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« Year End Honesty | Balancing Passion »
Tuesday
Dec182012

Ask the Expert: Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen RubinWhat an exciting year we've had with the introduction of our “Ask the Expert” feature on The Other Side of Organized blog! We’ve enjoyed fabulous conversations about being wonderfully human with Denslow Brown, possibilities with DeeAnne White, success with Lori Deschene, enlisting help with Janet Barclay, motivation with Dr. Shannon Reece, time management with Julie Morgenstern, clutter with Lorie Marrero, letting go with Geralin Thomas, next steps with Yota Schneider, and change with John Ryan. The interviews are the starting point. Your insightful reflections and additions to the dialogue add so much depth. I’m grateful that you are part of The Other Side of Organized community. This month as we shift our focus, I’m thrilled to bring you best-selling author and happiness expert, Gretchen Rubin to share her wisdom about life balance.

When Gretchen wrote The Happiness Project in 2009, there was a tremendous buzz about her book. I added it to my “Books to Read” list. Around that time, my husband and I became empty nesters. We had just dropped off our youngest daughter at college. We were in the airport, on our way to our first vacation in years without our kids, when I entered a bookstore to “just browse.” Displayed prominently, was Gretchen’s book. I bought it immediately, knowing it was the perfect book to read as I transitioned to this new phase of life. My deepest gratitude and thanks goes to Gretchen for taking the time to join us. Before we begin, here’s more about her.

Gretchen Rubin is the author of several books, including the blockbuster #1 New York Times bestseller, The Happiness Project and her latest bestseller, Happier at HomeOn her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. Gretchen started her career in law, and she was clerking for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor when she realized that she really wanted to be a writer. Raised in Kansas City, she lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters. You can connect with Gretchen on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, website, or blog.

 

Linda:  You’re an expert on encouraging more happiness into our daily lives. What are some ways to increase the happiness quotient?

Gretchen:  A key—perhaps the key to happiness is strong relationships with other people. When you’re deciding how to spend your precious time, energy, and money, anything that widens or deepens your bonds with others is likely to be a happiness-booster.

 

Linda:  In your pursuit of happiness, what have you discovered about life balance?

Gretchen:  If something is important to me, I can’t wait until I have some free time to do it. I never have any free time. I have to make time.

 

Linda:  What do you suggest for those who are overwhelmed, stress-out, and time poor?

Gretchen:  Get enough sleep! Many people who feel overwhelmed, stressed-out, and time poor are physically exhausted because they’re chronically under-slept. Most adults need 7-9 hours. You can’t “train” yourself to get by with less. I’ve become a real sleep nut, because I see how important it is to happiness, energy, and health.

 

Linda:  Do you have a philosophy about life balance?

Gretchen:  My mantras are “I have plenty of time for the things that are important to me” and “I want to cram my life with the things I love.” The consequence – I don’t have time for the things that don’t reflect my interests, values, and temperament. They have to fall away.

 

Linda:  What has been your biggest personal life balance challenge?

Gretchen:  I love to work, so it’s sometimes hard for me to put down my book or step away from my laptop to spend time with my family and friends. I have to give myself “quitting time”!

Thank you, Gretchen for your thoughtful and concise insights about happiness and life balance. I love the clarity you have that happiness comes from our strong relationships with others, and that life balance is a matter of making time for what’s important and releasing the things that are not. I invite all of you to join Gretchen and me as we continue the conversation. What adds to your happiness? What are your challenges or successes with finding balance?

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Reader Comments (20)

Thank you Gretchen for your powerful mantras! I love that you have created a statement that helps us prioritize and with humor! We do want to cram and squish in who and what we love! And with that in mind, it is easier to release the "shoulds" and obligations. Especially at the holidays when we are more than busy, this is a wonderful way to view our balance.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Delap

I realize that like Gretchen, I have to force myself to come away from the laptop and turn my work brain OFF and when I do, I actually feel better about coming back to it. It's the walking away that can be difficult! (We don't have kids so it's easier for me to work a lot than perhaps folks with bigger family obligations)

I tell my clients that life balance, like anything else, is doing what works for YOU but it won't just magically happen without you proactively establishing boundaries on your time to make it happen.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMonica Ricci

