zen habits : breathe

Golden Goals: Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project on taking the plunge

This is the seventh article in the Golden Goals series of interviews with notable bloggers about their goals, habits and productivity systems.

Gretchen Rubin is a published author working on a book, The Happiness Project –a memoir about how test-driving every principle, tip, theory, and scientific study she could find, whether from Aristotle or St. Therese or Martin Seligman or Oprah. Her blog, The Happiness Project, talks about these rules for living and reports on what works and what doesn’t. I definitely recommend you give it a read.

1) What would you consider your greatest achievement in the last few years? Feel free to add other achievements or goals if you’d like.

One of my greatest achievements in the last few years has been starting my blog, The Happiness Project. I dreaded setting it up, and thought starting a blog would tax and frustrate my non-tech-savvy brain. Instead, it has been an enormous source of creative energy, contact with other people, and fun.

Oh, and I had a baby. A girl. That was big, too.

2) What was the key to achieving that success for you? Was there one thing, or were there a number of factors?

Starting a blog seemed like an overwhelming task. If you know anything about blogs, you know that, in fact, it’s easy to start a blog, but I felt very intimidated. But I followed these steps to make my goal feasible: I broke down what I needed to do into manageable steps; I identified friends who could advise me; I asked them exactly what to do and did enough research to ask intelligent questions; most importantly, I just took the plunge and started.

3) What are the essential habits that you’ve formed to help you achieve your goals?

Read and write every day.
Get enough sleep and exercise.
Find a subject I love, and skip the boring parts.
Stop taking myself so seriously.

4) How often do you think about your goals, review them, and take action on them?

For the Happiness Project, I developed monthly charts of my resolutions, and I score myself each night. This has made a huge difference in my ability to stick to my resolutions – whether to stop nagging, wear a pedometer, sing in the morning, or any of the hundreds of other resolutions I’ve made.

5) Describe how you overcome failure, how you pick yourself back up if you are struggling, and how you motivate yourself if your enthusiasm is lagging.

Instead of feeling depressed or anxious when I fail, as is my wont, I try to embrace it. I’ve come up with a catch phrase that has helped me tremendously: I tell myself to “Enjoy the fun of failure.” Failure is a necessary part of creativity, of risk-taking, of aiming high. If I’m not failing, I’m not trying hard enough. It’s fun to fail.

6) Could you describe your productivity system and any productivity tips you have for people?

Keeping a scoring chart made a big difference for me. It’s critical to make yourself accountable.
I follow a “one-minute rule” – anything that I can do in one minute or less, I do without procrastinating. I read a letter and toss it; I hang up my coat; I answer an email. This makes a huge difference in the amount of surface clutter (physical and mental) in my life.

I never go anywhere without something to read.

I bought a phone headset.

Also read: all interviews in the Golden Goals series.

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