Last year I read Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project and quickly became a fan. I wrote commandments for my own life loosely based on those she’d written for herself and shared in the book. I clicked ‘follow’ on her twitter profile and most recently I subscribed to her podcast. When her book, ‘Better Than Before’ came out I immediately put myself on the library waiting list. Her last book literally helped me achieve more happiness in my life (during what ended up being a tough year) and I was hopeful that true to the title this book would also leave me better than before.
This is a post about how I’m becoming better than before. The strides I’ve taken. And I suppose that this post in and of itself should answer all the skeptics who claim those of us with lofty reading goals can’t possibly be retaining or putting our reading to use. So ha.
Balance is the toughest part of achievement, for me. I am what Gretchen calls a ‘Lark’, a person who can is highly motivated and productive in the wee hours of morning. So while I work to become better every year, after moving my alarm to 4:30AM I have closed off ‘wake up earlier’ as a solution to achieving more. 4:30 is sufficient y’all. So my goal as I read (and really for the past few months) has been about maximizing my time not trying to have more. I think 4:30am-9:30pm is a sufficient length of day. I tracked my time for the month of April (prior to reading Better Than Before) in hopes of finding where I could better use my time.
So between my time log findings, Better Than Before, and a slew of wisdom borrowed from other sources here’s my few steps in the right directions…
- I use to watch my guilty pleasure ABC shows on my iPad while getting ready in the mornings. I don’t have cable so the next day I can watch them on Hulu. But even a show a day just didn’t seem like a great use of time, especially the best time of my day. So I’ve started using that 20-30 minute hair styling, makeup applying, teeth brushing and flossing time to watch TED talks. Now I leave for work feeling good about how I’ve used that time and also inspired by the incredible messages and powerful presentations I view.
- A few days a week I forfeit my commuting window of time that has historically been used for phone calls and music for my new love: Podcasts. I did some research on the best podcasts for people with my interests and I subscribed via the Overcast app. I still keep my Monday evening date with my best guy friend and a few mornings a week I chat with my Mom on the drive in. But the other mornings and every evening but Monday – I can listen to podcasts. These give me new ideas and I look forward to the time engaged in topics that I enjoy (ie: leadership, finance, girl entrepreneurs, time management, and of course Gretchen’s happiness podcast).
- Gretchen talks about how different people’s personalities have a profound affect on how they make habits. As it turns out, I’m one of those weirdos that doesn’t really need outside accountability to accomplish things. I can get myself out of bed and to the gym without a buddy. However, I do love to multitask. So Tuesday nights I go for long walks with my accountability partner and we talk about finances, faith, family, and usually what’s overtaken my mind based on my morning readings.
- Morning readings – let’s stay there a moment. Mornings are the prime real estate of my day so I spend them doing 3 things I highly value – reading my bible, reading educationally, and working out. I’ve been consistently doing these three things for a while BUT in my attempt to get better I did figure something out – if I set my coffee pot the night before so it will be brewed when I walk downstairs I gain back 15 minutes of productivity. Previously I would start the pot and then kind of piddle around it while it brewed. Why, I have no idea. Now, I walk downstairs, pour, and start my reading. Immediately. 15 minutes regained. Which in a morning routine is better than gold.
- I said I don’t need others to motivate me. That’s true. What I didn’t say is that I AM motivated by teamwork. I don’t NEED a team to accomplish but I ENJOY one nonetheless. So my a group of my coworkers and I started using the Habitica app a few months ago and I’ve had great success with it. I hate the idea of being the slacker who’s lack of productivity brings down our team (by checking off my habits I can help defeat bosses for my team) so I’m highly likely to get every single item on my list done by nightfall. It’s fun, nerdy, and somehow incredibly motivating.
- I decided that losing my all my flexibility at the ripe ole age of 30 was a bad idea so I decided to add stretching to my daily rituals (and my habit list on Habitica, of course). Being the researcher I am I took to Pinterest and found a stretching routine for those of us who sit on our behinds at desks all day long. I wish so much that you could all experience the hilarity of what I found to be the hardest of the stretches. But being better than before should probably include being able to laugh at yourself, right?
More to come. This is only the beginning, I’m sure. Ok but maybe the end of that particular stretch…