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  • feedwordpress 10:00:14 on 2018/06/28 Permalink
    Tags: Alex Salkever, , technology, Vivek Wadhwa,   

    “Reading Is the Best Habit for Lifelong Learning, and It Helps with Other Skills like Concentration and Meditation.” 


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    Interview: Vivek Wadhwa and Alex Salkever.

    Vivek Wadhwa is a Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering, has written several books and been a columnist for Fortune, the Washington Post and other noted publications.

    Alex Salkever is an author and technology executive who formerly served as technology editor at BusinessWeek and as a visiting researcher at Duke University. He advises technology companies on product, strategy and marketing and is a regular columnist for Fortune.

    The two paired up to write the book The Driver in the Driverless Car: How Our Technology Choices Can Change the Future.

    Now they've teamed up again to write a new book: Your Happiness Was Hacked: Why Tech Is Winning the Battle to Control Your Brain--and How to Fight Back.

    In it, they examine the question of how technology influences our thoughts and behaviors. They focus on the four key areas of Love, Work, Self, and Society and document problems caused by technology--and then suggest strategies to take back control of technology.

    I was eager to hear from Alex and Vivek about happiness, habits, and productivity.

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

    Alex: This may sound strange, but doing the dishes! It’s a structured activity and I have a specific way of doing it that gives me some comfort. Every dish type has its place. And I have a routine around washing dishes - the small spoons go in the same basket, the desert bowls fit into the upper rack on right. More conventionally, I love going walking or jogging in the redwood forest near my house. If I am close to an ocean, I try to go surfing to clear my head. It’s my passion. I sometimes get my best ideas out there. And I can honestly say I have never gotten out of the water less happy than when I got into the water. In general, it's a question I ask - do I feel happier and more fulfilled after I do something. If the answer is consistently “No” then I try to curtail that activity. If the answer is “Yes!” I try to do more of that activity.

    Vivek: For me, going for a hike and getting off the grid is really crucial in keeping me healthy and productive. I also meditate daily to slow down my brain, which naturally runs at a really high speed. I make sure to spend some time every week disconnected and on a trail. And there is the question of happiness: spending as much time as possible with family is the best route for me.

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

    Alex: Don’t beat up on yourself if you don’t succeed in building healthy habits. Establishing and maintaining healthy habits is very hard, really a lifelong process that never stops. But make sure the habits you prioritize the highest and work the hardest to fulfill are the ones that make you happiest. When I was living in Hawaii as a recent college graduate, I made it a priority to get in the water and go surfing at least five days per week. I was often busy building a writing career which eventually took me to BusinessWeek and into books. But come 4 pm, I was in the water and to this day some of my happiest memories are with me. That lesson - prioritize what is the most important - is something I wish I had known when I was very young. I would have worried a lot less and probably had more fun.

    Vivek: You should follow your heart. It is easy to follow your mind or your hunger, but that little voice inside guides you on practically everything if you listen to it. This comes into play the most in happiness, when you are having to make decisions about what is right and wrong. There are choices we have to make every day that need to be based on our values.

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

    Alex: Oh, definitely. Compulsively checking texts. In the book, I write about how I almost killed a group of cyclists while texting and driving on this dangerous coastal highway north of San Francisco. It was the stupidest thing. How could I risk so much just to read a text? But I’m not that different than tens of millions of people. (I’ve since set a new habit of putting my phone away when I get behind the wheel). I get distracted by shiny objects on the internet and have to work hard to stay focused. I struggle to not check email and read random news on the internet (usually on Hacker News). And I have to work hard to put down the smartphone and leave it alone, or in a drawer. I can honestly say my technology addiction is my worst bad habit - it pushes me towards doing the “urgent” or tackling the “noisy” task rather than working on what’s really important. I never met anyone who said they wish they had spent more time answering emails or looking at pictures on Facebook. And I personally find the less time I spend with technology, the more happy I am (to a certain point - I need technology to earn a living, of course).

    Vivek: I’m like Alex. I had a heart attack a few years ago driven in part by my technology-induced stress levels (I write about that in the book). So I have to work hard to disconnect and not feel like I need to respond to things quickly. I’ve gotten much better at it, though, and have built some systems around it. Like I don’t even bother to check voice mails a lot of the time and I post to social media but I don’t read that much on social media; it’s not the best use of time. Technology really is an addiction, that you have to manage--and overcome!

    Gretchen: Which habits are most important to you?

    Alex: Spending time with my children. I try to do it every day, for at least a few hours. Usually playing sports or talking. Reading is next. I think that reading is the best habit for lifelong learning and it helps with other skills like concentration and meditation.

    Vivek: Meditation and mindfulness.