I love the wonderfully concise ideas here presented by Gretchen. I totally agree with strong relationships being a key activator to happiness, as well as spending precious time on things that are deemed important & indeed matter most. As a student of Martin Seligman's work on happiness, as well as Stephen Covey's idea of putting "First Things First" these ideas resonate with me; I also applaud Gretchen for noting the importance of getting enough sleep! So key to levels of happiness, energy & wellbeing. Monica Ricci also makes a valid point above in saying that life balance is what works for YOU, & also echoes Gretchen's remark about making time & being proactive to get that "important time." What I also find adds to my levels of happiness is taking time to exercise & build in recreation into my schedule, which along with a good level of rest & sound sleep, helps me maintain my core energy at a level that enables me to give my attention to the things that matter most at any one time. In terms of challenges to finding balance, I think life throws some curve balls at you on occasion & you do your best to deal with them. Sometimes, this means that for short periods, I may be out of personal equilibrium; however, providing this is a transient state, & like Gretchen with her "quitting time" I will cut myself some slack, as in my heart I will know my medial balance is where it needs to be. Thank you to Gretchen & Linda for bringing such a fabulous topic to the conversational table today.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGrant Willcox

Gretchen: The "sleep" points particularly resonates for me. I find that being almost "obsessive" about my sleep requirement helps ground me for the day, helps me stay even-tempered, helps me with focus and memory, and honestly has enhanced my abilities to see the best and appreciate more. I have my cranky days, of course, but far fewer than I used to! When I work with clients, I zero in on the sleep cycle issue, because you're right, without that in place, it's difficult to work on the rest .

Linda - I love hearing from your circle of experts! It struck me as I read this article, that this supports or integrates nicely with the values concepts and creating A Life that Fits, your most recent interview with Denslow Brown.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSue West

This post is wonderful. For me all work and no play makes Leslie very cranky! Seriously, I find that removing myself from my work or family obligations for a small respite -- whether a coffee with friends or a quick manicure -- does wonders to "reset" my brain and my mood. It is more potent and powerful than anything else. As organizers and entrepreneurs, our existence can be a lonely one. That human connection is so essential for our happiness and well being.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie Josel

Linda -

Thanks for this wonderful interview with Gretchen Rubin. I absolutely loved her book, The Happiness Project, and took the time to not only read it, but study it closely, as I have presented teleclasses on the topic of happiness. I relate to her on so many levels, as I, too, am a lawyer that left my law career to pursue other work. I also tend to be a passionate worker and have to remind myself to put my work down, which is not always easy!

I agree that in order to be happy, we have to MAKE TIME for the things that we enjoy most. We make time by planning ahead, setting priorities, reminding ourselves what's important, and sometimes forcing ourselves to engage in the behaviors that we SAY are a priority but are not showing up that way in our lives.

I am a firm believer that we can do anything we want in life, but not at the same time. This has been a hard lesson for me to learn as I am a multi-passionate person and entrepreneur. My Mom used to tease me that I should have been a cat as it will take 9 lives to do all that I want to accomplish in this one! :-) But if we try to do it all at once, usually something suffers. So I heed this advice of "making time" and have noticed what a huge difference it makes! (And yes, getting 7-8 hours of sleep as often as I can, and exercising and eating healthily work wonders too.)

Thanks again for such a thought-provoking series. It has been an absolute delight to read the interviews, and engage in meaningful discussion with you and your worthwhile interviewees on some fascinating topics.

Warmly - Lisa

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Montanaro

So wonderful to hear from all of you. Love that you joined us. Life balance and finding that right mix is a hot button for all of us. The benefits of getting enough sleep seems to be a major theme here along with making time for what's most important.

@Ellen- Appreciate you pointing out developing mantras, like Gretchen did, to keep us on track.

@Monica- Activating that "Off" switch for work. Helps keep us multi-dimensional.

@Grant- Important point you make about when life throws curve balls it can challenge our equilibrium.

@Sue- You cranky? Can't even imagine that. For me, not enough sleep equals foggy brain and zero focus. A sure fire formula for disrupting the balance. Appreciate that you mentioned Denslow Brown's interview. Creating a life that fits is another theme in finding balance.

@Leslie- Your operative phrase is "small respite." Realizing that we don't necessarily need an entire day to "reset," is so important. A short break is better than no break. Like you, I'm a huge believer in nurturing our human connections. Love to share our challenges, joys, learn from, and support one another.

