Podcast 112: Pick a Uniform, Time Yourself, and a Deep Dive into a Conflict with a Boss.

Update: There’s an official launch date of May 18 for Happier in Hollywood, the fantastic new podcast that Elizabeth is doing with her longtime writing partner and friend, Sarah Fain. Of course I’m biased, but it’s so good.

Try This at Home: Pick a uniform.

Here are the two articles I mention about wearing a uniform: “Why I wear the same thing to work everyday” by Matilda Kahl, and the follow-up article, “Saatch & Saatchi has a Dress Like Matilda day.” So fun to see this uniform in action! (The photo above shows people at the “Dress Like Matilda” day.)

We talked about Kim Scott, co-host of the podcast Radical Candor and author of the bestselling book Radical Candor, who wears a uniform of an orange sweater and jeans.

I also mention the article “Obama’s Way,” the interview by Michael Lewis where President Obama talks about paring down his decisions about choosing suits.

Happiness Hack: Clare in Seattle suggests timing yourself to see how long a task actually takes.

Deep Dive: We return to Cindy’s listener question, which we discussed in episode 108: “My boss quit smoking, and now wants to join me in my precious solo lunchtime walks.” Listeners raised so many excellent points.

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

Speaking of Kim Scott, because so many listeners suggested using “radical candor,” we actually called her to ask  how to use radical candor in this context. For more info on Radical Candor, check out the podcast. And here’s a photo of the “Flintstone House.” It’s pretty kooky.









Listener Question: Tara asked for study tips, because she’s a mother, working full-time, and studying for online course.

Demerit: Elizabeth’s glasses were scratched and hard to see through — for years. But now she has new glasses! Demerit becomes gold star.

Gold Star: I give a gold star to Eleanor, who used a cute video of baby sloths to calm herself while getting a shot.

New feature: I’m starting a new feature; each week, at the end of the podcast, I’ll list “Two Resources for You.”

  1. Check out Elizabeth’s terrific young-adult novel, Flower.
  2. The Better app, which is all about the Four Tendencies, is now free! It used to cost $9.99/month, but I decided to make it free.

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #112

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Want a new podcast to listen to, with the same vibe as Happier? 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.

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  • Tracy L

    Regarding Cindy’s problem of her boss wanting to join her on her walks: listeners came up with lots of good solutions for her to try (should her boss jump back on the wagon), but I was surprised to not hear any comments about the boss making that request in the first place. A considerate boss would not put an employee in that awkward position of having to decide whether to say yes to stay in the boss’ favor, or say no and risk damaging their relationship. Cindy’s lunch time is likely time “off the clock,” and her time to use as she wishes. I think it’s okay for an employee to invite a boss, but not for a boss to put an employee on the spot like that.

    I like Kim Scott’s advice, but wonder what advice she would give to bosses about requesting favors that are not work related.

  • Margo C

    Another thought about Cindy’s dilemma regarding her boss’s request to walk with her at lunchtime (from an obliger). It struck me as what Gretchen has called a “false” choice. I think Cindy could first congratulate her boss for quitting as Kim Scott suggests, explain that she needs her solo walks most days, but agree to walk with her 1-2 times per week to help her through the initial difficulties. Her boss gets some support and Cindy still keeps most of her alone time.

  • Lindsey Cook

    First of all I am SO excited about Happier in Hollywood! I am a stage manager, so while it isn’t the exact same industry it is pretty darn close. I feel like a lot of what you two will have to say will resonate with me!!

    I am actually writing though about the uniform idea: I heard about the work uniform idea a while ago. I wanted to adopt that, but I felt for my job that may not be the best idea and it is a bit of an expense upfront. So what I did was found an app that I could create “outfits” in. It’s a little bit of legwork upfront: taking photos of your clothes (I don’t own a lot so that helps) and putting “looks” together, but now I just open the app pick the type of outfit I need (warm weather, business casual/nicer casual/etc) and look at my options. Easy peasy! I also did say only one pair of work shoes and I just match everything to those. I love it!

    Keep up the great work!

  • Joyce Kristjansson

    I want to add some advice for Tara. I know over studying was recommended, but I think there is also a time for understudying. I was doing a graduate degree with young children and a full time job. I was ready to quit I was so drained. A friend reminded me that no one but me would see the marks. Passing was the important thing as an adult, not getting high marks.
    It took a lot of soul searching to be OK with 60s and 70s, instead of the high 80s I was used to, and the 55 was a shocker, but I got me degree and no one ever asked my marks

    • guest

      This is so true. I have a child who always overstudies, and that’s great when she has time, but there are times when she really doesn’t have the time to do that, and it almost seems like she is incapable of just calling it a day at a certain point. She very likely studies well past the point of getting an “A” and the reality is that a 91 is just as much an “A” as is a 99, yet she studies right up to the 99 point every time. I am actually trying to get her to see that it is ok to stop when you feel you “mostly” know the material if time pressure is an issue, which is inevitable at times! (Needless to say, I have another child who only ever studies just barely enough to eke out an A/B grade, and is perfectly content with however that works out. Go figure.)

