Tag Archives: interview

Do You Do Your Best Thinking in the Bathtub?

Interview: Elisabeth Egan.

I got to know Liz Egan because so many people told me, “You’ve got to meet Liz Egan! ” We knew so many people in common that finally we just had lunch — which was a ton of fun.  She’s the books editor at Glamour and has written for numerous publications, and we have writerly friends in common.

Now she’s also a novelist.  A Window Opens is funny and perceptive novel about a woman who makes a big career change and has to manage that — as well as her family.  Think Where’d You Go, Bernadette and Bridget Jones’s Diary.

I was interested to hear what she had to say about happiness, habits, and productivity.

Gretchen: What’s a simple habit that consistently makes you happier?

Liz: I take a bath every night. I get my best thinking done in the tub, and most of my books have wavy pages from getting dripped on by our leaky shower-head. I don’t have any fancy bathing rituals—I use strawberry Suave in lieu of real bubbles. But closing the door and sitting in one place for a half hour is ritual enough. My kids are constantly shouting questions at me over the sound of the water: More ice cream? New sneakers? Permission to watch a movie? When I’m in the tub, the answer is almost always yes.

What’s something you know now about forming healthy habits that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

Habits don’t just happen, you have to make a decision about what you want to do and commit to it. For instance, I used to be a serial loser of wallets. Every few months, one would disappear into the ether and I’d begin again. This was back in high school, when you’d collect wallet-sized pictures of your friends in little clear pockets, and the thickness of your wallet indicated your position in the social food chain. I wasn’t so concerned about losing my membership card from the Boris Becker Fan Club or ten dollars of babysitting money, but it killed me to have to collect a whole new batch of pictures. I finally committed to a simple habit: glancing over my shoulder every time I left a room, just to make sure I wasn’t leaving a wallet in my wake. You’d be surprised how often I was! I don’t know why it took me so long to realize that wallet retention requires responsibility; it’s not just a matter of luck.

Which habits are most important to you?

I’m committed to habits that give me the illusion of organization. This is why I write everything down, on real paper with an actual pen. I never leave home without two Moleskine notebooks. The black one is my calendar, which shows one week per two-page spread, with space at the bottom for my weekly to-do list. This is command central for everything from high school orientation to work deadlines to my mother-in-law’s birthday. The yellow notebook contains my daily to-do lists, with Glamour things on the right hand side of the page and personal items and notes on the left. I’d be lost without either one of my Moleskines, but the yellow one is the one I’d be embarrassed for someone else to see, since it contains loony ramblings unfit for public consumption.

Has another person ever had a big influence on your habits?

My husband’s fitness and nutrition habits are a big influence, mostly in aspirational ways. He’s incredibly disciplined about exercise and is naturally inclined to eat an apple when I’m digging into my second piece of apple pie. His habits are so ingrained, they’re actual facts: he’ll always make time to ride his bike or cook a healthy meal. I intend to do these things but inevitably run out of time because I’d rather call my sister.

Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you changed a major habit very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

These questions are my lightning bolt. I’m giving up Diet Coke! I’ve had at least one can every day since I was a teenager and it’s a bad habit—and also an expensive one that screams, “I’m an old lady!” Check in with me at 3 o’clock this afternoon and we’ll see how I fare.

Podcast 25: Hilarious Tips from A. J. Jacobs: Posture, Brainstorming, and Eat from the Fridge, Not the Pantry.

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

Update: In episode 21,we discussed the try-this-at-home tip, “Join or start a group.” We heard about many interesting, productive groups. Remember, you can request the starter kit for starting a Better Than Before Habits group, or a Happiness Project group. Or you can just email me a request.

Try This at Home-a-Palooza: Our terrific guest, the hilarious writer A. J. Jacobs, suggests a bunch of try-this-at-home tips: stand up straight, brainstorm for fifteen minutes a day, use sustainable honesty, and eat from the fridge, not the pantry. If you want more of A.J.’s humor and insights, read The Know-It-All, The Year of Living Biblically, Drop Dead Healthy, and The Guinea Pig Diaries.