@Lisa- Was lucky to be one of the attendees of your great "Happiness" teleclass. I know that you're a big fan of Gretchen's too. We have a few "favorites" in common. I noticed here that Gretchen's "make time" phrase resonated with you, as it did with many others. It's true that we begin each day with an equal amount of hours. From there, it's all about choice.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

The "make time" phrase resonated for me too, as did the challenge mentioned in the closing paragraph. Thank you, Linda and Gretchen, for an insightful interview.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

Great interview! I loved Gretchen's book so much I gave it to people as Christmas gifts, along with a mug, hot cocoa mix, and Peeps to float on top. I wanted to encourage small respites! :)

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnita Sanz

Agree with all of your insightful comments. For me, life balance comes with honesty;To acknowledge and evaluate where my priorities are NOW delineates how I choose to spend my time. Letting go of "old' priorities is so liberating and allows room for new growth. Adding on new challenges and incorporating "true to myself "values is the ultimate life -balance.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Borg

Great to hear from you Wonderful Women!

@Janet- I guess the idea of "make time" also includes "quitting time." Aligning our choices with our values.

@Anita- So glad you enjoyed the interview. I love your combo gift idea of Gretchen's book along with hot beverage supplies to encourage "small respites." Fabulous idea!

@Nancy- So important that you brought up the idea of "letting go" of those things or priorities that are no longer valued. That's part of the clarifying, growth, and balancing process.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Thanks for the great perspectives, Gretchen - great interview, Linda. I fully agree with the importance of sleep. I can tell when my clients aren't well-rested - they're poor decision makers and have a hard time staying focused.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSue Becker

Linda - that is so true! When things are very busy, I tend to think I'm too busy to go out for lunch with a friend, but when I do, it actually rejuvenates me, as well as ensuring that I work even more efficiently so I don't fall behind and get stressed out.

December 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

@Sue- Happy to see you here with us. Sleep IS important. Whether we feel the effects or see it in others, there's no getting around the fact that NOT getting enough throws off our balance and ability to function well.

@Janet- Love that you've reminded yourself what DOES work for you.

December 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Lovely interview, thanks to both Linda and Gretchen - especially the idea of making time rather than waiting for it. Many great comments in the discussion too. I've also loved reading Gretchen's book and her blog. When I'm overwhelmed, what helps me most is literally doing nothing - stopping for a moment, taking a few deep breaths and creating space in my mind to focus on the present. It's so easy to get lost in anxieties about the past or pressures relating to future plans. Practicing mindfulness is a great way of restoring calm and balance. When I'm coaching clients who are stressed, it often surprises them to hear me suggest taking time (or making time!) to just be in the moment.

December 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJuliet Landau-pope

Juliet- Thank you for the reminder about the importance of being in the moment, stopping to just breathe, and focusing on now. When overwhelm takes over and shifts our balance way off course, doing the specific things you suggested can make a huge difference. Most appreciate you stopping by to add your wisdom to our conversation.

December 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Linda,

What a wonderful post and reminder that what matters should always stay top of our list. As I spend time in Rio enjoying the warmth of both the weather and of family and, life-long relationships my heart rejoices and I can't agree more with Gretchen on the power of having strong relationships. And, as a mother of twins I also have to agree with the sleeping part! Nothing makes me crankier than lack of sleep and I make sure I get what I need for productive (and happy!) days. I also became a sleep-nut Gretchen and, I make my kiddos sleep as much as I make them eat! Thank you for this great interview!

December 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHelena Alkhas

Helena- Lovely to know that you put what is most important to you at the top of your list. That you are fully enjoying the lifelong relationships you have nurtured, along with understanding yours and your family's need for enough sleep is a testament to that. Great to hear your voice all the way from Rio. Enjoy your time away!

December 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Stepping away from work is challenge for me sometimes...but once I hit the off (or pause) button, I usually come back to my project with fresher eyes. I often remind myself that I'll probably be more productive *after* I take a break. This helps to stop the "worry conversation" in my head ("I have so much to do!"). Besides, curling up with the little person in my life is much, much nicer than curling up with a machine. Great interview, Linda. =)

December 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDeb Lee

Deb- That work/life balance is an interesting pull. It sounds like you've figured out what works for you. Your no guilt method lets you be 100% where ever you are. Building in those parameters and boundaries can make such a difference to our well-being. Thank you for sharing how you successfully navigate your roles as both entrepreneur and mom. Grateful that you joined the conversation.

December 22, 2012 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

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