  • Mary

    What a good suggestion, to time how long a task actually takes. I live in an apartment with beautiful big windows, but I’ve always assumed that cleaning the windows is a “whole afternoon” job. I cleaned them today, and cleaned all the windows in my apartment in 51 minutes. Can’t quite believe I’ve been putting it off for months because I thought I never had time.

  • Mikaela

    Do you know if there’s any information on the tendencies and profession categories? I’m curious whether a higher percentage of one tendency are likely to be CEOs, teachers, scientists, artists, etc. Thanks, and love the podcast!

    • gretchenrubin

      That’s great question, and a very big question! Too big for a blog comment, alas. In the book THE FOUR TENDENCIES, there’s a lot of discussion of Tendency and career choice. Intrigued? http://amzn.to/2ocAWXn

      Gretchen Rubin

      Visit my blog

      My podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin
      My books: Better Than Before —New York Times bestseller
      The Happiness Project —#1 New York Times bestseller
      Join the discussion on Facebook @gretchenrubin

  • debbiedarline


    I was thinking about how I use the “Pick a Uniform” approach to my wardrobe. I wear black pants every day with a colored tank top and then put a 3/4 sleeve length matching shirt over it.

    That also got me thinking about Elizabeth’s closet dilemma in Episode #10. I bought some over-sized S hooks and I use them for shirts that have been worn once but are still clean enough to wear again. After I wash the shirts they go back on a traditional hanger.

  • Mackenzie Stonehocker

    I have a new word for Elizabeth! Perhaps Adam is a “chronoptimist”? As in, someone who is always optimistic when estimating how long something will takes. But then it usually takes longer in real life. (I am definitely a chronoptimist, but have gotten a little better since labelling myself as such!)

    • gretchenrubin

      Love that word!

      Gretchen Rubin

      Visit my blog

      My podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin
      My books: Better Than Before —New York Times bestseller
      The Happiness Project —#1 New York Times bestseller
      Join the discussion on Facebook @gretchenrubin

  • Jennifer M

    I really enjoyed this episode. My everyday “mom” uniform consists of jeans, a tee shirt, and sneakers. I agree that it frees up mental energy for other tasks, however, there is another benefit that I didn’t hear mentioned. Since I don’t get dressed up often, when I do go to the extra effort for and evening out with friends or my husband, it feels even more special. If dressing up was something I did everyday I think it would feel more like a chore.

    A couple weeks ago I decided to wear a casual dress just for fun and it really threw my kids for a loop. They kept asking me where I was going. It took awhile to convince them that I didn’t have any special plans, I just felt like wearing my new dress rather than my typical “mom” uniform.

  • Kate

    I work in a “business casual” office. For years my uniform has been a sleeveless shirt, cardigan and black or gray pants. It gives me a little variety, but generally eliminates decisions.

  • kjett

    Another great study tip tied to quiz yourself. Create flash cards. Place a question about the content on one side of a 3×5 card and the answer the other. Writing the content helps with learning and you are creating a study aid you can take anywhere and use whenever you have 2 spare minutes. And if they are written well, you can enlist anyone to quiz you using your cards. Good luck Tara!

  • kjett

    While I enjoy the opportunity to where a wide range of colors and patterns, I have a uniform I use on days when I am tired and don’t want to think about it. Black pants and black shirt topped with any number of blazers or sweaters that match. I just choose whichever blazer is calling my name that morning and then add minimal jewelry – frequently my go to turquoise earrings.

  • Sarah

    I am really excited at the prospect of picking a
    uniform. I HATE the stress of wondering what to wear every day. It
    would be such a gift to my future self to eliminate the decision making. I think
    that this will be something I work towards taking manageable steps. The first
    job is to clear my wardrobe and drawers of the things I never wear so I don’t
    even have to look at them! Then perhaps 5 outfits (in the loosest sense- I am
    no fashionista), one per day for work. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Lucy Pritchett

    I LOVE the time yourself idea! Being a questioner, I was excited and ready to begin my research immediately! I timed myself taking a shower, brushing my teeth, getting ready in the morning, and putting on makeup. I have a tendency of being late to everything. Since I have collected this information, I have been on time or early every time!!! This is amazing how simple the solution was to being on time, and I’m so surprised I never thought of this! Now that I know it takes me 30 min to shower, style my hair, and put on deodorant, 3 minutes to brush my teeth, and 15 to put on my makeup, I can start getting ready 50 minutes before I have to leave and know I will be on time!!! Thank you for this tip which is making both me and my boyfriend (who is always on time) much happier!!!

  • Similar to the idea of picking a uniform, I’ve recently started making outfits that subtly remind me of characters I find inspiring on days that I need a little extra push. So I’ll wear a shirt with little bow ties on it to remind me of Doctor Who when the world seem a bleak and I need a little hope, or I’ll wear the colors of Wonder Woman if I’m dealing with a difficult situation at work. No one would know, since I use subtle, professional pieces from my already minimal capsule wardrobe, but it gives me the extra bit of je ne sais quois I need, and it’s sort of fun having a little secret with myself.