to meet book readers and Happier listeners, and I'm very interested to hear what people have to say on the subject of outer order.

    Some observations:

    I'm noticing that many people apparently buy the book as a helpful resource, or possibly a gentle nudge, or possibly outright pointed commentary, for someone else. I'm often asked to inscribe a book with sentiments such as "You can do it!" or "You got this!".

    It's interesting to me that many book clubs are reading this book. I wouldn't necessarily have thought it would be a candidate for a book group, but there's indeed much to discuss.

    I've been struck by how many people who attend book events come through the Happier podcast.  It's tremendously fun to see the two strands of my work coming together.

    I've been surprised by how many people have told me that of all the books I've written, Better Than Before is their favorite. I love all my books, and I love Better Than Before, so I don't know why that's a surprise. Maybe because it's about a subject—how to make or break habits—is often considered a challenge.

    Speaking of Better Than Beforepeople often bring their old books for me to sign, so my life flashes before my eyes as I see the various covers and editions of my previous books. That's fun, especially when a book is very dog-eared or marked-up. I love to see a much-read book. I really mark up  books when I read (except library books of course).

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    When I speak, my favorite part is always the question-and-answer, because I'm so curious to hear what's on people's minds.

    A few questions keep coming up over and over:

    • "Because of a death or downsizing in my family, I've inherited a bunch of stuff. How do I manage it?"
    • "How can I teach a child the value of outer order?"
    • "How can I use the Four Tendencies framework to get myself, or someone else, to do a better job of maintaining outer order?"
    • "How do I manage my emotions? I want to create more outer order, but it's very hard for me to relinquish things that have sentimental value."
    • "How do I manage digital clutter?"
    • "What should I do with my photos?" Once a woman started crying as she asked her question, because she was so overwhelmed by her photos.

    Fortunately, the book Outer Order, Inner Calm tackles all these issues! It would be discouraging if I found out that I hadn't addressed issues that were pressing on people's minds.

    One funny question: a Happier podcast listener asked if I'd been sticking to #10 on my "19 for 2019" list. I'd added the item: "On my book tour, read children's literature instead of watching HGTV before-and-after shows, which for some reason is what I want to do when I'm alone in a hotel room."

    Yes, I've kept this. I realized that as an Abstainer, it would be easier for me to follow through if I watched no TV. So I haven't turned on the TV once! I've been reading adult literature as well as children's literature, but I accept that as within the spirit of the resolution.

    Speaking of "19 for 2019," many people included "Go to a Gretchen Rubin event" on their lists. Several people even asked me to sign a copy of their lists—so fun to see.

    I'm sure no one else noticed, but I thought it was funny when someone introduced me by saying that I'd "walked hand-in-hand with the Dalai Lama" instead of "arm-in-arm." A big difference!

    Another question often raised by audience members—and journalists—is how my approach differs from that of Marie Kondo. It's so different!

    I love the work of Marie Kondo. I read her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up as soon as it came out, years ago, and I binge-watched Tidying Up as soon as it was available on Netflix. I see tremendous value in her approach.

    But the fact is, Marie Kondo has a very specific, structured way to approach outer order. On the TV show, the specificity of her approach is softened somewhat, but in the book, it's clear: to do it right, follow the KonMari way.

    From my observation, there's never just one way to achieve an aim. There's no magic, one-size-fits-all solution that's "best" or "most efficient" or "right." People are different, and different approaches work for different people. So while I love Kondo's work, and have followed some of her suggestions, I don't think there's one best way.

    Marie Kondo is a simplicity-lover, but many people are abundance-lovers.

    Marie Kondo says to do clutter-clearing in one big effort, but many people prefer to tackle it a little bit at a time, with strategies like the "one-minute rule" or "power hour."

    For some people—like me—it would be a waste of time and energy to follow her advice to unpack my bag every night, put things away, and re-pack the next day.

    You can read more about my thoughts on Marie Kondo's work here.