Gretchen’s Demerit: I allow my ten-year-old to watch the TV show Friends. Appropriate — or not? Bonus: we include a clip from my favorite episode.

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Rain! Drought-plagued Los Angeles got a day of rain.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors.  Want to avoid post-office pain, and buy and print official U.S. postage for any letter or package, right from your own computer and printer? Visit Stamps.com to sign up for a no-risk trial, plus a $110 bonus offer — just enter the promo code HAPPIER.

Also, check out The Great Courses for a wide variety of fascinating courses. Special offer for our listeners: go to thegreatcourses.com/happier to order from eight of their bestselling courses, including Behavioral Economics: When Psychology and Economics Collide, and get up to 80% off. Limited time.

We’d love to hear from you. Did you try any of the tips suggested by A. J.?

Comment below. Email: podcast@gretchenrubin.com. Twitter: @gretchenrubin and @elizabethcraft. Call: 744-277-9336. Here’s the Facebook Page.

To sign up for my free monthly newsletter, text me at 66866 and enter the word (surprise) “happier.

To listen to this episode, just zip to the bottom of this post and hit the red “play” button.

Or if you’re reading this post by email, click to view online, to listen to the podcast from this post.

Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen toHappier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much!

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE: If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really.  To listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

And if you enjoyed the podcast, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

HAPPIER listening!

Agree, Disagree? Memories Live Longer Than Dreams.

Interview: James Wallman.

I’ve long been fascinated by the relationships between people and possessions. It’s a complicated, rich, emotionally-fraught bond. In the chapter on the Strategy of Distinctions in my book Better Than Before, for instance, I discuss the difference between over-buyers and under-buyers, and abundance-lovers and simplicity-lovers, and how those differences affect habits.

On this fascinating subject, James Wallman has a new book, Stuffocation: Why We’ve Had Enough of Stuff and Need Experience More than Ever,

I was very interested to hear what James had to say about habits, possessions, happiness, and human nature.

Gretchen: What’s a simple habit that consistently makes you happier?

James: In a note my Granddad, Jack, gave me on the day he died, he wrote that “Memories live longer than dreams.” As you can imagine, I’ve thought about that note a lot since then. I now believe he meant that what matters in life isn’t material things but experiences. So I have an ingrained habit to spend as little (money, time, energy) as possible on stuff, and as much as possible on experiences. When I come to any decision, I ask myself: will this, at the least, create a memory? It’s a great habit because it informs everything I do, it makes making decisions so much easier. I buy far less stuff, and do more things. And it makes my life full of interesting experiences.

What’s something you know now about forming healthy habits that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

The most important thing I’ve learned about forming healthy habits is the difference between the conscious and unconscious mind. Daniel Kahneman calls them System 2 and System 1 in Thinking, Fast and Slow. Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein think of them, in Nudge, as Homo Economicus and Homer Economicus. And Jonathan Haidt, in The Happiness Hypothesis, describes them as like the elephant and the rider. These ways of seeing the conscious and unconscious mind have made it clear to me that you have to set things up to help yourself follow your habits. Your System 1, Homo Economicus, rider has to “architect choice” for your System 2, Homer Economicus, elephant—so it’s easy for you to follow any habit.

So, if you don’t want to eat chocolate, don’t have chocolate in the house. If you don’t want to drink beer, don’t go to the pub. If you don’t want to end up with more stuff, don’t go shopping. And then, don’t only not do something, but have something positive to head towards. Have an alternative, non-sugary treat in the house. Have another way to spend time with friends: go climbing, for a walk, to the cinema, or anywhere where beer or shopping isn’t the main activity.

By architecting choice, you (the rider) can steer the elephant in the right direction.

Do you have any habits that continually get in the way of your happiness?

Checking email! I’ve removed email from my phone so I can’t check it when I’m away from my computer.

Which habits are most important to you? (for heath, for creativity, for productivity, for leisure, etc.)