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

    Alex: A healthy habit I started a year ago that has stuck is running in the morning when I wake up. It was a hard one to get going. I like running but am not really a morning person. I also have a bad habit of staying up late to read and sometimes I get creative inspiration at night. I’m not a night owl but I’m not a lark, either. I did a few things. First, I started laying out my running clothes - socks, shorts, shoes, t-shirt - every evening before I went to bed. That removed a mental barrier which may seem insignificant but actually was a key obstacle. I am a time counter so if it took me five minutes to gather my clothes, in my mind I would subtract five minutes from my running time and sometimes that took me below the threshold of where it was worthwhile to run. Second, I would write down a mini activity diary for the next day and would list in the “Exercise” section the run I planned. This was both an affirmation and a commitment. Third, I switched my running routine to places where I love to run. There are a few trails near my house that go through forests of oak, laurel and redwoods and one stunning trail down to the Pacific Ocean past hills of wildflowers. It takes a few minutes extra to drive to those trailheads. I don’t have enough time to get to them by running and get to work. But running in those beautiful places makes it so much more pleasurable that it feels like a real reward. Lastly, after my run I would stop at my favorite coffee shop and buy an Americano, my favorite coffee drink. By putting these pieces together - planning and reward - it helped me turn a resolution into a pretty robust habit that’s stuck for a year.

    Vivek: I try to switch off all technology by 9 PM and get to bed by 10 PM. And then I wake as early as I can. It is easy to watch late shows and stay connected, but early to bed and early to rise is the best habit of all.

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

    Vivek: According to the quiz, I am a Questioner. I won’t dispute this!

    Alex: The quiz results describe me as a “Questioner” and parts of that definitely make sense. I crave perfect information and am a perfectionist in many realms. I also think I have parts of Rebel and Obliger in me. I really don’t like getting bossed around and told what to do. I definitely resist external expectations and relish the role of non-traditionalist. I have trouble working for people I don’t respect. But I am an “Obliger” too in that sometimes I struggle to advocate for myself and I may coddle my children and my employees to much. I respect and prioritize my duties to others over what might make me happier and saner. But at least with family, I think that’s the only way to live - family comes first.

    Gretchen: Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits or to stay happy?

    Alex: I would say lack of sleep is the biggest problem. Everything else breaks down when I get less than six hours and less than seven is not great either. You can ask my wife. I am more likely to get angry, to get depressed, to say silly things. I am less patient. I have trouble eating healthy and sticking to exercise regimes. Sleep is the linchpin. I only realized this, ironically, after I left a heavy-duty job as a vice president at Mozilla, where I was expected to be always on. That meant never enough sleep. Once I left and took some time off, for the first time since college I made it a point to get enough sleep. It was like a light went on. I could actually feel the difference between six and seven hours, and see how negatively it affected my day.

    Vivek: It is always sleep that is the problem!

    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?

    Vivek: I’ll take this one. I was on a family vacation, a cruise in Mexico. I was a startup CEO and constantly checking in on work via email. On the cruise I couldn’t get any internet access and it was killing me! Literally, I found out. I started to get some chest pains. At first I ignored them. As I climbed the pyramid of Chichén Itzá, in the Mayan ruins on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, the pains became increasingly severe, and I began to feel nauseous. The views were stupendous. People dreamed for their whole lives of visiting this location and walking up these steps. Yet, amid the majesty of one of the greatest civilizations ever, my mind was on….when I can check my email? On the flight home, the chest pains and nausea turned into a shooting electric current in my left arm. My wife Tavinder insisted we go straight to the doctor. I said, no, I needed to go home and check email. Fortunately, my wife prevailed. We landed and drove straight to the hospital. I literally blacked out as he entered the emergency room, and sat propped up in a wheelchair while they registered me. My next memory was of waking up after lifesaving surgery for a massive heart attack. Had I waited another hour or two, my doctors said, I would have been dead. None of my emails would have mattered. That day woke me up and I decided to leave the world of startups and become an academic and teacher - to teach and assist others rather than try to make money as my primary goal. It was the best decision I have ever made.

    Alex: My story pales next to Vivek’s. For me, it was reading a website that tallied up how many times you will see your parents before they die. The number was a lot less than I had imagined it would be - my parents live on the East Coast. And I started doing the math on how many times I would see all my dear friends. It was very sobering. I vowed from that day to prioritize relationships and spending time with people over anything else in my life. I bailed on corporate America (I may go back, but only on my terms) and created a life where I spend time every day with my children and my wife, and see my parents and friends more. I’ve been much happier since I made these changes.

    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?

    Alex: “Put yourself in their shoes.” It helps me focus on empathy and stop thinking about myself.

    Vivek: Always give more than you take.

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:37 on 2018/02/06 Permalink
    Tags: Anya Kamenetz, , , technology   

    “I Can Be Critical, Yet Also Defensive (I Can Dish It Out, But I Can’t Take It.)” 


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    Interview: Anya Kamenetz.

    I got to know Anya Kamenetz through a writers' group to which we both belong. Among other subjects, such as education and student debt, she writes about something that's of deep interest to just about everyone in the world today -- how to use technology to make our lives happier, healthier, more productive and more creative, and not to let it get in the way of those aims.

    Technology is a good servant but a bad master -- so how do we master it?

    Her new book just hit the shelves: The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life.

    This is an issue many parents face -- how to think about and manage children and screens. One of her great conclusions for how to think about screens: "Enjoys screens. Not too much. Mostly with others."

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

    Gretchen: You’ve done fascinating research. What’s the most significant thing you’ve concluded?

    Anya: I think we're going to look back on this first decade-plus of the smartphone era and it's going to be like smoking, or riding in the car without a seatbelt, or drunk driving. Like, WHAT were people thinking? And there's going to be a massive citizen movement, public health interventions, and maybe some litigation before things get better.