    In my observation, the problem arises when a certain system (like KonMari, David Allen's Getting Things Done, minimalism, etc.) doesn't work for people, and they get discouraged and think that their situation is hopeless, because they've failed with a specific approach.

    My own view is that if one way doesn't work or doesn't appeal, just try something else until you find what works for you. If something doesn't work, that's still helpful, because you've learned value information about what does and doesn't work for you, so now you can try something different.

    One last note: It has been great to meet so many people who are doing The Happiness Project Experience this year, and to hear how the program is going for them. I've been very gratified to learn that people are really enjoying it.

    Thanks to everyone who came to an event! I so appreciate the enthusiasm and support.

     
  • feedwordpress 11:00:02 on 2019/03/29 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , March, ,   

    What I Read This Month: March 2019 


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    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 February 2019, the full list is here.

    I get a lot of time to read when I travel, and being on my book tour has given me many wonderful hours of reading—especially because in my "19 for 2019" list, I vowed to stop watching HGTV transformation shows in my hotel room. That's freed up a lot of time!

    March 2019 Reading:

    Nobody's Looking at You by Janet Malcolm -- I love Janet Malcolm's work. I'd read several of these essays before, but I loved reading them again.

    The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson -- A frank, bold term for this kind of clutter-clearing! Short and inspiring.

    The Gastronomical Me by M.F.K. Fisher -- A fascinating way to approach a memoir. Now I want to read everything that M.F.K. Fisher ever wrote. Next stop: How to Cook a Wolf. How can I resist that title?

    The Seventh Raven by Peter Dickinson -- More Peter Dickinson! I loved this book, too. He never disappoints. Very different from his others, but I'm noticing a trend: he often involves characters who are ambassadors or diplomats of some kind. Interesting.

    Heartburn by Nora Ephron -- A re-read. Hilarious, thought-provoking novel based on her own experience with a divorce.

    Fooling Houdini by Alex Stone -- Fascinating. I've become very interested in magicians and theories of magic. Stay tuned.

    The Crystal Tree by Jennie Dorothea Lindquist -- Another re-read. What a wonderful, wonderful book. So cozy. It's the third in a series that's included in my list of 81 Favorite Works of Children's and Young Adult Literature.

    In the Palace of the Khans by Peter Dickinson -- What can I say? More Peter Dickinson. With ambassadors! Plus royal families, secret passageways, ancient customs.

    The Butler Speaks by Charles MacPherson -- Not sure why I picked this up, but it was an interesting look at etiquette.

    The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy -- This memoir has been on my list for a long time. Thought-provoking, page-turning.

    The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey -- I loved this book and can't wait to suggest it to my kidlit reading groups. A fresh and fascinating twist on the classic theme of zombie apocalypse.

    The Only Story by Julian Barnes -- An interesting examination of an unusual relationship, and its reverberations through the life of the narrator.

    Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan -- I got this in galley! I'm a big fan of Ian McEwan, and this didn't disappoint.

    Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell -- A re-read. George Orwell is certainly one of my very favorite writers of non-fiction; perhaps my very favorite. So I wanted to re-read this.

     

    Have you heard of The Next Big Idea Club

    If you're looking for non-fiction book recommendations, consider joining The Next Big Idea Club to receive two new books every three months, handpicked by a team of authors and experts like Malcolm Gladwell and Susan Cain. Plus, you'll get access to videos and e-courses. More details here.

     
  • feedwordpress 09:00:26 on 2019/03/28 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , ,   

    Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin: “An Efficient and Beautiful Space Gives Us Peace of Mind and Streamlines Our Routines.” 


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    Interview: Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin.

    Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin are friends and business partners. They started "The Home Edit" to reinvent traditional organizing and merge it with design and interior styling.

    The Home Edit service will organize every space in the home, from bedrooms and kitchens, to closets and pantries. Every project receives meticulous attention to detail, carefully considered systems, and a signature aesthetic. They can come to you—even if you're in a different state—or work online.

