Podcast 68: Show Up on Time, Treat Yourself, and Elizabeth Is Excited about a Scanning App.

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

Update: Keep sending us those “happiness hacks!” They’re fascinating. To hear about my happiness hack, it’s in episode 64.

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.

Also, for our next Very Special Episode, let us know: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? For work, love, parenting, life…what really made the difference? 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.  (77 HAPPY 336).

Try This at Home: Show up on time. First question: why are you late?

Better Than Before Habit Strategy: The Strategy of Treats. This is such a delightful strategy! One of our favorite topics.

MugObligerHappierIf you want to get your own Tendency mug, you can order one here.

Listener Questioner: Ashley is an Obliger, who wants budget better, but the idea of external accountability is tough; she doesn’t want anyone to tell her what to do. So how to get that accountability?

If you want the starter kit for launching a Better Than Before accountability group, it’s here.

 Gretchen’s  Demerit: I’ve procrastinated about getting Eleanor ready for sleep-away camp.

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth uses the app iScanner to scan documents.

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #68

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  • Ann

    Today’s episode was great! I have two go-to treats: drawing and jigsaw puzzles. I always have a puzzle going (on a Stow and Go puzzle mat) and am very picky about the quality of the pieces and artwork to make it a really enjoyable experience. I also make time to draw everyday, using drawing challenge prompts and posting the work on Instagram (@spotgirldesign). Drawing alone is satisfying, and making a daily virtual connection with other artists is icing on the cupcake!

    • gretchenrubin

      Two great treats.

  • bridgejr

    One of my favorite treats is going to a bookstore or public library with a good selection of print magazines and having a flip through any ones with high-quality photographs or interesting-sounding articles.

  • jamie

    1) Elizabeth pointed out something I never really verbalized about why I am late, I am an introvert and the idea of having extra one on one time with a person I don’t know well or having to make small talk sounds awful!
    2) To the woman who wants to budget my best piece of advice is to not really budget but to make everything automatic. I have set amounts that automatically transfer to various savings/retirement accounts. I don’t have to think about my saving. Can do the same with debt and bill payments. Budgeting can be as tedious as counting calories, I cannot stand it.

    • Kristin Thompson

      I’m an introvert and have the opposite approach to parties! I like to show up early while it is still quiet and uncrowded so I get a chance to talk to people in a calmer setting. Showing up when the party is in full throb and trying to insert myself into conversations is really awkward for me!

      • gretchenrubin

        That’s the approach we suggest!

  • Kathleen Paley

    My favorite treat: rearranging furniture! It’s free, it actually burns a few calories, and it gives the house a fresh new look.

    I’m a lawyer by day, so my work is sedentary, and most cases last for years. But 15 minutes of moving couches and coffee tables results in obvious progress, and even a little exercise. Such a great treat!

    • gretchenrubin

      What an unusual, imaginative treat!

    • Cindy May

      I totally get that. When you have a sedentary job (most of us I suspect), I much prefer to move things around when I get home (unless I’m really tired, but after I relax for a little while I’m up and at it again). For me, it’s almost a treat to either sweep (we have mostly hard wood floors) or vacuum. I think it’s as much about the exercise as it is about the reward of seeing a clean floor when you’re done.

      • LoriM

        Hm, I need to look at it that way. Struggling at age 56 (husband is 63) with just wanting to veg at home after a day of sitting at the office. Ha. TRYING to get myself to “clean one thing” or “cook something” or “do a power hour or 30 minutes” of chores … instead.

  • Mimi Gregor

    Occasionally, I like to look through piles of magazines, but I don’t like to pay good money for something that essentially contains 90% ads. So, to the library! I can take out magazines, just as I take out books. Also, sometimes as a treat, I will take a dvd out from the library — usually something my husband would not care to watch — and watch it alone. Another cheap treat for me is garage-saling and thrift shopping. Hunting for things is much more entertaining than just going into a store and plunking down a big wad of cash for something. If one is patient, I find that one usually finds what one is searching for. And I have some really great conversations with other people who are also garage-saling.

  • Dana

    It’s my birthday month so I have been doing a lot of treating myself (sometimes I feel as though I need a reason for a treat- special event, outing with friends..maybe i’m a questioner?). Anyways here are my 4 bday treats: #1 I printed a bunch of photos from the past few years and organized an album #2 a few lotions from Bath and Body Works (I only allow myself to shop there during their semi annual sale) #3 a massage!!! (I’ve never gotten one and what better day than your birthday), and #4 a weekend visiting my long distance boyfriend and friends.

    • gretchenrubin

      Great treats.

  • Samantha Treutel

    Drinking out of this pretty coffee mug is a treat to me!

  • Samantha Treutel

    YNAB (you need a budget) is a great budgeting app that I love. It helps me feel in control!

