Podcast 332: We Review Our “21 for 2021” Lists to Consider What We’ve Done (or Not) and Discuss a Happiness Hack for Managing Anxiety.


I’m in Kansas City! I recorded this episode in my parents’ laundry room, surrounded by pillows to muffle the reverberations, because that’s where the signal is strongest.

Here in Kansas City, my daughters Eliza and Eleanor made soba noodles after we all watched several episodes of the terrific Netflix TV show Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories, about a little Tokyo diner that’s open from midnight until 7 a.m. I was reminded of our discussion in episode 328, about the suggestion to “Eat something you saw on the page or screen.”

Try This at Home

Review your 21 for 2021 list.

We’ve talked about this idea many times: as you head into the new year,  make a list of 21 things you’d like to get done in 2021.

In episode 149, we talked about our “18 for 2018” lists; in episode 203, “19 for 2019” lists; in episode 255, “20 for 2020” lists. Most recently, in episode 307, we revealed our “21 for 2021” lists.

Research shows that making a concrete, specific list, and referring back to it, really does help you achieve your aims. And for many people, this approach seems more fun than making traditional new year’s resolutions.

Because we’re about halfway through 2021 (how is that possible?), it was time to review our lists.

Gretchen’s “21 for ’21”

  1. Make a list of friends and colleagues I want to connect with by phone or Zoom – STARTED BUT NEED TO UPDATE
  2. Make two plans a week to connect with the people on that list – SORT OF
  3. Figure out the light-bulb question – SO CONFUSING THAT I STARTED THEN STALLED
  4. Have a scent party
  5. Have a taste party
  7. Make an Album of Now – UNDERWAY
  8. Get my Real I.D. (Good news: the Department of Homeland Security extended the deadline to May 3, 2023)
  9. Practice my driving (as I wrote about in Happier at Home, I’m a fearful driver) – UNDERWAY
  10. Read a Summer of Virginia Woolf – UNDERWAY
  11. Make an appointment to help me make better outfits from my own clothes
  12. Do 30 minutes of “review” each work day
  13. Add photos to my address book – UNDERWAY
  14. Watch Mad Men – DONE (listen to our bonus episode recap of the series)
  15. Look at old photo albums and home videos with my family
  16. Review my giant “happiness” catch-all document
  17. Play around with well-being apps
  18. Get our big red chair recovered – DONE
  19. Deal with my sent/trash folders – DONE
  20. Shine a spotlight on work I admire; amplify the work of others – UNDERWAY
  21. Add one new item!


Elizabeth’s “21 for ’21”

  1. Get the vaccine – DONE
  2. Get a Real I.D.
  3. Celebrate her friend Mike’s 50th birthday with friends – UNDERWAY
  4. Get Fraxel
  5. Sell two TV pitches – SOLD ONE
  6. Eat lots of vegetables, and to help with that, avoid using Postmates at night during the week – SORT OF
  7. Do another “sober month” – DONE
  8. Get through her giant book pile for #Read21in21 (if you want a don’t-break-the-chain sheet for #Read21in21, it’s here) – UNDERWAY
  9. Get a will
  10. Educate herself about investing in property
  11. Do a Happier in Hollywood meet-up (post-vaccine)
  12. Walk to Malibu – UNDERWAY
  13. Continue #Walk20in20 (if you want a don’t-break-the-chain sheet for #Walk20in21, it’s here)
  14. Weigh herself daily – STOPPED IN PUERTO RICO
  15. Use her Waterpic at least three times a week – DITTO
  16. Create a fiction podcast
  17. Trust her gut, especially at work – COULD BE BETTER
  18. Go to Disneyland
  19. Visit Miraval for a friend’s birthday
  20. Take Jack boogie-boarding at least 5 times
  21. In making hiring decisions for Fantasy Island, put her actions behind her intent to provide opportunities for all – DONE

Bottom line: both of us have many, many items left to accomplish.

If you’d like a sheet where you can write your “21 for 2021” list neatly, download yours here.

Happiness Hack: I suggest an image that my daughter Eleanor described to me, about how when she’s feeling overwhelmed, she visualizes herself shutting doors on her worries.

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Even though she’s back home in Los Angeles (briefly) from Puerto Rico, she hasn’t made any of the appointments she planned to make.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: I give a gold star to Elizabeth, because although she’s been working incredibly hard, she still takes an interest in what other people are doing.


  • Are you trying to make (or break) a habit? Download my “Checklist for Habit Change.” This one-page chart will help you deploy the many strategies for habit change as you work on a crucial key habit that you want to master. Maybe it’s a habit that you included in your “21 for “2021” list. Click here and scroll down to “Better Than Before.”
  • If you’re looking for some mood-boosting music this summer, we made a Happier 911 list on Spotify. So much great, happy music! All the songs were suggested by Happier podcast listeners.

What we’re reading

  • Elizabeth: Listening to The Housewives: The Real Story Behind the Real Housewives by Brian Moylan (AmazonBookshop)
  • Gretchen: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (AmazonBookshop)



Like what you see? Explore more about this topic.

Subscribe to Gretchen’s newsletter.

Every Friday, Gretchen Rubin shares 5 things that are making her happier, asks readers and listeners questions, and includes exclusive updates and behind-the-scenes material.