    This team serves as the organizers to the stars, including huge celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Reese Witherspoon.

    Their new book just hit the shelves: The Home Edit: A Guide to Organizing and Realizing Your House Goals.

    As you can imagine, I couldn't wait to hear them discuss their views on clutter, organization, habits, and happiness. More outer order for all!

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

    Clea and Joanna: Can we say organizing or is that too obvious? But, seriously—an efficient and beautiful space gives us peace of mind and streamlines our routines. When you know what you have and where it is, it’s the simplest thing and yet so gratifying.

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

    As two people who’ve now made a living off of their type-A (or let’s be honest, neurotic) personalities, we’ve come to learn that following your intuition and passion is worth the risk—even if it scares the hell out of you at first. In fact, we didn’t know much about each other when we decided to start a business together. We had lunch—a four-hour lunch—and discussed worldwide organizing domination. The only thing we could really discern is that we felt like we had a similar work ethic and that we didn’t do anything halfway. We got that gut feeling that we’re just the kind of people who go all in—and thankfully, we did.

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

    As organizers, we’re the first to say that routine is everything. And when it comes to making or breaking a habit, we believe that it comes down to being honest with yourself and creating systems that simplify and ease you into the process. For instance, I hate working out and I’m constantly making excuses for why I need to skip. So I started packing a gym bag and putting it in my trunk. The fact that I didn’t have to do the extra step of choosing what clothes to wear or having to go home to change was what I needed to jumpstart the habit, without me even realizing I was doing it.

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

    We travel a lot—especially now that we’re on our book tour. We’ve both woken up on multiple occasions and completely forgotten what city we’re in. We literally have to remind each other. In order to stay sane and not lose our routine, we’ve become better about prioritizing our time and commitments—and not feeling guilty for it.

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

    We have two particular mottos that we live by that have actually become parallel to our brand—Surviving Not Thriving and Low Bar Lifestyle. It’s all about setting the bar just low enough that you can accomplish all kinds of bite-size victories because life is too short to feel residual guilt about not wearing real pants or making it to the gym every day. We feel the same way about organizing. There’s nothing wrong with starting with a smaller project, then taking the confidence and knowledge you gain from that and applying it to something larger.

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

    We find that people tend to view organizing as extremely overwhelming or near impossible. The truth is that if we can do it, you can do it. It’s why we decided to write our book in the first place—to give people the tools and a step-by-step guide to creating efficient and beautiful spaces in their own homes. The other common misperception is that an organized space will take a ton of effort to maintain. The truth is that when you create systems that work seamlessly with your space and lifestyle, maintenance is as simple as putting things where they belong and setting aside time each month for a mini edit. Labeling and color-coding with ROYGBIV are methods we use that act as instructions (or a guilt mechanism) to put things back in their designated home.

     
  • feedwordpress 09:00:26 on 2019/03/28 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , The Home Edit   

    Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin: “An Efficient and Beautiful Space Gives Us Peace of Mind and Streamlines Our Routines.” 


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    Interview: Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin.

    Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin are friends and business partners. They started "The Home Edit" to reinvent traditional organizing and merge it with design and interior styling.

    The Home Edit service will organize every space in the home, from bedrooms and kitchens, to closets and pantries. Every project receives meticulous attention to detail, carefully considered systems, and a signature aesthetic. They can come to you—even if you're in a different state—or work online.

    This team serves as the organizers to the stars, including huge celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Reese Witherspoon.

    Their new book just hit the shelves: The Home Edit: A Guide to Organizing and Realizing Your House Goals.

    As you can imagine, I couldn't wait to hear them discuss their views on clutter, organization, habits, and happiness. More outer order for all!

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

    Clea and Joanna: Can we say organizing or is that too obvious? But, seriously—an efficient and beautiful space gives us peace of mind and streamlines our routines. When you know what you have and where it is, it’s the simplest thing and yet so gratifying.

