My current emphasis: how to make good habits and break bad ones (really)

Want to get the "Moment of Happiness"? A daily happiness quotation in your inbox. Sign up here close daily quote

Before and After: Work on a Ph.D. Thesis from 6:00-9:00 a.m.

HabitsRepeatFourI’m writing my next book, Before and After, about how we make and break habits–an issue  very relevant to happiness. Each week, I’ll post a before-and-after story submitted by a reader, about how he or she successfully changed a habit. We can all learn from each other. If you’d like to share your story, contact me here.

This week’s story comes from Annelie Drakman.

I’m a Ph.D.-student, and I’ve always thought that it seemed dreadful to let finishing your dissertation drag out for years and years – just get it over with, I thought. And still I’d let weeks go by where I went to meetings, and read lots of books relating to my topic, and took courses, but did not spend one minute actually writing my text.

So I started getting up at 6 am. Now, whenever I have a free morning or a whole free day, I try to make sure to always get up this early. I think the reason it works is that I hate it. You see, if I get up at 6 am and don’t write on my dissertation, I got up early for nothing. I have to give up the comfort of my bed without the satisfaction of getting things done, and I can’t bear that. So I write. The hours between 6 am and 9 am just fly by and afterwards I’m always surprised at how much I got done. So it works! And, if I can’t get any useful work done during the afternoon, I know I’ve at least put in three or so hours towards my most important goal, and I can give myself a break about being obsessive about emails.

Excellent. I’ve identified sixteen strategies for habit-formation, and this is a great example of the Strategy of Scheduling. Just putting something on the schedule helps us to do it — and scheduling it first thing in the morning usually works best.

Also, although it doesn’t work for everyone, getting up earlier can be a great way to find more time for something you value. Mornings tend to unfold in the same way, so there’s more consistency and control, and less opportunity for conflicts — real or invented — to arise.  (For tips about how and why to schedule a habit for the morning, read here and here.)

I write about the Strategy of Scheduling in Chapter Two of Before and After. If you’d like to know when the book is available for pre-order (not for a while, I must confess!), sign up here.

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here.

I'm just about finished writing my next book, Better Than Before, about how we can make and break our habits. If you’d like to hear when the book goes on sale, sign up here.

Secret of Adulthood: Focus Not on Doing Less, or Doing More, but on Doing What You Value.

Further Secrets of Adulthood:

FocusNotOnDoingLess_124803

 

I never think about “balance,” because that suggests that there’s room for everything, if I could just juggle it correctly. Now I tell myself, “I have plenty of time for the things I love to do”–which means dropping things that I don’t love to do. This mantra has really helped me make better decisions about how to spend my time.

How about you? Do you have any strategies for making sure that you spend your time doing what you value?

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here.

Once Again: 6 Tips for Writing from George Orwell.

orwellEvery Wednesday is Tip Day, or List Day, or Quiz Day.

This Wednesday (again): 6 rules for writing from George Orwell.

Last week, I posted six rules for writing from George Orwell, but that post was swallowed up by the internet. I was quite pleased by the number of people who wrote to ask where the list had gone, so I’ve decided to re-post it.

I loved rules for writing: for instance, here are rules from Mindy Kaling, Kurt Vonnegut, Henry Miller, and Flannery O’Connor.

In one of his most famous essays, “Politics and the English Language,” Orwell writes that “the following rules will cover most cases”:

1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which are used to seeing in print.

2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.

3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.

5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. (I’m charmed by his example: use “snapdragon,” not “antirrhinum.” Snapdragon is so much nicer.)

6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

I find these rules to be enormously helpful. It’s so easy to use tired, shopworn figures of speech. I love using long, fancy words but have learned–mostly from writing my biography of Winston Churchill–that short, strong words work better. I am ever-vigilant against the passive and against jargon, both of which are so insidious.

However, I have to be cautious with #3. I love to cut so much that I have to be careful not to cut too much. My writing tends to become very dense, so I have to keep some cushion. Sometimes, words that seem superfluous are actually essential, for the overall effect.

One thing that makes me very happy is to have a complicated idea and to feel that I’ve expressed myself clearly. I remember writing the ending to Happier at Home. I wrote the entire book to build to that ending–”now is now”–and what I had to say was very abstract, and yet, I felt satisfied that I managed to say what I wanted to say. One of the happiest experiences I’ve had as a writer was when I typed the final lines,  “Now is now. Here is my treasure.”

How about you? Do you use these rules–or any others?

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here.

Story: I Must Do the Work That I Am Best Suited For.