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

    Anya: I don't regularly meditate, but I stop and take deep belly breaths throughout the day, especially before I pick up the phone, go into a situation that makes me anxious, or go to bed at night.

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

    Anya: You don't have to be friends with people who don't make you feel good. The world is full of plenty of wonderful people who will love you and want to spend time with you.

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

    Anya: A habit I started after doing research for The Art of Screen Time was to keep my phone out of the bedroom. Sleep researchers believe that some of the worst problems we see in children and adults in connection with technology, from obesity to anxiety, stem from excess exposure to blue light interfering with melatonin production. I also watch less TV than I used to, limiting my screen time overall.

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

    Anya: I'm a Questioner all the way.

    Gretchen: Have you figured out any strategies to help harness the strengths of your Tendency – or to offset the weaknesses or limitations of your Tendency?

    Anya: I have to do tons of research before I commit to a strategy for self-improvement, and it also helps if I have others with whom I can discuss ideas for positive change--not necessarily to hold each other accountable but to stay inspired.

    Gretchen: What’s a complaint that others often make about you? What’s your response to that? (e.g., you’re too rigid, you ask too many questions, you never take time for yourself, you never listen.)

    Anya: I can be critical, yet also defensive (I can dish it out, but I can't take it.) What often seems to help is to shift the conversation into a problem-solving mode, so that it's less about blame for what's happened in the past and more about how we can both make it better in the future (whether that's a hug or a new family or work habit to follow).

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

    Anya: Since 2016 the biggest interference has been an adorable baby girl who gave me insomnia as a fetus, didn't sleep through the night as an infant and as a toddler likes to start her day at 4 or 5 in the morning.

    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.?

    Anya: I was a week overdue with the aforementioned baby, completely miserable, watching the runners of the New York City Marathon stream by in my neighborhood in Brooklyn. I suddenly said to myself, "Next year, you'll be running that course!" And, I did!

    Gretchen: I would also, of course, shine a spotlight on anything that you’d particularly like to bring to readers’ attention.

    Anya: I want people to know that they don't have to feel guilt or shame about their own or their kids' tech habits, but it's important to start talking about what is and isn't working so we can make changes.

     
  • gretchenrubin 13:00:04 on 2017/10/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , technology, Tim O'Reilly,   

    The Future and Why We Should “Work on Stuff that Matters.” 


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    Interview: Tim O'Reilly.

    Tim O'Reilly is the founder and head of O'Reilly Media. Of all the people writing and speaking about the interrelated issues of emerging technology, media, work, and government, he is one of the most thoughtful and far-sighed.

    His new book just hit the shelves. WTF: What's the Future and Why It's Up to Us is a combination of memoir, business strategy guide, and call to action related to the future of technology -- and the future of all of us.

    I was interested to hear his views on habits, happiness, productivity, and creativity.

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

    Tim: Every morning, before I plunge into work, checking my devices and getting pulled into the digital whirl, I do some yoga or go running, and do morning chores -- feeding my backyard chickens, emptying the dishwasher, hanging the laundry that I ran overnight, making tea for my wife and for myself. I treat morning chores as a kind of meditation. Hanging laundry on the line is especially like that for me. It's a wonderful practice that saves energy, makes clothes last longer, and gives me a chance to watch the sunrise over my back yard.

    The clothesline is also the subject of one of my favorite poems, Richard Wilbur's "Love Calls Us to the Things of This World" and one of my favorite thought pieces, Steve Baer's "The Clothesline Paradox." Back in 1970, Baer described how in our metrics-obsessed society, we ignore what we can't measure. When we put our clothes in the dryer, our collective electric bill goes a bit higher. When we put them on the line, we don't say "look, a win for renewable energy." It just disappears from our accounting.

    I've used this wonderful thought experiment over the years to talk about the economic value of open source software and internet enabled collaboration, and more recently, in my book WTF? What's the Future and Why It's Up to Us, as a way of talking about how we might get to a "caring economy" in which machines do more of the routine work, and what humans do to care for each other becomes more deeply valued.

    Lots of folks are worried about robots and the "jobless" future. I'm worried that we won't use the fruits of machine productivity to give people more freedom to spend their time caring for each other, being creative, and yes, getting work done (though not necessarily through the limiting 19th century construct of the job, as something provided by someone else.)

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

    Tim: There are a lot of things you learn as you get older, most of them having to do with the interrelated values of discipline and moderation. Irving Yalom once wrote "First will what is necessary. Then love what you will." This is incredibly good life advice. Decide what you need to do, make a habit of it, and come to love it rather than resent it. That applies to the habits of householding, to exercise and diet, to work, and to taking the time to reach out to friends and family. It is so easy to be full of resentment against the things that we feel are keeping us from our joy. Finding joy in what needs doing is magical.

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

    Tim: Being tethered to a phone or the internet. When I am out of cell range, or leave my phone at home, I feel unaccountably freer. I don't realize how much the simple presence of the device pulls on me until it is out of reach.

    I have been thinking more and more about setting out big blocks of time when I put it deliberately out of reach.

    I remember vividly when I first had this experience, around 1984. I had my first internet-connected Unix workstation in my home office. Unlike a PC, which you tended to turn off when you were done. This was always on, always connected. My office was in a converted barn next to my house, and I could feel it calling to me. Everyone now lives with devices all the time, and they are changing us in ways we don't entirely understand.

