Podcast 101: Do Something for Your Future Self, How Flying Wish Paper Eases Heartache, and “Integrator” or “Compartmentalizer?”

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

We’re having so much fun with our Instagram project. Join in, post photos of whatever makes you…happier! Use the hashtag #Happier2017 and tag us — I’m @gretchenrubin and @lizcraft.

As we discuss, The Onward Project is the family of podcasts that I’ve launched, for podcasts that are about “your life–made better.” The first shows are Side Hustle School and Radical Candor. Elizabeth’s show with her writing partner, Sarah Fain, will be Happier in Hollywood, so stay tuned for that.

Try This at Home: We got this suggestion from our listener Nikki: Do something for your future self.

Here’s the post where Nikki got the idea: “Do something kind for future you” on Wil Wheaton’s blog.

If you’re an Obliger, what accountability strategies work for you? There’s a wide range of strategies that work for different Obligers.

Happiness Hack: In episode 97, we talked about the challenge of dealing with the pain and anger of a break up.

Our listener Donna had a great approach, by creating a ritual using flying wish paper:

I was sad, angry and regretful.  I knew the break-up needed to happen, but was having a hard time processing the emotions that came after.  I purchased some flying wish paper and I wrote out all of the things I wanted to release about the situation – using one piece of paper for each thing.  I then took the paper, matches and a glass of wine outside to my patio, put on some nice music and lit the papers one at a time.  As the papers burned down, they lifted off into the air.  It felt like a tribute instead of a catharsis.  I was acknowledging that these feelings had been a part of my life, but were no longer serving me and so I was letting them go.

If you’re curious about flying wish paper, you can check it out here — it comes in all sorts of colors and patterns. (in our family, we use flying wish paper to makes wishes for the new year, and I’ve also used it as a fun activity at a birthday party.)

Know Yourself Better: Are you an “integrator” or a “compartmentalizer?” Kathleen wrote:

I’ve noticed in the workplace that folks tend to fall into one category or the other when it comes to how they deal with the crossover between work and life.  For example, some people seem perfectly happy to answer emails on the weekends, to work on projects late at night, etc., all while they integrate fun into the day (social lunches, coffee breaks, extended online shopping or social media sessions).  I think of these folks as integrators — folks who, seemingly quite willingly, blend work and life together.  They don’t seem to mind switching between the two.


Some of us, on the other hand, are compartmentalizers.  I fall squarely into this camp. Work is work, life is life, and I strive to keep the two separate in terms of time allocation.  I can’t enjoy a coffee break or a relaxed dinner when I know there’s a big project waiting for me to return (as intellectually engaging as that project may be), so I’d rather plow through the work first, then get to the fun as a reward.  I cut the fat from the workday, with the aim of making weekends and evenings — as much as humanly possible — work-free.  (I’m a lawyer at a big firm, so it’s often not possible, but it’s a goal worth chasing!)  I also seem to be one of the few professionals I know who won’t put her work email on her personal iPhone, instead preferring to keep the old firm-issued Blackberry as a second, separate device.


On the whole, the compartmentalizer approach makes me happier, because it means personal time is truly distinct and enjoyable, and the jarring transitions between life and work are minimized.  But I get that others work better when the boundaries between work and life are more fluid.

Listener Question: Whitney asks, “I have a  hang-up with the idea of a one-sentence journal. I feel like it would be stressful to try to distill my day into one sentence! Any tips for how to do that?”

Demerit: Years ago, I started a terrific system for keeping my daughters’ mementos in  a highly organized file box (I used this one), but I didn’t maintain it. Now I need to go back and get everything organized.

Gold Star: Elizabeth gives a gold star to the enthusiastic, friendly, energetic crossing-guard in her neighborhood.

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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.

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #101

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HAPPIER listening!

  • Diane

    I usually listen to the podcast when I am out walking. I tell myself to remember some things that interest me, but I will usually forget by the time I get back home. To “catch” all the good advice, good product recommendations, good book suggestions, etc. as well as a review of the wonderful advice and tips, I am going to go back through all the podcast here – on the podcast page, while I am at my desk. This way I can order items that I wanted (thanks for providing the links), read related material (thanks for those links, too), reserve the books from my library, etc. Hearing the podcast on my walks makes me happier…now doing the follow up will make me happier, too.


  • I LOVE the “Future You” try this at home. I already do this for some tasks, but I think I could do it a lot more, particularly for health related things.

    One of my favorite little Future Me tricks is this: one of my biggest pet peeves is reaching into the ice bucket in the freezer to grab ice when I want a glass of water, and finding it empty. I don’t know why – but it seems like an annoyance to have to empty the trays, refill them, and put them back in the freezer before having my drink. (I know – this is a silly thing to be annoyed by – but I can’t help it!) A few years ago I realized that if I refill the ice bucket long BEFORE it’s empty, I actually ENJOY the process of emptying & filling up the trays. I’ll willingly make more ice often – filling the ice bucket up to the brim and keeping a large supply of ice in there. I don’t mind doing this before it’s empty, because I know I’m preventing Future Me from finding an empty bucket in there. A silly little thing, but it took something I used to find annoying and turned it into something that actually makes me feel joyful!