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

    As two people who’ve now made a living off of their type-A (or let’s be honest, neurotic) personalities, we’ve come to learn that following your intuition and passion is worth the risk—even if it scares the hell out of you at first. In fact, we didn’t know much about each other when we decided to start a business together. We had lunch—a four-hour lunch—and discussed worldwide organizing domination. The only thing we could really discern is that we felt like we had a similar work ethic and that we didn’t do anything halfway. We got that gut feeling that we’re just the kind of people who go all in—and thankfully, we did.

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

    As organizers, we’re the first to say that routine is everything. And when it comes to making or breaking a habit, we believe that it comes down to being honest with yourself and creating systems that simplify and ease you into the process. For instance, I hate working out and I’m constantly making excuses for why I need to skip. So I started packing a gym bag and putting it in my trunk. The fact that I didn’t have to do the extra step of choosing what clothes to wear or having to go home to change was what I needed to jumpstart the habit, without me even realizing I was doing it.

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

    We travel a lot—especially now that we’re on our book tour. We’ve both woken up on multiple occasions and completely forgotten what city we’re in. We literally have to remind each other. In order to stay sane and not lose our routine, we’ve become better about prioritizing our time and commitments—and not feeling guilty for it.

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

    We have two particular mottos that we live by that have actually become parallel to our brand—Surviving Not Thriving and Low Bar Lifestyle. It’s all about setting the bar just low enough that you can accomplish all kinds of bite-size victories because life is too short to feel residual guilt about not wearing real pants or making it to the gym every day. We feel the same way about organizing. There’s nothing wrong with starting with a smaller project, then taking the confidence and knowledge you gain from that and applying it to something larger.

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

    We find that people tend to view organizing as extremely overwhelming or near impossible. The truth is that if we can do it, you can do it. It’s why we decided to write our book in the first place—to give people the tools and a step-by-step guide to creating efficient and beautiful spaces in their own homes. The other common misperception is that an organized space will take a ton of effort to maintain. The truth is that when you create systems that work seamlessly with your space and lifestyle, maintenance is as simple as putting things where they belong and setting aside time each month for a mini edit. Labeling and color-coding with ROYGBIV are methods we use that act as instructions (or a guilt mechanism) to put things back in their designated home.

     
  • feedwordpress 11:00:48 on 2019/03/21 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Catherine Burns, , Occasional Magic, storytelling, The Moth   

    “If We Do Nothing But Try to Manage Well What We Do Have Control Over, We’ll Find We Have More Control Than We Think.” 


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    Interview: Catherine Burns.

    I met Catherine Burns when we had an hour-long conversation at a rooftop deck party thrown by a publishing house. Not long after that, we did an event together about podcasts. Every time I see her, I love getting the chance to talk about storytelling, speaking, audience engagement, and every other topic we wander into.

    She's the long-time Artistic Director of The Moth, which is a non-profit group in New York City dedicated to the art of storytelling. They're best known for their storytelling events, where a group of people each tell a carefully crafted story—a true story—around a theme.

    The Moth is a live event, a podcast and a radio show. And now there's a new book: The Moth Presents Occasional Magic: True Stories About Defying the Impossible. "From storytelling phenomenon and hit podcast The Moth—and featuring contributions from Meg Wolitzer, Adam Gopnik, Krista Tippett, Andrew Solomon, Rosanne Cash, Ophira Eisenberg, Wang Ping, and more—a new collection of unforgettable true stories about finding the strength to face the impossible, drawn from the very best ever told on its stages."

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

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

    Catherine: Hands down: exercise. It really is medicine for me. If I can get either 10,000 steps in or a vigorous 2- or 3-mile walk in, I feel like a different person. It reduces my anxiety and seems to make my brain cylinders fire faster. I used to think I didn’t have time to exercise, but I’m so much more efficient on days when I work out that I now feel that I don’t have time not to exercise! I’ve been trying to add a longer walk on weekends—there’s a six-mile loop that goes from from my house in Brooklyn over the Manhattan Bridge, through Chinatown, then back over the Brooklyn Bridge to home. Doing that walk makes me so happy!