    Clay Johnson gave some good advice years ago in a book called The Information Diet, which turned out to be quite prescient. He urged his readers to manage their information intake, and to take the time to produce thoughtful content, rather than just mindlessly sucking it in.

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

    Tim: In addition to my aforementioned morning routine, probably the most important habit is one that I had dropped for some time in favor of time with my phone, but which has now regained its place in my life, with great results: reading books. Sustained time with another mind rather than constant media snacking is so important!

    Poetry is one of the joys of my life. There are more tools for living in a good poem than most people realize. When I was going through a midlife crisis, I found enormous guidance in T. S. Eliot's "East Coker," which is a poem about the necessity for things to be torn down so that something new can be built.

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

    Tim: I ran in high school, and at a few times after that, but I'd lost it as a regular habit. What brought it back was doing it together with my fiancé (now my wife). Working together to maintain good habits is incredibly powerful. 

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

    Tim: When I took the test, I came out as a Questioner, but I find myself with so many elements of the others. In my personal life, I'm a strong Obliger. In my public life, definitely a Questioner. In my business, a mix of questioner and upholder. I even find streaks of Rebel, which mostly comes out when I find myself "bitten to death by ducks"--beleaguered by constant requests for attention from my over-extended network. [Yes, this response absolutely confirms that you are a Questioner.]

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

    Tim: Travel definitely makes it harder to avoid eating too much, especially when it's coupled with business meals. One "hack" that my wife and I have used to reduce this burden is to share a single meal whenever possible. Restaurant portions are so large!

    As to exercise, it's important to make time for it even when you travel. So I always bring exercise clothes with me. And if it's possible, I try to incorporate exercise - and not necessarily vigorous exercise, but just movement - into my daily routine. On my recent trip to New York City, I used Citibike (bike share) or walking to get to all of my appointments. I try to do that at home as well. And if I can do a "walking meeting" that is almost always preferable to sitting around a table.

    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.?

    Tim: Absolutely. Around 2010, I read a line in a novel, Pascal Mercier's Night Train to Lisbon, that set off a mid-life crisis, and led me to change my life in major ways. "Given that we can live only a small part of what there is in us, what happens to the rest?" This really struck a nerve. When I was a kid reading science fiction, I thought that I would one day write a book that involved a character who was able to live out the consequence of different life choices, different branching futures, rather than being stuck with the consequences of a single choice. Living in another country for a while can give you this kind of completely new experience, or changing your job. It's so easy to get into ruts, and forget how to let go. The year before I read that, I kept having a line from the Tao Te Ching keep going through my head, but I didn't know what it meant: "Keep stretching the bow, you repent of the pull." I didn't realize how stretched thin I was by the constant demands of work, and this odd new compulsion to feed a social media following on Twitter. That was the beginning of my wrestling with the social media sickness that has pervaded so much of our society.

    Don't get me wrong. I love social media for the ways it lets me keep in touch with people. But in the same way that abundance of calories and a lack of exercise can make us fat, an abundance of empty social calories and lack of vigorous mental exercise and true social contact can make our minds and our feelings flabby and lacking in lustre.

    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?

    Tim: There are so many. I am full of quotations that spring to mind on every occasion. But I want to share the goal that animates us at my company, O'Reilly Media: "Create more value than you capture."

    At a company management retreat around 2000, I remember telling the stories of several internet billionaires who'd told me they'd started their company with the aid of an O'Reilly technical book. We got $35, they got $Billions. That seemed like a wonderful thing -- that the work we did could have such an impact on other people's lives. Brian Erwin, then our VP of marketing, said our slogan ought to be "We create more value than we capture." We've been using it ever since, though as a call to action rather than a self-description.

    Another similar sentiment that I've use to shape my company has been widely posterized on the internet:  "Money in a business is like gas in your car. You don't want to run out, but your business is not a tour of gas stations." And of course that ties to another one of my mantras: "Work on stuff that matters."

    We really try to live by these principles in our business decision making at O'Reilly, and our economy would be better off if everyone did the same. In my book, WTF? What's the Future and Why It's Up to Us, I share lessons from the great technology platforms. There's a lot in there about how AI, and on demand networks, and other technologies are reshaping the business landscape, the economy, and the future of work, but there are also lessons about generosity that I've taken from watching the rise and fall of technology platforms. New waves of innovation that I've been part of -- the personal computer industry, open source software, the internet, the maker movement, even AI -- have been kicked off through a gift to the world. IBM published the specifications for their personal computer, and let anyone build one. Tim Berners-Lee put the web into the public domain. But then I've watched again and again as companies come along, gain control of the new technology, dry up the innovation, taking too much of the value for themselves and forcing entrepreneurs to go elsewhere. Right now, Google and Facebook and Apple are following in the footsteps of Microsoft, learning none of the lessons that brought Microsoft down from its peak of control over the industry.

    Those same lessons apply to our broader economy. Our financial markets have become extractive rather than a support for the real market of goods and services. "Investment" no longer means investing in people or factories. It means placing bets on stocks, and trying to manipulate them so they go higher, whether or not any value has been created. When Carl Icahn bought $3.6 billion in Apple stock, Apple didn't need his money. They had billions on hand. He was hoping to get them to do stock buybacks to artificially drive up the price, in fact extracting value from Apple rather than creating it.