I believe in sacred time. I can’t multi-task anyway, but I find it’s too easy to get distracted (hello, email). So whatever I’m doing, I try to completely focus on it. I switch my cellphone to airplane mode when I go to the park with my kids, for instance. So instead of checking Twitter and catching up with friends by text (hah, getting rid of email only takes you so far!), I actually focus on hanging out with them.

Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

I didn’t understand the categories till I’d taken the quiz, to be honest. But since I took the test and it says I’m a Questioner I totally get it. It’s me exactly: I question everything that I’m told, and I like to stick to things that matter to me. How else can any author be good at what they do? Our job is to question things, work out if they’re true, if they work, if they’re worth sharing. And then, we have to knuckle down and put hours, days, years, early mornings, late nights into bringing our passion from that idea that struck us at some obscure, quiet moment into the bright light of publication day. Hey, that’s how it’s been for this author at least!

Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits? (e.g. travel, parties)

I like to meditate early in the morning. It’s great for focusing the mind, setting up the day, getting things done. But I have a one-year-old and a three-year-old – and as often as not, they get up too. Hey, at least I get to hang out with them and have breakfast… which I guess is a healthy habit too.

Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you changed a major habit very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

That note from my Granddad.

Do you embrace habits or resist them?

I’m realistic: we’re creatures of habit. So the best thing is to try to create good habits.

Has another person ever had a big influence on your habits?

My Mum and Dad. They’ve always been very positive. It wasn’t that they pushed my brother and I, but they would always say: “It doesn’t matter how well you do, just do your best.” And they meant it. They didn’t judge us (or at least, I didn’t feel like they were judging us) on whether we succeeded or failed at something. They were happy if we’d had a go. And I think that’s a good practice, a good habit to have. Life throws all sorts of things at us: ups, downs, amazing surprises and frustrating setbacks. And if you know you’re doing all you can do, if you know you’re not wasting your opportunity, the result doesn’t matter. You can stand tall, be satisfied and happy with yourself, knowing you’re doing your best.

Podcast 22: Creativity! Listen to Rosanne Cash, Save Your String, Fight Drift, and a Lesson from the Writers’ Room.

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

This week, we have a theme! Creativity.

Update: Elizabeth and I, and our families, were recently in Kansas City together, to celebrate our mother’s birthday. We shot a quick little video to say hi to listeners. Check it out here.

Try This at Home: Save string — which is a phrase from journalism that means, find ways to save your little bits of ideas. To read more about choreographer Twyla Tharp’s process, look in The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life. Woody Allen discusses his method saving string in this Wall Street Journal interview.

PodcastNotebookElizabethHere’s a photo of Elizabeth’s podcast notebook (string not pictured).

Do you “save string?” What do you save, and how do you save it? Fabric scraps, art supplies, recipes, quotations, ideas for a garden, ideas for April Fool’s Day pranks…let us know.

Interview: Our guest is my friend, the brilliant singer, song-writer, and author, Rosanne Cash. She’s a Grammy-winning singer and composer who has recorded 15 albums and won countless awards.

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Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

As we discuss, she wrote a terrific memoir, Composed, which I read years before I met her, and loved. Elizabeth also loved it.

Her latest album, The River & The Thread, a collaboration with her husband, producer, and co-writer John Leventhal, won three Grammy awards.

It was so much fun to talk to her! I was just sorry that Elizabeth was in L.A. and couldn’t join us in person.

The song Rosanne talks about in the interview is When the Master Calls the Roll.

Now you’re probably dying to see Rosanne perform in person. In September, you can see her in Nashville at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Info here. Or if, like me, you’re in the New York City area, you can see her at Carnegie Hall. Info here.

Gretchen’s Demerit: Here’s the link to the video of the 5×15 talk I gave ondrift and a post I wrote about drift. I’ve saved the string–but I haven’t turned it into anything (yet).