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

    That nobody is coming to save me, and that happiness is a choice. I used to have this fantasy (Well, I see it as a fantasy now. At the time, I thought it was a fact.) that if I did X, Y, or Z the world would just fall into place. When people did things that made my life more difficult, I took it very personally—it would hurt my feelings and I’d feel like a victim, which was exhausting for me and also for the people around me. Now I know that my happiness comes from how I choose to react to the circumstances of my life, not from the circumstance itself. Most of us are lucky in that we have more agency in our lives than we may realize. If we do nothing but try to manage well what we do have control over, we’ll find that we have more control than we think. This realization makes it easier to deal with the things we actually can’t control.

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

    My work at The Moth involves people telling stories from their own lives in front of live audiences around the world. The best stories end up on our radio show and podcast and in our books. There’s a narrative being shared in the media right now that we are a country divided, and that the damage of that division is beyond repair. But I find again and again that what connects us to one another is almost always bigger than what separates us. I’ve seen people from very different backgrounds, with differing belief systems, bond deeply after hearing each other’s stories. On our first national tour, our storytellers included a retired NYPD detective and a former pickpocket who had spent years in Attica. Back in the day, their turf was Greenwich Village and they definitely would have been at odds with each other. But through telling their stories night after night they became close friends. We see this again and again. More recently, there’s David Montgomery, who has a story in our new book, Occasional Magic, about quitting his job to follow the Spice Girls around on their last world tour. The story is really about him becoming comfortable in his own skin as a gay man and how he and his mother were able to repair their strained relationship. After the story aired, he received several emails from parents of gay children who heard his story and then reached out to their own estranged children. We were all blown away by this!

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

    I have pretty much cut out sugar and I no longer drink soda. I was able to do it by focusing on how much better and more energetic I feel without it!

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

    I am definitely an Obliger, though I wanted to resist that when I first heard about the Tendencies. What gave me pause is that I’m very often Obliger-like, but I also have a pretty strong streak of Rebel in me at times. One day I heard you talking on your podcast about Obliger Rebellion and a big lightbulb went off. I realized I’d been obliging for so long that in some ways (as I later joked with my friends) my life had become one big Obliger Rebellion. Embracing this has helped me bring about some meaningful change in my life. For instance, I’m working on eating healthier and exercising, and as an Obliger I benefit from outward accountability. But it doesn’t entirely work without a few Rebel rules thrown in (like telling myself that I’m the kind of person who runs in the park every morning, or that I’m the kind of person who sets a healthy example for my nine-year-old son).  

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

    The disease of busyness is always a threat to my habits. When I’m away from work and completely in control of my own time, I tend to do well. I wake up early, read, meditate, walk daily, cook, and eat healthfully. I hear about people indulging too much on vacations, but for me it’s usually just the opposite. But when things get busy it’s very easy for my healthy habits to fall by the wayside. It helps me to remember how much happier I am when I stick with my habits, and actually doing things every day keeps me from the dreaded “decision fatigue.”

    This is a little embarrassing to admit, but I have quotes and poems that inspire me set to pop up regularly on my electronic “to-do” list so that I re-read them daily/weekly/monthly and then check them off as “done.” The quotes change depending on what I’m working on right then, and they help keep me in touch with my deepest values instead of getting dragged down by the details of daily life. One of them is actually a quote from you, Gretchen, that speaks to this: “Habits are freeing and energizing because they get us out of the draining, difficult business of making decisions and using our self-control. When something’s important to us, and we want it to happen frequently, making it into a habit means that it does happen, and without a lot of fuss.” Amen!

    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.?