    This is what's wrong with our economy writ large. "Investors" are not really investors. They are bettors in the financial market casino, while the world's great problems -- and the people who could be solving them -- are no longer seen as the proper focus for investment. We have told our companies to optimize for "the bottom line," while treating people as a cost to be eliminated. It doesn't have to be that way. We can build an economy that treats people as an asset to invest in.

    I think that we're in a wonderful teachable moment because of what is happening with Facebook. People can see that Facebook created newsfeed algorithms that didn't quite do what Mark Zuckerberg and his team expected. They thought that by showing people more of what they liked and re-shared with their friends, they'd create an engaging social platform that reinforced the connections between people. They didn't expect that it would increase hyper-partisanship, and that spammers and foreign governments would exploit the system. We can see that they need to fix their system. In a similar way, the economists whose theories shaped business and politics didn't mean to create an opioid epidemic, but they did. When, in 1970, Milton Friedman said that the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits, and when, a few years later, Michael Jensen began to preach the gospel of shareholder value maximization and the need to align executive compensation with rising stock prices, they didn’t mean to create the devastation they wreaked on the economy, but it’s time to recognize it.

    I believe that we can create an economy where people matter.

     
  • feedwordpress 17:33:49 on 2016/11/23 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , Manoush Zomorodi, Note to Self, , , technology,   

    Podcast 92: Leave Something Unsaid, an Interview with Manoush Zomorodi, and a Retroactive Demerit. 


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    manoushwithdevice

    It’s time for the next installment of  Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

    Update: In episode 75, two listeners asked how to help their Rebel sweethearts land a job, and one reported back — job secured! Which is terrific.

    Side note: If you’re going to give one of my books as a holiday gift, and you’d like to request a personalized, signed bookplate or signature card to make the present more special, request it here — U.S. and Canada only, sorry, mailing costs.

    Try This at Home: Leave something unsaid.

    Just to be clear — we’re not saying that we should never have important, difficult, uncomfortable conversations, but rather that we’re happier when we mindfully choose the time and place to have that discussion.

    Happiness Hack: If it’s important to someone that you eat a lot when you’re eating at this person’s house, take a tiny first portion so you can take “seconds.”

    Interview: Manoush Zomorodi, the host and managing editor of the terrific podcast Note to Self — “the tech show about being human.”

    We talk about the Abstainer/Moderator split. Again. And the Four Tendencies framework — the quiz is here, if you want to find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel.

    Manoush’s Try This at Home is to single-task.

    Gretchen’s Demerit: I give myself a retroactive demerit for emailing people over the weekend, without hesitation, for the past few decades. Lesson learned. I now use “Delay Delivery.”

    Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth’s weight-training trainer pushed her to do 200 pounds even though it was a tough morning.

    If you want easy instructions about how to rate or review the podcast, look here.

    Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page to continue the conversation from the podcast — usually on Tuesdays at 3:00 pm ET. To join the conversation, check the schedule.

    As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

    Check out Smith and Noble, the solution for beautiful window treatments. Go to smithandnoble.com/happier for 25% off window treatments and a free in-home design consultation.

    Also check out Texture. Get access to all your favorite magazines — including back issues and bonus video content — in one super-convenient place. Try the app Texture for free by going to Texture.com/happier.

    And check out Olive and Cocoa. Surprise someone you love with a meaningful gift today. Go to OliveandCocoa.com/happier to see gift options specifically chosen for our listeners — and for a limited time, you’ll get 10% off your purchase.

    1pix

    1pix

    1pix

    We love hearing from listeners:

     

    To sign up for my free monthly newsletter, text me at 66866 and enter the word (surprise) “happier.“ Or click here.

    If you enjoyed the podcast, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Click here to tell your friends on Twitter.

    Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

    How to Subscribe

    If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really.  To listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

    Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen to the award-winning Happier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much.

    HAPPIER listening!

    The post Podcast 92: Leave Something Unsaid, an Interview with Manoush Zomorodi, and a Retroactive Demerit. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • feedwordpress 21:00:44 on 2016/11/16 Permalink
    Tags: apps, , , , , entertaining, Games, guests, , , , , , , , , , , , technology, , ,   

    Podcast 91: Delete a Soul-Sucking App, and a Deep Dive into Happier 911 Songs 


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    candy-crush

    It’s time for the next installment of  Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

    NOTE: This episode was recorded before Election Day 2016, which is why Elizabeth and I don’t mention it. The election has been unusually emotional and contentious. As with any milestone moment, it provides an opportunity for us to reflect about our own values, and how we can serve the highest ideals of our country and ourselves.

    Update: Elizabeth and I discuss the site Longitude Books: Recommended Reading for Travelers, where you can find books related to your travels.

    Try This at Home: Amy suggests “Delete or disable soul-sucking, productivity-depleting, creativity-sapping apps.”

    If you want to hear the episode where Elizabeth and I discuss our “preciousssssss,” it’s episode 17.  We picked up this term from The Lord of the Rings. Whenever Gollum refers to the ring, he calls it “my precious.” “Losst it is, my precious, lost, lost! Curse us and crush us, my precious is lost!“ Want to see a ten-second clip of Gollum talking about his precious, from The Lord of the Rings movie The Two Towers? It’s here.