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth gives a gold star to Jenna Bans, the creator of The Family, the TV show that Elizabeth writes for.  (Trailer for the show here.) Jenna Bans gets a gold star for building a great creative atmosphere in the writers’ room.

Elizabeth and I have a favor to ask. We’re part of the Panoply network, and Panoply has created a listener survey. If you could take a few minutes to take the survey, it will really help us — and Panoply — learn more about our listeners. Thanks!

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors. Want to avoid post-office pain, and buy and print official U.S. postage for any letter or package, right from your own computer and printer? Visit Stamps.com to sign up for a no-risk trial, plus a $110 bonus offer — just enter the promo code HAPPIER.

Also, thanks to Casper, the online retailer of premium mattresses.  Pay a fraction of what you’d pay in the store, get free delivery, and returns within a 100 day period.  Get $50 off a mattress purchase by visiting Casper.com/happier, promo code HAPPIER.

We’d love to hear from you: have you saved string— and if so, did it make you happier? Like Rosanne Cash, have you figured out ways to help you quiet the critics in your head?

Comment below. Email: podcast@gretchenrubin.com. Twitter: @gretchenrubin and @elizabethcraft. Call: 744-277-9336. Here’s the Facebook Page.

To listen to this episode, just zip to the bottom of this post and hit the red “play” button.

Or if you’re reading this post by email, click to view online, to listen to the podcast from this post.

Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen toHappier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much!

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE: If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really. Instructions here.

If you want to listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

Again, be sure to subscribe and listen and subscribe on iTunes so you never miss an episode. And if you enjoyed it, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

HAPPIER listening!

Podcast 19: Enjoy the Fun of Failure, an Interview with TV Anchor Dan Harris, and Plane-Ticket Pain.

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

First, a quick digression: do you try to say “Rabbit, rabbit,” on the first day of the month? I do, and today I remembered. Yay.

Thanks again to everyone who contacted us with a comment for our next episode, the Very Special Episode where we’ll feature our listeners. It has been so fun to pull this episode together. Stay tuned for next week.

This week…

Update: I report on my encounter with the Dalai Lama.

Try This at Home: Enjoy the fun of failure. That’s right, the fun. Send us your stories!

Interview: Dan Harris. Dan is an ABC News correspondent, an anchor for Nightline, and co-anchor for the weekend edition of Good Morning America — and the author of 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story. (I love that title.) In this interview, we discuss how did he tame the voice in his head.

To see the on-air panic attack that Dan describes, view it here. To see the scene from the movie Broadcast News that Elizabeth mentions, view it here (the sweating part starts at 4:10).

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth procrastinates about buying plane tickets for the family trip to Kansas City. (Maybe it’s a family thing; I also hate to buy plane tickets.)

Gretchen’s Gold Star: I love the strange, brilliant book, A  Pattern Language: Towns, Building, Construction. Child caves! Half-hidden garden! Cascade of roofs! And, my favorite, Secret place.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors. Visit Framebridge.com — a terrific way to get your art and photos framed, in a super easy and affordable way. Use the code HAPPIER at checkout to get 20% off your first Framebridge order.

Also check out Little Passports, www.littlepassports.com/happier. Keep your kids busy this summer with this award-winning subscription for kids — they get a monthly package in the mail that highlights a new global destination. To save 40% on your first month’s subscription, enter the promo code HAPPY.

We’d love to hear from you: have you ever enjoyed the fun of failure, — and if so, how?

Comment below. Email: podcast@gretchenrubin.com. Twitter: @gretchenrubin and @elizabethcraft. Call: 744-277-9336. Here’s the Facebook Page.

To listen to this episode, just zip to the bottom of this post and hit the red “play” button.

Or if you’re reading this post by email, click here to view online, to listen to the podcast from this post.

Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen toHappier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much!

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE: If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really. Instructions here.

Or for an amusing short how-to video made by Ira Glass of This American Life, click here.

If you want to listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

Again, be sure to subscribe and listen and subscribe on iTunes so you never miss an episode. And if you enjoyed it, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

HAPPIER listening!