  • Courtney

    As an Obliger, I’ve found that the barrier to saving isn’t a lack of savings discipline, but instead a desire to please others that leads to spending more money than I would like.

    Before I automated all my savings, I would often divert money that should have been saved to purchase gifts, put in for big dinners, pay for a round of drinks, stock my pantry for gatherings, etc. I never wanted to seem cheap or like I couldn’t afford to spend money. I also really enjoyed the feeling of treating my partner, friends, and family. I was saying yes to just about everything and it was getting expensive.

    I finally realized that no one else would really notice or care if I didn’t spend on certain things, and that I was starting to see my generous tendencies as a burden because I never left enough money for myself. Once I set my paycheck to go automatically into my various savings accounts, I felt like I had enough accountability to keep me from spending more than I wanted to. Now I make it a point to be generous with my time and with thoughtful, but less expensive, gifts. I have also found that my friends are happy to have an opportunity to save money themselves when I suggest having a spending limit for gifts or choosing a more affordable restaurant.

    So maybe Ashley would benefit just as much from having some accountability partners that give her permission not to spend as much in addition to having people to keep her on track with savings goals.

    • gretchenrubin

      Great observations and suggestions!

  • Reena

    Gretchen, I think one of the things that hasn’t been explicitly stated (but should be, because it really helped me zero in on what the nature of treats is) is how beautifully unusual the treats you have for yourself are – things like immersing yourself in children’s literature, and having a shrine of good smells. What’s so different about this particular aspect of happiness is how different it is for everyone, and how it takes a very deep knowledge of yourself to understand what really, viscerally feels like a treat. (contrasting, say, with the four tendencies, where one of four choices is pretty much descriptive of every person). I would venture that a lot of people don’t really know what their treats are, because we’re fed the idea that binge watching netflix, and taking long hot baths with a glass of wine are treats, when (as Elizabeth said in the podcast), they really aren’t treats for everyone.

    All this to say, it took me a long time to even discover what my treats are, and case in point, they are pretty exclusive to me (I’ve never met anyone else who has these treats!): I am a musician by trade, so while listening to music is not really a treat for me (it’s too loaded to be relaxing), what I love more than anything else is crunching numbers on Excel. Sometimes if I’m having a hard time working, I treat myself to figuring out how to do a new thing on Excel, and after a little while I feel truly happy and can continue with my work. Similarly, I love watching math videos on Khan academy. It just makes me so indescribably happy to know how to do new things in math. (funnily, I listen to Eliza’s podcast as well, and she loves watching makeup product review videos in the same way I love watching math videos…!) I also have this unusual art skill that I like to do where I make pieces for couples, where one of their names turns into the other one when you turn it around (some of them are up here: https://www.instagram.com/inversionyms/) This particular thing is also a source of relaxation and enjoyent for me. So all super odd things that I never would have discovered if I was trying to think of what most people think treats are.

    All this to say – I’m really glad that we have this comments section, and I hope a ton of people comment about what their treats are, precisely because they are so individual. Also, I would love to see if you might eventually develop a methodology for finding your treats (like, thinking about what you liked to do when you were 10, etc, though that wouldn’t have led me to the Excel thing at all…!! But maybe there are other methods to discovering these personal treats, and I know if there are, we can definitely count on you to find them!)

    Thanks for your wonderful podcast! I love listening, and I relisten to old episodes all the time – another treat for me, but I’m sure I share this one with many other people! 🙂

    • gretchenrubin

      Such fascinating observations! And what an unusual treat.

      I think you’re so right – we’re told what our treats “should” be, and also what they “shouldn’t” – “How could crunching numbers in Excel be a treat?” “How can ironing be a treat?” but it’s a treat if it’s a treat for YOU.
      Great idea about trying to come up with a list of treat-identifying questions…anyone have any good ideas????

  • As I listened to this episode I was thinking about what things I do to treat myself. I realized that I’ve been doing this for the past few months already. I love YA fiction and I am subscribed to a monthly book box that comes with a new YA novel as well as bookish things! I told my husband that I was going to cancel it, because I want to save my money when he looked at me and told me that I was crazy and said “when you look back on your life what are you gonna be more grateful for? That you got a new book each month or that you saved about $25 a month?” Needless to say I’m keeping my subscription and it is one of my favorite ways that I treat myself each month!

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific! Love it!

  • Mark

    One of the reasons for being late that wasn’t mentioned was culture. We are very monochronic in the U.S. This means that when we schedule things, there can only be one thing scheduled at a time; there can be no overlap. Many cultures, notably most Hispanic cultures, are polychronic. They are very comfortable have scheduling between different things overlap, often with several things scheduled at the same time. My in-laws are Mexican, and I have seen this happen at many family events, particularly at Hispanic churches. My wife, who is very much monochronic, and I once arrived 30 minutes late for a friend’s child’s birthday party and were the only people there. The mother and child pulled in a few minutes after we arrived. It is wacky fun.