    We talk about the Abstainer/Moderator distinction — you can read more here.

    What app is your precioussss app?

    Happiness Hack for the Holidays:  Make homemade place-cards.

    Deep Dive into Happiness 911 Songs: To hear the Happiness 911 songs, the link is here, or you can search for “Happier 911” on Spotify. Currently more than 400 songs — that’s more than 26 hours of happy music.

    Elizabeth’s  Demerit: Elizabeth hasn’t been going to the mindfulness class at her son’s school, even though she found it so helpful last year.

    Gretchen’s Gold Star: Eleanor’s teacher took the time to send a positive progress notice.

    If you want easy instructions about how to rate or review the podcast, look here.

    Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page to continue the conversation from the podcast — usually on Tuesdays at 3:00 pm ET. To join the conversation, check the schedule.

    1pix

    As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

    Sign up for The Great Courses Plus today and you’ll get a month of unlimited access to thousands of fascinating lectures taught by top professors and experts in their fields. Try it free for one month when  you sign up at www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/happier.

    Also check out Stamps.com. Want to avoid trips to the post office, and buy and print official U.S. postage for any letter or package, right from your own computer and printer? Visit Stamps.com to sign up for a 4-week trial, plus a $110 bonus offer — just enter the promo code HAPPIER.

    And check out Olive and Cocoa. Surprise someone you love with a meaningful gift today. Go to OliveandCocoa.com/happier to see gift options specifically chosen for our listeners — and for a limited time, you’ll get 10% off your purchase.

    1pix

    1pix

    We love hearing from listeners:

     

    To sign up for my free monthly newsletter, text me at 66866 and enter the word (surprise) “happier.“ Or click here.

    If you enjoyed the podcast, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Click here to tell your friends on Twitter.

    Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

    How to Subscribe

    If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really.  To listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

    Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen to the award-winning Happier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much.

    HAPPIER listening!

    The post Podcast 91: Delete a Soul-Sucking App, and a Deep Dive into Happier 911 Songs appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • feedwordpress 00:24:09 on 2016/09/30 Permalink
    Tags: Alexander Hamilton, , , , Jeff Wilser, , technology, ,   

    “I Physically Put My iPhone in a Different Room. Sometimes Under Lock and Key.” 


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    wilser

    Interview: Jeff Wilser.

    I forget how I got to know Jeff Wilser, but when we met for coffee, he mentioned that he had an idea for a book about Alexander Hamilton — something fun, and also very informative. I told him that I thought his idea sounded terrific; this was even before I saw the Broadway show Hamilton, and now that I’ve seen the show — and loved it as much as everybody else — I think Jeff’s idea was even more terrific.

    Well, he did write that book, and it just hit the shelves: Alexander’s Hamilton’s Guide to Life. It’s a book that manages to convey lots of information and big ideas with a light touch.

    I was very interested in what Jeff had to say about Hamilton; I also wanted to hear what he had to say about habits and happiness.

    Gretchen: Which habits are most important to you?

    Jeff: Sticking to a reading schedule.  Everyone enjoys “reading,” but I’ve found that without a strict schedule, and without iron discipline, my reading habits quickly fade into oblivion. So I have a very concrete and nerdy plan: I aim to read a book a week. Sometimes two books in a week, sometimes three, sometimes 0, but at the end of the year, I need to have read at least 52 books. (I envy those super speedy readers who can devour books in one sitting; my speed is average at best.) The game of 52 books in 52 weeks becomes something of a puzzle, where to squeeze in, say, a 900-page biography, I’ll read maybe two short Graham Greene novels.  I’ve found that this habit—of obsessing over the schedule, even tracking it in a spreadsheet—keeps me focused on books and makes me a better reader.

    What about writing habits?

    I need to write first thing in the morning. I need to do this before I fuss around with anything else.  Before email, before housekeeping, before research, before tweaking my fantasy football lineup.  That’s how I wrote Alexander Hamilton’s Guide to Life.  First thing in the morning, every morning, I wrote for several hours and only then, later in the day, would I pivot to reading and research.

    What gets in the way of your healthy habits?

    I’m easily distracted. True, everyone says that they’re easily distracted, but in my case it’s so extreme it’s cartoonish.  Sometimes I can’t even read a single news article without re-checking twitter or my email 5 different times—not an exaggeration.  The siren song of the internet always gets in the way…especially when writing.  At times it’s crippling.

    So what’s your hack for this?

    I remove the internet from the equation. I use Freedom, a program on my Mac, to disable any connection to the internet. But that’s not enough—I also physically put my iPhone in a different room, sometimes under lock and key.

    What’s a simple habit that consistently makes you happier?

    The morning cup of coffee. It’s essential.  When I traveled to India for two weeks, at the risk of being an Ugly American, I lugged pouches of instant coffee.  If I were ever sent to prison, this is the thing I would miss the most. (Besides not getting shivved.)

    What about habits do you wish your 18-year-old self knew?

    Ladies are not always super thrilled with the habit of playing video games.

    What habits do you wish you had?

    I wish I was in the habit of speaking on the phone. I broke the habit many, many years ago, and now when the phone rings, I panic.  It doesn’t matter who it is—my family, my best friends in the world—the phone trips me out.   I thought about creating a new habit where, every day, I had to place one outgoing phone call. But that seemed too daunting so I tweaked it to once a week…and that still seemed too daunting.  Someday soon I will try and instill this new habit. Maybe tomorrow. Or next week.

    Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you changed a major habit very suddenly?

     This might count as cheating, but I’ve adopted some habits very quickly for writing assignments. And I LOVE IT. One time I ate only junk food for 30 days (and lost 11 pounds…the secret was calorie counting.) One time I went on a juice cleanse. Or went vegan.  Even if the habits don’t stick long-term, a sudden immersion into a new habit gives perspective, challenges your old norms, and gets you to recalibrate your life a little. I’m a big fan of Habit Hopping.

    Do you embrace habits or resist them?

     Habits are what make me tick.  When I get on a good habit groove then I’m firing on all cylinders, and when my habits lapse everything else seems to crumble.  Inertia is a powerful thing.

     Has another person ever had a big influence on your habits?

    I’ll have to go with the obvious one here: Alexander Hamilton.  It’s a cliche to hear that you need to work really hard, but that’s exactly what he did, from a very young age, and it’s my belief that these habits of his, more than genetics, are what made him great.  He made it a point to read every day. He constantly scribbled notes in a journal. He collected facts and quotes and useful arguments. It looks like genius from the outside, but really it was the result of hard work and, well, excellent habits.  That’s one of the entries in the book: “Turn Grit into Genius.”

    The post “I Physically Put My iPhone in a Different Room. Sometimes Under Lock and Key.” appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:23 on 2016/08/03 Permalink
    Tags: cell phone, happiness hack, hot sauce, , , , , , technology   

    Podcast 76: Write Your Manifesto, Bring Your Own Condiments, the Challenges of Being Distracted by Your Phone and Picking a Wedding Reading. 


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    It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

    1pixUpdate: Elizabeth found a very worthless item in her kitchen. Sorry–she sent me a photo of it, and now I can’t find it anywhere.

    Try This at Home: Write your own manifesto. If you want to read my Habits Manifesto or my Happiness Manifesto, just email me at podcast @ gretchenrubin dot com, and I’ll send you a copy.

    Happiness Hack: Bring your own condiments. Helen, who inspired Elizabeth with this hack, recommends Yellowbird Sauce and Maldon Sea Salt Flakes.

    Happiness Stumbling Block: Feeling distracted by your phone.

    Listener Question: Sarah asks for suggestions for great wedding readings. Do you have a recommendation?

    Gretchen’s combo Demerit and Gold Star: On a long car trip, I earned a gold star by doing the research ahead to identify a great podcast for us to listen to, which was Limetown;  I earned a demerit for being very short-tempered while driving (which often happens to me in the car, for reason I explain in my book Happier at Home).

    Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page about the podcast. To join the conversation, tune in Tuesdays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

    And if you want to take the Four Tendencies quiz, to find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, it’s here.

    As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

    Check out Stamps.com. Want to avoid trips to the post office, and buy and print official U.S. postage for any letter or package, right from your own computer and printer? Visit Stamps.com to sign up for a 4-week trial, plus a $110 bonus offer — just enter the promo code HAPPIER.

    Also check out Smith and Noble, the solution for beautiful window treatments. Go to smithandnoble.com/happier for 25% off window treatments and a free in-home design consultation.

     

    We love hearing from listeners:

     

    To sign up for my free monthly newsletter, text me at 66866 and enter the word (surprise) “happier.“ Or click here.

    If you enjoyed the podcast, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Click here to tell your friends on Twitter.

    Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

    How to Subscribe

    If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really.  To listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

    Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen toHappier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much.

    HAPPIER listening!

    The post Podcast 76: Write Your Manifesto, Bring Your Own Condiments, the Challenges of Being Distracted by Your Phone and Picking a Wedding Reading. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • feedwordpress 15:12:23 on 2016/07/06 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , room, technology, ,   

    Podcast 72: Make Sure to Have “Room of Your Own,” Beware the Incomplete Upgrade, and My Parental Failure. 


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    upgrade

    It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

    Update: In episode 64, we introduced the segment of the “Happiness Hack.” Some listeners sent us their favorite hacks. Keep sending them in! We love reading them.

    Try This at Home: Have room of your own. Maybe not an entire room, but some room.

    Happiness Stumbling Block: The incomplete upgrade. Have you experienced this?

    Listener Question: Missy “I’m moving in with my boyfriend. I don’t have a TV, but my boyfriend has one. How do I avoid spending too much time on the couch?”

    Gretchen’s Demerit: I didn’t warn my daughter that once her cellphone screen cracked, she should go ahead and get it fixed, even though the phone was still working. Why? Because inevitably it will stop working at the most inconvenient possible time. Which it did.

     Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth gives a gold star to summer traffic in Los Angeles.

    Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page about the podcast. To join the conversation, tune in Tuesdays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

    If you want to take the Four Tendencies quiz, it’s here.

    As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

    Check out Texture. Get access to all your favorite magazines — including back issues and bonus video content — in one super-convenient place. Try the app Texture for free by going to Texture.com/happier.

    Also, check out Squarespace. Start building your website and get your free trial today.  Go to Squarespace.com, and enter the offer code “happier” to get 10% off your first purchase.