    I am stumped by this question, but I will say that thousands upon thousands of Moth stories are about a lightning bolt moment—something that happened that forever changed the storyteller.

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

    “The price of glory is high.” My high school marching band director used to say that, and it’s true. When I’m feeling overwhelmed by my to-do list, I try to remember how lucky I am to have a job that I love, doing work that’s meaningful to me. So it’s worth the occasional sacrifice.

    Has a book ever changed your life—if so, which one and why?

    Yes: Here If You Need Me by Kate Braestrup. I always say that if I could force everyone I love to read just one book it would be that one. Kate is the chaplain for the Maine game wardens, so she’s the person sitting with you if your child is lost in the woods. She also takes care of the game wardens themselves when things go wrong. The book is about how to hold space for your community during difficult times, and I read it during a particularly challenging period in my life, when I was trying to show up for our staff after a tumultuous event. Kate’s work has helped me find the courage to lead and show up as my best self even when I’m not feeling particularly strong or capable in the moment. She writes about a lot of serious things, but she’s also one of the funniest people I know, so the book is a joy to read. Kate has gone on to tell a number of riveting stories at The Moth.

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

    People think that by practicing telling a story it won’t feel spontaneous and you’ll make the story worse. But the opposite is true. The more you know the beats of your story, the more you can have fun with it and play with it on stage. You need to have the scaffolding in place and really know where the story is going if you want to be able to improv and play on stage. Moth stories aren’t memorized, but a great deal of time goes into crafting them so they can be told well in ten minutes. Ironically, it takes a lot of practice to appear spontaneous on stage!

     
  • feedwordpress 09:00:11 on 2019/03/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , Julie Zhou, , , The Making of a Manager,   

    “It’s Okay for a Manager to Say, ‘I Don’t Know, But Let’s Figure It Out Together.’” 


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    Interview: Julie Zhuo

    Julie Zhuo is one of Silicon Valley’s top product design executives. She leads the teams behind some of the world's most popular mobile and web services used by billions of people every day. She writes about technology, design, and leadership on her popular blog The Year of the Looking Glass and in publications like the New York Times and Fast Company. She graduated with a computer science degree from Stanford University and lives with her husband and two children in California.

    Now she's written a terrific book about her insights, experiences, mistakes, and conclusions called The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You. It's a fascinating look at how to manage—especially when your team keeps getting bigger and bigger.

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

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

    Julie: I take 10 to 20 minutes every night before I go to bed to do something that’s just for me. Seventy percent of the time, it’s me lighting a candle and reading a few pages of my “book of the moment,” (I’m currently reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas), but I also sometimes do crossword puzzles, watch a video, or catch up with friends over text. I started to do this during a period of my life when I was extremely stressed after coming back to work from parental leave, which I talk about in my book, The Making of a Manager. I was having trouble falling asleep at night because I was furiously working until my head hit the pillow. I realized I needed a “transition” period into sleep—some time that was solely for me where I could do anything I wanted without feeling guilty about it. So that’s where this habit started. I’ve slept a lot better since.

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

    Julie: That as time passes, happiness feels less like pure joy and more like deep satisfaction or contentment. It’s like the flavor has changed from fireworks to a lovely scenic view.

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

    Julie: Fitness is my Achilles heel. I love the idea of being strong and healthy and having a daily regime. I hate the actual feeling of exercising. All of those people who rave about getting that “runner’s high” where you’re in this blissful state where it feels like you can just keep on going forever? Nope, that is the opposite of my experience. Every time I am exercising (and I have tried many, many times to get on that bandwagon), the only thing that is in my mind is, “Wow, this sucks. When can I stop?” I’d start classes or set New Year’s resolutions or train for a 5K over the course of weeks, sometimes even months, but inevitably I’d slip back into my old habit, and I’d lapse into months of no exercise again. This was the pattern until about four years ago, when I stumbled upon an insight of building "tiny habits." I started to set a goal of exercising for 10-15 minutes a day every morning. It felt like so little time that there really was no excuse. I could always manage to squeeze it in right before a shower. And it was short enough that the pain would be relatively contained. I found I was able to keep this habit going indefinitely.