  • Lucy Pritchett

    About being on time…I grew up with parents who were always late, sometimes up to an hour. I got tired of waiting for them, so I developed the habit to be a few minutes late. Also, as Elizabeth pointed out, I have anxiety around leaving that stems from not being prepared for everything, driving, not having food or drinks when I need them, etc. My boyfriend is always on time or early, so it is important to him that I am more on time. I have tried many strategies to be more on time. He lovingly pointed out that I underestimate the time it takes me to get ready by 15 minutes. So…a few things I do now that help me to be on time more often is 1. Estimate my time to get ready then add 15 minutes, 2. check traffic on google maps close to the time I will leave to see if there are any traffic incidents, 3. Tell myself I want to get there 15 minutes ahead of time, and 4. Take something to do just in case I do get there too early. Recently on a trip to the dentist, I made it 10 minutes early. I decided to clean out my purse in the parking lot before I went inside. If I had gotten there 15 minutes early, I would have wiped down the inside of the car (I keep Armorall wipes and glass cleaning wipes in the car). And, I also brought a book for while I sat in the waiting room…which you will be happy to know was “Happier At Home!”

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific! great to know that my book was the back-up plan!

  • Jackie

    Curious if tendencies affect tardiness. My up holder thinks late if not 5 minutes early. Me questions what time reall . I want to honor your time but (don’t waste my time)!
    Re work out time (my treat). There is an irritating rebel who comes into class late all the time and pushes her way front and center. She has no idea she is disruptive. Thanks again! Off to my workout!

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m sure they’re related. Good point!

    • Marcia @ Organising Queen

      I’m an upholder who is either bang on time or a little bit late (can I squeeze in just one more email or can I quickly tidy my bedroom? :))

  • Deborah

    I’m an also Obliger who is trying to get better about managing money and who also doesn’t want to talk about her money explicitly, even with a trusted friend. I haven’t totally succeeded but I do have a few tips. The first is to track your money and make it as automated as possible (I use Mint.com). This is especially important if you’re prone to rebelling against yourself because you can let it go for a while without having the system break down completely. Also, make the goals small at first. It can be really hard to save up six months in emergency funds so start with a goal of “emergency vet bill fund.” I’m a grad student so funds are limited but saving to take care of my cat or have the flexility to fly home or to see a friend in case of emergency is really important to me.

    The second is to look at your spending and ask “does this purchase make ME feel good and work with MY goals?” I have a coffeeshop habit and that’s one of those things that people often point to as a bad financial habit. BUT, I really like working in coffeeshops. I like the noise and sometimes I need to get out of the house or library to break up the monotony of studying. On the other hand, both my mom and best friend grab magazines as treats for themselves. I’m also part of a hobby group on Facebook and people can get really into fancy supplies there. Neither the magazines or the fancy supplies are important to me, so I don’t buy them anymore. This is certainly part of knowing yourself better but doing it by the purchase can identify places to cut spending, even if it’s in $6 or $20 increments.

    • gretchenrubin

      Lots of great advice.

  • Ruth Carter

    One of my favourite treats is looking at maps. I imagine the hikes I could do and the places I could go. I find it really enjoyable and very calming.

  • Laura Jolna

    I’ve been using the app CamScanner+ for years and it has made my life so much better! I scan all my receipts & documents and upload them automatically into my dropbox folders. I live virtually paper free (I’m a huge clutterphobe). I created a “documents” folder in dropbox and have a scanned image of drivers license, auto id card, health insurance cards, passports, etc. Great for scanning and backing up travel documents & itineraries. And, it only takes seconds to scan. Highly recommend!

  • Zachary Potter

    I enjoyed hearing your discussion about being on time. I find it interesting when different people have different ideas about what should be the proper etiquette for promptness. While in university I was around people with very different opinions on if you should always be on time. I also studied abroad where I had an international business course which taught what I considered a good way to describe different time orientations which can differ based on culture. I’d generally describe the two poles of time orientation as people oriented or deadline oriented (polychronic vs monochronic). If you have a background with a more people focused time orientation (Latin American countries, the South, and church organizations) you tend to prioritize relationships over promptness. If you are from a deadline oriented culture (Americans, particularly the east coast, and people from big cities tend to have more of a deadline focus) you tend prioritize being on time over relationships.

    An example of folks I’ve met with a different time orientation: While in college, International students would always seem to show up to lectures late and then stay in the class room afterwards in discussions with friends about the content of the lecture until they would all be late for the next class. This didn’t seem to stress them out at all, but my deadline oriented professors had a hard time figuring out how to react to people coming into every single lecture late.