    1pix

    We love hearing from listeners:

     

    To sign up for my free monthly newsletter, text me at 66866 and enter the word (surprise) “happier.“ Or click here.

    If you enjoyed the podcast, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Click here to tell your friends on Twitter.

    Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

    How to Subscribe

    If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really.  To listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

    Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen toHappier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much.

    HAPPIER listening!

    The post Podcast 72: Make Sure to Have “Room of Your Own,” Beware the Incomplete Upgrade, and My Parental Failure. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • feedwordpress 18:34:32 on 2016/05/25 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , Star Wars, technology, , ,   

    Podcast 66: Why It’s Helpful to Give Advice Only When Asked, and the Challenges of Email Etiquette and Vacation Hangovers. 


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    starwarslooking

    It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

    Update: We got many interesting responses to the “Stop stockpiling” discussion from episode 62.

    Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page about the podcast. I talk to viewers about questions, comments, suggestions. You can watch the most recent one here. If you want to join the conversation live, I do them on Tuesdays at 1:00 pm Eastern. Join in!

    Try This at Home: Only give advice when it’s asked for. Harder than it sounds. If you want to watch the short scene I mentioned from Star Wars, it’s here.

    Advice can be tiresome, but it can also be life-transforming. So…

    For our next Very Special Episode, episode 70, let us know: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? For work, love, parenting, life…what really made the difference? Let us know! Email us at podcast @ gretchenrubin .com, comment below, or best of all, call us. We’d love to hear your voice as you tell the story.  774-277-9336 (77 HAPPY 336).

    Happiness Stumbling Block: Email etiquette. Email issues come up all the time.

    Listener Questioner: Sarah asks for tips for readjusting after a great trip away — the “vacation hangover.”

    Gretchen’s Demerit: For a whole day, I didn’t meaningfully engage with any member of my family. I was just lost in my own thoughts, and going through the motions.

    Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth’s kindergarten class had a terrific “Young Authors” program.

    As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

    Check out Smith and Noble, the solution for beautiful window treatments. Go to smithandnoble.com/happier for 25% off window treatments and a free in-home design consultation.

    And check out Headspace. Experience the benefits of meditation in your busy life. Download the Headspace app for free,  and begin their Take 10 program for ten days of guided meditation. Go to Headspace.com/happier.
    1pix

    1pix

    1pix

    We love hearing from listeners:

     

    To sign up for my free monthly newsletter, text me at 66866 and enter the word (surprise) “happier.“ Or click here.

    If you enjoyed the podcast, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Click here to tell your friends on Twitter.

    Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

    How to Subscribe

    If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really.  To listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

    Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen toHappier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much.

    HAPPIER listening!

    The post Podcast 66: Why It’s Helpful to Give Advice Only When Asked, and the Challenges of Email Etiquette and Vacation Hangovers. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • feedwordpress 20:22:32 on 2016/05/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , Strategy of Rewards, technology, test-taking, tests,   

    Episode 63: The Problem of Passwords, Why Rewards Can Be Dangerous, and Does Elizabeth Have to Write These Thank-You Notes? 


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    Happier Podcast with Gretchen Rubin

    It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

    Update: Big news! (At least for me.) I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page about the podcast. I talk to viewers about questions, comments, suggestions. Any episode; don’t worry if you’re not caught up. You can watch the most recent one here or my video with our producer Henry, look here. If you want to join the conversation live, I’m doing them on Tuesdays at 1:00 pm Eastern. Join in! It’s so fun to have a chance to talk to listeners and viewers.

    Try This at Home: In episode 61, we asked listeners for answers to Emily’s question about how to manage online passwords.  The answer: have a strategy.

    Better Than Before Habit Strategy: The Strategy of Rewards is a very, very tricky strategy to use. People often mis-use rewards when they’re trying to create a habit.

    If you want the checklist for habit change, it’s here, at the bottom of the list.

    Listener Question: Nine-year-old Isobel asks “How can we be happier while taking tests?” The book I mention is Kelly McGonigal’s The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It.

    Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth didn’t write thank-you notes after Jack’s birthday party. I contest this demerit!

    Gretchen’s Gold Star: I used the Strategy of Scheduling to work on my Four Tendencies quiz. (You can take it here to find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel.)

    As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

    Check out Stamps.com. Want to avoid trips to the post office, and buy and print official U.S. postage for any letter or package, right from your own computer and printer? Visit Stamps.com to sign up for a 4-week trial, plus a $110 bonus offer — just enter the promo code HAPPIER.

    Check out Smith and Noble, the solution for beautiful window treatments. Go to smithandnoble.com/happier for 25% off window treatments and a free in-home design consultation.

    Also check out Casper, the online retailer of premium mattresses. Pay a fraction of what you’d pay in the store, get free delivery, and returns within a 100 day period. Get $50 off a mattress purchase by using hte promo code Casper.com/happier.

    We love hearing from listeners:

     

    To sign up for my free monthly newsletter, text me at 66866 and enter the word (surprise) “happier.“ Or click here.

    If you enjoyed the podcast, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Click here to tell your friends on Twitter.

    Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

    How to Subscribe

    If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really.  To listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

    Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen toHappier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much.

    HAPPIER listening!

    The post Episode 63: The Problem of Passwords, Why Rewards Can Be Dangerous, and Does Elizabeth Have to Write These Thank-You Notes? appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
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