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

    Julie: Upholder. I take my obligations to others and to myself seriously. If you come over for dinner, I will stuff you silly with great food but also stuff myself silly.

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

    Julie: I’m pretty good at staying present, but I am been known to succumb to the power of an overactive phone lighting up with pings and e-mails. I’ve found the best solution is to quarantine the phone for specific hours of the day, especially weekends, so I can focus on spending time with my family.

    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.?

    Julie: I love January and the feeling of the the promise of a New Year, so my husband and I have a tradition called “Cleanuary,” where we try to create a recurring lightning bolt. For the month of January, we set ambitious health and cleaning goals and stick to them for 31 days as a cleanse from the excesses of the holidays. On the health side, we’ve done things like Whole30, a month of yoga, a Paleo diet, running every day, etc. On the cleaning side, we go through and Marie Kondo our entire house. Since it’s only a month, we ask our friends for suggestions on the latest health and lifestyle trends and incorporate them into our Cleanuary experiment. It’s much less daunting than the “stick- to-a-resolution-for-a-whole-year,” and sometimes little habits will emerge that change our lives beyond the month. For example, we eat much less sugar now than we used to, we learned to love black coffee, and we live with less stuff.

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

    Julie: I don’t have a particular favorite saying or motto, but in starting my blog, one of the quotes I happened upon was from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass: "I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.” I liked it because it carried the whimsy of Wonderland, and also because it suggested growth—that every day we can learn and change and become better. I ended up calling my blog “The Looking Glass” because I wanted it to be a reflection of my personal growth.

    Gretchen: Has a book ever changed your life—if so, which one and why?

    Julie: This one is easy. Mindset by Carol Dweck. I grew up as a perfectionist with the notion that there was a “correct” or “best” way to do everything. I believed life was a series of tests where you tried your best to achieve that “best” way. When I read Mindset, I was stunned to discover that this mentality had a name—fixed mindset—and was an incredibly limiting way to think about the world. The alternative mindset was growth mindset, which meant adopting the stance that there is no such thing as perfect. Everything can be improved with will and effort. This was so powerful to read and completely changed my perspective on how I approach failure, how I give or receive feedback, how willing I am to take on new challenges. Every day, I see examples of tension or lack of confidence in the workplace, and so much of it boils down to people’s mindsets. Recognizing and addressing this is something I talk a lot about in The Making of a Manager.

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

    Julie: The Making of a Manager is about management, so here’s one of the biggest misconceptions: that managers know all the answers. This is a huge fallacy, and makes many early career managers feel secretly inadequate or come to the table with a case of savior’s complex. A manager’s job is to help a group of people get to an answer, not to know everything herself. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know, but let’s figure it out together.” It’s okay to express vulnerability. In my experience, doing so wins you more credibility and nets you a stronger team effort than pretending like you’ve got that perfect master plan.

     
  • gretchenrubin 09:00:10 on 2019/03/12 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , ,   

    How Clearing Clutter Can Help You Lose Weight, If That’s Something You’d Like to Do. 


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    I've thought a lot about happiness and good habits. In my books The Happiness Project, Happier at Home, and Better Than Before, I explore what actions we might take to make ourselves happier—and how we can shape our habits to help us actually do those actions.

    One habit that many people would like to follow? They'd like to eat more healthfully. People have many reasons to want to do this—to manage their blood sugar, to avoid food sensitivities, to cultivate their cooking skills, and for many people, to lose weight. (You may argue that people should eat healthfully for good health, and not frame this issue about "weight." That's true for many people. I'm not saying a person should do this—however, I talk to a lot of people about the habits they want to form and why, and many people do indeed report that they want to lose weight.)