  • C

    A summertime treat: crushed ice in my cold drinks. My freezer doesn’t have an automatic ice maker, so I manually crush the cubes with vintage aluminum contraption. It’s kind of a hassle, so I only do it on occasion. Makes my beverage of choice taste so much more refreshing & special!

  • Shelly W.

    Happiness hack: I have a good pair of tweezers in my car. I always see stray hairs in my sun visor mirror that I missed in the bathroom. The light is better! Then when I pull into the parking lot for an appointment (because I’m usually early), I can freshen up my brows.

    On another note, I got a new car about a year ago, and the first part of my license plate is GHR. In an effort to memorize my license plate, I have made this stand for Good Habits Rock. When I walk up to my car and see the license plate, I am reminded that, indeed, good habits rock!

    • Paria

      I always have a pair of tweezers in my purse! The car is always where I catch stray hairs – sunlight doesn’t lie.

  • Liz

    When my children were young and I was a single mom, we started the habit of building in 15 minutes flex time to our ‘goal’ leaving time. Our conversations went like this: “We should leave by 9:30 at the latest, so let’s aim to head out the door at 9:15. Then if we straggle overtime a little bit, we’ll be okay.” This helped us all to not get stressed, gave us a cushion of time to find the lost keys, go back into the house for the forgotten homework, etc. My new husband and I do this now, as he and I have a different sense of timeliness, and this method keeps us working together and not struggling against each other.

    • gretchenrubin

      Great idea!

  • Liz

    When I was a kid — Best advice I ever received from my older sister (This gives me a giggling fit every time I think of it now): When you get in the bathtub, wash your face first/right away.

  • rlepkan

    What other people think of you is none of your business; it is, after all, only their opinion.
    As an obliger, this has often been very grounding for me and helps me put things in perspective.

  • 22205dh

    Here’s a treat that I’ve recently discovered that has had a huge positive impact on me. I’m a voracious reader, and for me reading is an immersive activity, so I’ve never really taken to audio books. But about six months ago I started listening to books I’d previously read and loved on audio in the car while I’m running errands. So far I’ve revisited 3 or 4 favorites, and I only listen to these books when I am in solo errand-running mode. The practice has turned my necessary chores into something I actually anticipate.

    • gretchenrubin


  • Paria

    As a chronically late person, I really enjoyed/appreciated this episode!

  • Laura E. Turner

    Loved this podcast! One treat that I like are Korean sheet masks, which are inexpensive (depending on where you get them) and make your skin look great.

    A hack I use for being on time with my kids is to set an “out the door” alarm. I started this after my daughter defined a “perfect day” as one where we didn’t have to run to get to the school bus (among other things). I set the alarm with enough extra time so that we have time to get shoes/coats on and still make it where we are going without rushing.

    My husband and I also have a saying that “no one is ever sorry about arriving at the airport too early”. It reduces the stresses of travel and leaves time to get a meal or snack or watch planes come and go.

  • Zoë

    Just a random comment, but as a foreign non-native English speaker, it’s sometimes very hard to understand the listener questions via phone message. Maybe you could repeat the point of the question before answering it? Just an idea! Thanks!

  • Michelle Potter

    I am one of those who is afraid to be early. Not only do I have Social Anxiety, I have several small children who will need to be entertained / kept from causing trouble in the lobby or waiting room or standing outside or wherever. I partially solved this problem by adding all appointments to my phone calendar, including the time and address, and then my phone automatically checks the traffic and tells me what time I need to leave. I quickly realized that I needed to set all of my appointments for 10 minutes earlier than they really are, and it works pretty well. BUT, sometimes something unexpected comes up at the last minute, and I still end up being late. A child who can’t find his shoes (when he was just wearing them 5 minutes ago), or I look at the clock wrong and think I have 5 minutes longer than I have, or whatever. I am tempted to change my 10-minute buffer to 15 minutes, but I’m really afraid of this resulting in actually getting places 15 minutes early! I really do not want to deal with that!!

    Also, to listener Ashley and her budget. Instead of Elizabeth’s suggestion of a reward after you’ve saved a certain amount, instead try including treats in your budget! I have been successfully keeping a budget for several years now, despite a husband who HATES the constrained feeling of only being able to spend what we’ve planned to spend. So I specifically include a small amount each week for “pocket money,” that he can spend on whatever he likes, usually snacks and such. I also include a small amount called “Momma money,” which is for me to buy myself some small little treat, or some thing I’ve been needing but haven’t had the money for (which makes me happy). I completely agree with Gretchen that a planned treat works much better than “rewarding” yourself by spending some of the money you’ve worked so hard to save!