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Yesterday, I got a box full of the galleys of Happier at Home. (For you non-publishing industry folk, a galley is a pre-publication, preview copy of a book.)
This should be a thrilling moment, and it was thrilling, but at the same time, for some reason, it sent me into a bit of a panic. I could hardly bring myself to open a book. I get the same feeling when I have a piece run in a newspaper or magazine. Most writers seem to love the moment when they see their work “in print,” but not me. I’m not really sure why. Am I afraid of spotting a mistake? Or seeing something that, by this point, I’d do differently? Maybe.
Do you ever experience that? Something that seems to make other people wildly happy—that you think “should” make you happy—for some reason, doesn’t?
Nevertheless, getting the galleys is an important marker on the road to publication, so it’s exciting as a milestone. And it make me think grateful thoughts, as I do at least fifteen times a day, about how lucky I have work that I love so much. I’m so grateful to have galleys! even if they do make me uneasy.
On creative collaboration:
“Don’t sign on for more problems than you must. Resist the temptation to involve yourself in other people’s zones of expertise and responsibility. Monitor troublesome situations if you need to, but don’t insert yourself unless you’re running out of time and a solution is nowhere in sight. In short, stifle your inner control freak.”
– Twyla Tharp, The Collaborative Habit
* It’s always worth a visit to Leo Babuta’s Zen Habits.
* Would you like a free, signed bookplate for your copy of The Happiness Project, or for a gift? Or, for the audio-book or the e-book, a free signature card? Sign up here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve cribbed some of my favorite resolutions from other people, and when a thoughtful reader posted that one of her resolutions is to “Clean while I cook,” I immediately decided to adopt that for my own.
“Clean while I cook” isn’t just about cooking, of course. It’s about cleaning up after myself along the way, instead of letting clutter and chores build up around me. I’ve always tried to push myself to behave this way, but for some reason, this formulation has really stuck in my mind.
For instance, I’m trying to follow “Clean while I cook” by also following the resolution to “Hang up clothes while I change clothes.” I tend to throw clothes all over the bedroom as I change from one outfit to another, and to leave them there for a few days, and it looks very messy. I’m trying to do a better job of putting clothes away as soon as I take them off. My husband sets a good example here: he always puts his clothes away. (Except his socks. He leaves his dirty socks on the floor, but because I get a strange sense of satisfaction from putting clothes in the hamper, this doesn’t bother me.)
One advantage of the “Clean while I cook” approach is that instead of tackling one large task, I handle many small tasks, as they arise. It’s all too easy to procrastinate with big tasks, and it feels much more manageable to cultivate the habit of doing smaller chores. As Anthony Trollope observed, “A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules.”
It’s helpful, too, to think about the resolution to “Clean while I cook” in relationship to the cooking term mis-en-place.
Mis-en-place describes the preparation done before starting the actual cooking: gathering ingredients and implements, chopping, measuring, and all the rest. Mis-en-place is preparation, but it’s also a state of mind; mis-en-place means you have everything at the ready, with no need to run out to the store or begin a frantic search for a sifter. You’re truly ready to begin to work.
I find that when I make the effort to prepare properly, and then to clean up after myself as I go, tasks proceed much more smoothly. And almost nothing is more satisfying than working easily and well.
How about you? Do you push yourself to clean while you cook—literally or metaphorically? Does it make a difference?
I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.
* I’m having fun with the site Pinterest, which allows you to pin the images that interest you onto a board (get it? “pinterest”). Check out the site, check out my boards. If you’d like to get an invitation to join, just email me at email@example.com, and I’ll send you one.
Happiness interview: John Tierney.
I’m a big fan of John Tierney’s science column, Findings, in the New York Times. And I’m even a bigger fan of his new book, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. This book, co-written with Roy Baumeister, who is one of the most prominent researchers of self-control, is fascinating. For anyone who wants to be happier, self-command and self-knowledge are crucial areas of study.
As a long-time reader of John’s work, I knew that he and I are interested in many of the same subjects, so I was curious to hear what he had to say on the subject of happiness.
Gretchen: What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
John: Exercising, which I do by commuting by bike from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Crossing the East River is especially joyful, but just getting outside and moving is enough to raise my spirits.
What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
How much joy you get from doing things for your children—and doing things for other people, too.
Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?
Surfing the Web. I’ve tried to cut back by using some of the techniques we describe in the book. I use RescueTime software that keeps track of how I spend my computer time. It doesn’t actually stop me from doing it, but it does discourage me because I know I’ll get a report emailed to me detailing exactly how much time I wasted.
Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you’ve found very helpful? (I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”)
Years ago, when I was researching an article on research into stress, one social scientist passed on a simple tip: “At some point every day, you have to say, ‘No more work.’” No matter how many tasks remain undone, you have to relax at some point and enjoy the evening.
If you’re feeling blue, how do you give yourself a happiness boost?
I play one turn of “Wordfeud” (a Scrabble-like game) with my wife. (We keep a game going on our smartphones.) If I have more time available, I’ll read a chapter in whatever novel I’ve got on my Kindle.
Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness?
I see a couple of things that consistently interfere with happiness. One is dieting. In the book we devote a chapter to strategies for controlling weight, but we advise against dieting, and we don’t think people should beat themselves up for not being thin enough. People often think of controlling weight as the prime example of strong willpower, but it’s actually not. Self-control correlates with success in just about every other endeavor in life: doing better in school and at work, being healthier and wealthier and happier, having more satisfying personal relationships. But the correlation between self-control and weight-control isn’t nearly so strong—it’s there, but it’s much weaker. We call it the Oprah Paradox: someone with phenomenal willpower in the rest of her life can still have a hard time losing weight. There are tricks for dealing with the temptations of food—for outsourcing self-control, as we call it—but just because you’re not thin doesn’t mean you have no willpower.
Another thing that consistently interferes with happiness is procrastination, a universal vice that that I know very well. I’ve been a terribly disorganized procrastinator my whole life. I always turned in papers and articles and columns at the last minute or later. Every weekend there was an overdue project bothering me. But to my amazement, Roy and I turned in this manuscript for Willpower two months ahead of the deadline by using the strategies and principles in the book. I learned to make doable to-do lists and found new ways to keep track of progress (and use tools to do the monitoring for me—much easier!). In the book, we describe the state of bliss that Drew Carey attained by “getting to zero”—clearing his desk and his In-Box—and I went through the same experience myself. It really does free your mind for happiness and creativity.