This week’s video story: I must do the work that I am best suited for.

As I mention, that story appears in Edward Weston’s Daybooks.

I can’t resist adding a bit of what he wrote about photographing peppers:

“It is a classic, completely satisfying,–a pepper—but more than a pepper: abstract, in that it is completely outside subject matter. It has no psychological attributes, no human emotions are aroused: this new pepper takes on beyond the world we know in the conscious mind.

To be sure, much of my work has this quality,–many of my last year’s peppers, but this one, and in fact all the new ones, take one into an inner reality,–the absolute,–with a clear understanding, a mystic revealment.” — Daybooks, August 8, 1931

Sidenote: It’s surprising to me how many great visual artists are also great writers.

How about you? Do you have to remind yourself to “Be Gretchen” (substitute your own name) and to do what you’re best suited for? Self-knowledge! Always, it comes back to self-knowledge.

If you can’t see the video, click here.

Find the archives of videos here.  Almost 1.8 MILLION views. Don’t forget to subscribe.

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here.

Blatant Self-Promotion: Paperback of “Happier at Home” Is Available for Pre-Order.

HappierAtHomePaperbackBrace yourself for some blatant self-promotion, folks. I have some big news (well, big for me). The paperback of Happier at Home is available for pre-order.

Check out the new jacket design and slightly tweaked subtitle. What do you think? I love the new jacket.

If you’re considering buying the book, I’d so appreciate it if you pre-order it now. Yes, right away. No delay! A fact about the book market these days is that pre-orders really help build buzz for a book, with booksellers, the media, and other readers. The more pre-orders, and the earlier they come, the better for a book.

If you do order it, I think you’ll enjoy it. Although I love all my books equally, my sister says that Happier at Home is my best book–and it is a New York Times bestseller. (See, I told you I was going to be self-promotional.)

Now, you might think, “I’ve read The Happiness Project. What else can Gretchen Rubin have to say? Maybe it’s just a re-hash.” No! I thought about this very carefully as I was writing. Even if you just finished reading The Happiness Project last week, Happier at Home will be fresh—new ideas, new information, more stories. Where The Happiness Project goes wide, Happier at Home goes deep. Plus: photos! (Which I took myself.)

Of course, it might be of special interest to anyone particularly interested in “home”: college or grad students, recent graduates, empty-nesters, newlyweds, new parents, people who have just moved, people overwhelmed with clutter, people who feel like they have no leisure, single people, people with spouses and/or kids, people with health issues…hmm, looks like that covers just about everyone. Because for most of us, home is a very significant element of our happiness. If you’d like a “Ten Tips for Happiness in Your New Home” signature card, for fun or if you have the audio- or e-book, sign up here (sorry, U.S. and Canada only).

Also, you might think, “I read Gretchen Rubin’s blog.  C’mon, how much does she have to say?” But a book is very, very different from a blog. Ideas can be presented and developed in much richer ways. I tell longer, more interesting stories. I can be funnier (well, I try to be funnier). Also, I think a book is more likely to inspire you to make changes in your own life. In a book, you can more easily take notes about what applies to you. Underlining, highlighting, and taking notes in the margin allow you to engage with the material.

And I have to say, my specialty as a writer is endings, and the ending to this book may be the best thing I’ve ever written in my life. If you want to know more, look here.

I so appreciate the kind words from everyone who has read Happier at Home. I’m thrilled to hear that it’s resonating with so many people. If you’ve read it, you might enjoy the Behind-the-Scenes video or the Behind-the-Scenes extra (email me to request it). It was so fun to do these–I’d never done anything like this before. Yes, you can know the true story of “artisanal pickles.” All is revealed.

I know many book groups are reading Happier at Home, and the one-page discussion guide is ready; it’s also aimed at spirituality book groups, Bible study groups, and the like. Email me to request it.

Many of my readers have written that they want to buy Happier at Home to show their support—a “thank you” for everything I do for free. Which I very much appreciate.

If you’re thinking, “Yes! I’m intrigued! But, Gretchen, how can I learn more about Happier at Home?” you’re in luck. You can…

read an excerpt from the chapter on “Time”

listen to a clip from the audio-book

watch the one-minute video trailer on “Ten ways to be happier at home”

request the one-page book-group discussion guide

watch the Behind-the-Scenes video ( spoiler alert, I reveal the book’s secret motif there)

- sign up for personalized, signed bookplates for you or or friends, (U.S. and Canada only, sorry)

Thank you, dear readers, for your enthusiasm, ideas, and support. You make me very happy.

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here.