    • Catseye

      I hate empty ice buckets as well as filling ice trays, so this is how I solved the problem. I decided to splurge on bagged ice and an ice pick. A 10 lb. bag lasts about a month and is well worth the $2. Also, I enjoy “attacking” the ice with the pick. I just wish I’d done it years ago and saved myself so much aggravation. Isn’t it funny how the simplest changes can make you happier?

  • Ann Mazzoli

    The idea to do something for future self reminded me of a funny youtube video I saw years ago about “past self” and “future self”. https://youtu.be/zRyf23boUO4 (warning there may be some swears in there, I can’t remember)

  • Elena

    It is SO WEIRD to open your podcast today and see the idea of being kind to your future self. Like, I almost thought you had gotten the idea from me somehow, haha. I guess it’s not that novel, but I am doing an entire year-long illustrated self-care project based on this concept, which I got from my husband, who didn’t read Wil Wheaton’s blog, and also, I happened to have linked to your podcast in last week’s entry of the project. How weird is that? Look at my blog post from two weeks ago, it’s bizarre: http://elenastreehouse.com/2017/01/kind-future-self/
    I guess it’s not rocket science, but it is an excellent insight. Been a game changer for me!

    • gretchenrubin

      I also talked about it BETTER THAN BEFORE…it’s a very old idea! Powerful.

      Gretchen Rubin

      Visit my blog

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  • Laura Jolna

    I first learned of the concept of “be kind to your future self” when I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s article in Oprah Mag last month. It was an aha moment for me and has been at the forefront of my daily intentions ever since. I was so happy to hear you discuss it on your podcast yesterday!

    Here’s Elizabeth’s wonderful article:

    Thank you!

  • Sandra Seidel

    I’m being kind of my future self by exercising… which is walking most days (strength training will be looked into soon). But after reading Elizabeth’s article I shall be flossing too : )
    Thank you for the inspiration, encouragement & plain old boost in life.
    one of your biggest fans,

  • Miss Honey
  • Gina

    I found the “know yourself” segment very interesting and think that sometimes life circumstances change whether you are a compartmentalizer or integrator. I think you might have described it a little differently than I think of it. You were talking about compartmentalizers leaving the workplace at 6pm and getting on with their life and integrators staying until 11 after a dinner or game of basketball. I think of it a little differently. Before I had kids, I was a compartmentalizer – I would stay at work until the work was done. It might be 5pm or 6pm or it might be 11pm. I would stay until it was done and then that was it. I would then go about my life – not checking email, not having work calls and not thinking about it. After I had kids, I became much more of an integrator. I would leave promptly at 5pm and then continue to work on whatever needed to be worked on when I could – often sending out emails at 4am (I learned that delayed email delivery function then after getting a few comments from co-workers asking why I was up at 4am!) Everything was much more fluid between work and home. It worked for me at the time but it definitely was more stressful. I think if your career is something you’ve created (like Gretchen) then integrating is a natural way of life. When you’re answering to someone else integrating might be a little more stressful.

  • Pam S

    I really appreciate the try this at home tip of doing something nice for my future self. As an obliger who tips toward rebel, I have a hard time doing certain things I know I need to do. But now, when I think of one of those things, my future self picks it up as a great idea and now my present self feel obligated to get it done. Strange but true! Thanks for all the great ideas.

  • Constance

    Elizabeth’s gold star reminded me of one of my very favorite videos. I share this with my students every year. It’s wonderful!
    Johnny Barnes of Bahama, Mr. Happy Man:


  • Rebecca

    As I was listening to this episode, I thought of something that’s been useful for me as an obligor: not just thinking about my future self but thinking about modeling good, healthy behavior for my kids. That has been a big motivator for me in a couple of areas that I’m working on, like regular exercise and emotional self-regulation.

  • Becky Glinka

    I was happy to hear from the person who wasn’t sure about the one sentence journal. I got one almost five years ago and I hated it. I did try using it a few different ways, but just couldn’t find one that worked for me. A few weeks ago, my dog tore the whole thing up. I have never been happier to have had my dog destroy something. I felt obligated to finish the dang thing (would have been five years in May I think) even though I wasn’t enjoying it and I knew I wasn’t enjoying it. I did salvage what I could to save in case someday I’d like to look back. That format just didn’t work well for me! I recently started a bullet journal and have been enjoying that much much more! Thanks so much for your show and blog!

    PS I’m apparently a rebel. I’ve taken the quiz twice just to make sure because I can see myself as a few of the tendencies in different parts of my life.