• Lars Christensen

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin



I finished this book in May 2022. I recommend this book 6/10.

A practical book on how to change your habits. The book is full of different examples from work productivity, having a cleaner house, and for me—it made me go to bed earlier at night,

Get your copy here.

My notes and thoughts:

  • Everyone falls into one of four distinct groups:

  • Upholders respond readily to both outer expectations and inner expectations.

  • Questioners question all expectations and will meet an expectation only if they believe it's justified.

  • Obligers respond readily to outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations.

  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike.

  • Promotion-focused people concentrate on achievement and advancement, on making gains on getting more love, praise, and pleasure. They eagerly and optimistically pursue their goals. By contrast, prevention-focused people concentrate on fulfilling their duties, on avoiding losses, and on minimizing danger, pain, or censure. They're vigilant against possible drawbacks or problems.

  • Get to know yourself better by asking these questions:

  • How would I like to spend my time?

  • What I value?

  • My current habits?

  • From my observation, habits in four areas do most to boost feelings of self-control and in this way strengthen the foundation of all our habits. We do well to begin by tackling the habits that help us to:

  • Sleep Move

  • Eat and drink right

  • Unclutter

  • We may not be able to form a habit in twenty-one days, but in many situations, we do benefit from scheduling a habit every day. The things we do every day take on a certain beauty, and funnily enough, two very unconventional geniuses wrote about the power of daily repetition. Andy Warhol said, "Either once only, or every day. If you do something once, it's exciting, and if you do it every day, it's exciting. But if you do it, say, twice or just almost every day, it's not good anymore." Gertrude Stein made a related point: "Anything one does every day is important and imposing."

  • First, I made a running list of the tasks I wanted to complete. That was almost fun; I get a weird satisfaction from adding items to my to-do list. I didn't add any task with a deadline, such as planning my talk for a conference or buying plane tickets, because I knew these tasks would get done anyway. And I didn't allow myself to use Power Hour for recurring tasks, like paying bills or answering emails. Power hour was only for those one-time tasks that I kept postponing. Something that can be done at any time is often done at no time; I wrote:

  • Replace my broken office chair

  • Make a photo album of our vacation

  • Use up store credit

  • Donate books to Housing Works

  • Round up and recycle batteries and devices.

  • When I saw a photograph of Johnny Cash's to-do list in the paper, I saw that he'd used the strategy of scheduling too. On a sheet printed with the words "Things to do today," he wrote:

  • Not smoke

  • Kiss June

  • Not kiss anyone else

  • Cough

  • Pee

  • Eat

  • Not eat too much

  • Worry

  • Go see Mama

  • Practice Piano

  • I suggested that he write from 11:00 to 1:00 every weekday. During that time, he was to write or do nothing. No emails; no calls; no research; no clearing off a desk; no hanging out with Jack, my adorable, three-year-old, train-obsessed nephew. Write or stare out the window. Working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination. You want to use your writing time for writing only.

  • One flashy kind of commitment device is the "nuclear option." A friend quit drinking for sixty days. He gave his assistant a stamped, addressed envelope with a check he'd written to an "anti-charity," an organization whose policies he passionately opposes, with the instruction to mail the check if he had a drink before the time was up.

  • What was the most auspicious date to start? The first day of the week, or the month, or the year? Or my birthday? Or the start of the school year? Nope. That is invoking "tomorrow logic." Begin now!

  • Many people succeed best when they keep their starting steps as small and manageable as possible; by doing so, they gain the habit of the habit and the feeling of mastery. They begin their new yoga routine by doing three poses or start work on a big writing project by drafting a single sentence.

  • A blast start can be a helpful way to take the first step. The blast start is the opposite of taking the smallest possible first step because it requires a period of high commitment. It's demanding, but its intensity can energize a habit.

  • Taking the first step is hard, and every first step requires some kind of transition. Adults help children to manage transition—by giving them bedtime routines, cleanup reminders, and warnings of "Five more minutes!"—but we adults often expect ourselves to careen effortlessly from one activity to the next.

  • The clean slate moment is easy to overlook, however, and too often, we don't recognize that some fresh start is triggering a habit change. Because we're creatures of habit, the first mark on that slate is often proven indelible. We should start the way we want to continue. In the first few days after we moved to a new apartment, I started my workday with an hour of social media—and bam! This habit locked into my day with iron strength.

  • "I dreaded my dentist appointment because I knew they'd ask how often I floss. It occurred to me that I could just floss every day, and then that question would never bother me. It puzzles me why the solution suddenly became so obvious and so easy in that moment."

  • "First, I gave up dairy," he explained. "That didn't seem too hard—no milk in my coffee, no ice cream. Then I gave up rice. Then bread. Each time I had to decide that I would give it up forever. But it never seemed very hard to stop eating a particular thing, and then I never thought about it again."

  • Although people often assume that cravings intensify over time, research shows that with active distraction, urges—even strong urges—usually subside within about fifteen minutes. So now, whenever I'm tempted to break a good habit (or indulge in bad habit, two sides of the same coin), I say to myself, "I can leave my desk—in fifteen minutes." The delay of fifteen minutes is often long enough for me to get absorbed in something else. If I distract myself sufficiently, I may forget about a craving entirely.

  • I realized I have a habit like that myself, which I'd been treating as a bad habit, but it's not a bad habit; it's a good habit—my habit of wandering through the library stacks to look at whatever titles catch my eye, I love doing this, and I've found a surprising number of good books this way. I'd always considered it an inefficient use of time, but actually, it was a perfect distraction. The fact is, I can't write for three hours straight, or. for even forty-five minutes. I need a lot of breaks. It's a secret of adulthood: to keep going. I sometimes need to allow myself to stop.

  • "Say you want to start packing lunch for work. Instead of thinking, "As a reward for preparing and bringing in my own lunch, I'll splurge on a lunch at an expensive restaurant on Friday," you think, "Now that I'm bringing in lunch every day, I'm going to splurge on a fabulous set of knives, so my habit of cooking is more fun."

  • I heard about a couple who went to marriage counseling because they were fighting constantly about chores and whether a clean house or ample leisure time was more important. They kept arguing—until they decided to quit marriage counseling and spend the money on a weekly cleaning service.

  • Providing clarity can make it easier to control habits "I don't," " I choose to," I'm going to," or "I don't want to," works better than "I'm not allowed," "I'm not supposed to," There is a really big difference between "I don't" and "I can't."

  • I realized that I could tie yearly habits on trigger dates, like Labor Day now triggers me to schedule family flu vaccine. St Patrick's Day triggers me to review finances.

  • "No," I acknowledged, "I stick to it. I don't care if people think I'm fussy; I am fussy. Also," I added, "I worried about my weight for so many years; it's worth it to me to be fussy, not to have to worry about it anymore."

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