    Another habit that people would like to adopt? They'd like to maintain outer order more consistently. As I write about in Outer Order, Inner Calm, for most people, to a surprising degree, outer order contributes to a feeling of inner calm, inner energy, a sense of possibility.

    And, I've noticed, these two habits often go together. Not necessarily for rational reasons, but in practice, I've observed (in other people and in myself), when we get our stuff under control, we feel in more control of ourselves, our actions, and our bodies.

    As odd as it sounds, cleaning out your coat closet can make it easier to avoid the vending machine at work. Good habits build on each other. Outer order builds a feeling of inner self-command.

    How can you harness this connection between outer order, eating healthfully, and losing weight? Consider...

    Close the kitchen.

    One common eating challenge for many people is nightly snacking. Dinner is over, but around 9:00 p.m. we wander through the kitchen, eating a handful of this or that. Or at 11:00 p.m., we find ourselves spooning ice cream out of the container, or peanut butter out of the jar (my husband's favorite treat).

    To help end this, close the kitchen. Put everything away properly, with no open bags on the counter or half-covered dishes in the fridge; close the drawers and cabinets; wipe the counters; turn off the lights. If your kitchen has a door, close the door.

    By creating an orderly, closed kitchen, you help signal yourself, "Eating time is over for the day." It feels odd to go back in there, and it discourages you from just "looking around." Bonus: brush your teeth.

    Create outer order to harness the power of the Strategy of Inconvenience.

    If a bag of potato chips is sitting open on the counter, it's a lot easier to reach in and grab just a few—and then keep going. If the bag of chips has a clip to keep the bag tightly closed and is sitting behind a cabinet door on a high shelf, it's much easier to resist. Research shows that to a hilarious degree, we're very influenced by the slightest bit of inconvenience or convenience. Along the same lines...

    Use outer order to put things out of view.

    When we see something, we think about it. When we don't see it, it's easier to forget that it's even there. So if you've baked cookies for your kids to take to school, box them up and put the box out of sight right away. If you leave the box out on the counter, you're more likely to keep reaching in. If you're worried that your child will forget to take the cookies if they aren't right by the door, put the box in a plastic bag and knot the bag shut, so you can't see them, and you'd have to rip open the plastic bag to get to the box. Then put the bag with the cookies by the door.

    Do not expect that you'll be inspired to eat more healthfully by keeping clothes that no longer fit.

    Very often, when people go through their closets, they find clothes that no longer fit. These items haven't been worn in years, but people hang on to them, to signal to themselves, "One day I'll be back to that size, and then I'll wear these things again."

    Giving these clothes away seems like an admission that this change will never happen.

    In my observation, the presence of these clothes doesn't help people eat better. If you want to eat better, work on that! My book Better Than Before is crammed with ideas to help you change your eating habits. But the guilt and anxiety—not to mention the crowded closet—created by these unwearable items doesn't help. Their presence acts as a discouraging drain, not a helpful spur.

    When I'm helping a friend to go through a closet, and we run into this issue, here's what I say—and it really works.

    I say, "Imagine the day when those clothes fit again. Do you think you'll feel like wearing these jeans that have sitting on the shelf for years, unworn? Or do you think you'll want to buy some new jeans?"

    This is a hopeful prospect. And it's true! This thought often allows people to give away those clothes.

    Clear clutter to help make you feel lighter.

    It's interesting: over and over, when people get rid of things they don't need, don't use, or don't love, and create outer order, they say, "I feel as if I've lost ten pounds." That's the simile that comes up over and over again. Outer order creates a feeling of lightness, of greater ease and freedom—people literally feel like a weight has lifted off their bodies. So if you're feeling weighed down or burdened, clearing clutter can be a way to create a feeling of lift and energy in your mind—one that will actually energize your body. And that feeling of energy, in turn, will make it easier to stick to good habits. (That's the Strategy of Foundation.)

    How about you? Have you experienced a connection between outer order and healthy eating?

     
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