Tag Archives: routines

Podcast 83: Are You A Hedgehog or a Fox? and Read 3 Unfamiliar Magazines

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

Update: If you live near Seattle, please come to our live event! We’ll be recording an episode of the podcast live on stage at Seattle’s Town Hall on October 13, 7:30. Tickets are $25. More info and buy tickets here. Please come, bring your friends.

In episode 76, we talked about manifestos, and if you’re coming to the Seattle event, we’d love to highlight a few manifestos from listeners. So send us your manifesto for work, life, parenting, marriage, exercise, clutter-clearing — whatever! And maybe we’ll talk about it with you on stage.

Try This at Home: Read three magazines that you don’t usually read. I tried this creativity exercise as part of writing my book The Happiness Project.

Happiness Hack: Doug suggests using the reminders app in your smart-phone to remind yourself to any tasks you need to complete.

Know Yourself Better: Are you a hedgehog or a fox? We refer to the enigmatic line from Archilocus: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” According to the understanding of that line that Elizabeth and I share, we’re both hedgehogs.

Listener Question: Daniel asks “I’m now working freelance, and I struggle to create habits, because my schedule changes all the time. How can I built my habits?”

Elizabeth’s Demerit: She and Adam neglected to get their son Jack back into an earlier sleep schedule before school started.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: The musical Hamilton! Such a fresh, beautiful way to think about American history.

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #83

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12 Tips for a Happier Home, Adapted from Nursery School.

One of my resolutions is to Treat myself like a toddler. I’ve found that much of the advice aimed at children is just as helpful for me.

For instance, I’m reading Nicole Malenfant’s Routines and Transitions: A Guide for Early Childhood Professionals (non sequitur:  a surprising name for a childhood expert). She lays out several strategies for teachers to use in establishing routines and transitions for children. I’m going to try to apply them to myself.

Here’s a tips list, loosely adapted:

  1. Turn routines into games. My evening tidy-up, while not quite a “game,” is kind of fun and quite relaxing.
  2. Control the level of noise. I’m much calmer when there’s no TV or music playing in the background.  (Except at night. Weirdly, my husband and I fall asleep to all-news radio.)
  3. Organize space so it’s attractive, well organized, and well lit. One of my most important Secrets of Adulthood: Outer order contributes to inner calm.
  4. Plan times each day for relaxing activities. Why is this so hard for adults?
  5. Encourage a feeling of belonging, e.g., by displaying children’s work and pictures. I have a resolution to Cultivate a shrine.
  6. Consider children’s reactions when making an unavoidable change. I do better with routines and predictability. I don’t react well when there’s a sudden change in the schedule.
  7. Balance indoor and outdoor activities. Just going outside into the sunlight gives a mood boost.
  8. Make sure there’s plenty of time to get things done without rushing. This makes a huge difference in my day-to-day happiness. In Happier at Home, I write a lot about my struggle to create an unhurried atmosphere at home.
  9. Provide opportunities for curiosity and creativity.
  10. Speak in a calm voice. This is a big issue in my home. We talk all the time about “a kind voice,” “a mean voice.”
  11. Explain the behavior you’d like to see in a clear, respectful way. Not “Settle down,” but “Sit in your chair with your feet under your desk.” Not “I could use a little help around here,” but “Please unload the dishwasher so we can get the dirty dishes out of the sink.”
  12. Meet people’s basic needs. Children and adults need to eat, drink, go to the bathroom, rest, and spend time outside.

It’s such a cliche to say that “I learned everything I need to know in kindergarten,” but I find that sometimes the most basic ideas are quite effective.

What would you add to this list? What lessons from nursery school?


7 Tips for Keeping School-Day Mornings Calm and Cheerful.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: Seven tips for keeping school-day mornings calm and cheery.

Unbelievable, but school is already well underway. And that means that the early-morning scramble is underway too.

I wrote this list a while back, but I realized this morning that I needed to go over it again and remind myself of what I need to do keep things running smoothly. I want a calm, unrushed, cheerful morning — not one with lots of whining, yelling, and searching for misplaced items. (And that’s just me!)

I had a major insight about the challenge of keeping our school-day mornings moving along: I was focused on chivvying my children along. Wrong! I needed to worry about ME.

When I work on my own habits, mornings are much easier. Here are some tips I try to follow to keep the mornings calm:

1. Get enough sleep myself. I’m good at putting my kids to sleep at a decent hour, and I need to be just as disciplined with myself. It can be tempting to stay up late, to enjoy the peace and quiet, but 6:00 a.m. comes fast, and being overtired makes the morning much tougher.

2. Sing. As goofy as it sounds, I try to sing in the morning. It’s hard both to sing and to maintain a grouchy mood, and it sets a happy tone for everyone—particularly in my case, because I’m tone deaf, and my audience finds my singing a source of great hilarity.

3. Say “no” only when it really matters. Wear a bright red shirt with bright orange pants and bright green shoes? Sure. As Samuel Johnson said, “All severity that does not tend to increase good, or prevent evil, is idle.”

4. Get organized the night before. It’s so hard to take the trouble to wrangle all the stuff together the night before, but it really pays off. Those last-minute dashes for homework sheets or empty paper-towel rolls are hard to bear with equanimity. I also try to observe the evening tidy-up, so I don’t feel like I should rush around tidying up the apartment.

5. Have a precise routine. This sounds counter-intuitive, and I’m not sure it would work for everyone, but in our house, we have a NASA-like countdown to get to school. At 7:00 a.m., we all go down to breakfast. At 7:20, time to get dressed. 7:40, time to leave for the walk to school. Knowing these exact times keeps my daughters moving and stops them from repeating, “Just a minute, just a minute.”

6. Caffeine. If you need your caffeine, make sure you can get your caffeine! I usually manage to drink several huge mugs of coffee before we leave the house.

7. Jump! This is my new favorite resolution. Yes, just jump up and down a few times. It will make you feel more energetic, lighthearted, and silly — a great tone to start the day.

A friend of mine works full-time and has two young sons. She told me, “For a long time, our mornings were awful — lots of crabbiness and procrastination, me yelling at everyone to hurry up. Then it hit me: I don’t get to spend that much time with my kids during the week, and a big part of that time is during the morning. I made changes so that it became good family time.”

For her, the secret was to get up earlier. She hated to lose thirty minutes of sleep, but that extra half hour made the difference between a relaxed, cheerful morning and a rushed, difficult morning.

It’s worth the effort to try to get mornings running smoothly, because the morning sets the tone for the whole day – for everyone.

The days are long, but the years are short.

* Are you a Savvy Auntie? Check out this great site for “cool aunts, great aunts, godmothers, and all women who love kids.”

* Speaking of “The days are long, but the years are short,” if you haven’t watched my little one-minute video, you might enjoy it.