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Better Than Before

For the March Birchbox Book Club I received a copy of Gretchen Rubin’s book, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits ofFeatured image Our Everyday Lives.  I had previously read her book, The Happiness Project, and I found her writing and research enlightning and helpful, so I was eager to read more from her.

This book is all about habits and how to form healthy and fulfilling routins and break free from the bad ones.  First, the book breaks down who you are as an individual in four main categories: Upholders (people who meet outer and inner expectations), Obligers (people who meet outer expectations but have a hard time fulfilling inner expectations), Questioners (resists meeting outer expectations, but easily keeps inner expectations), and Rebels (resists both inner and outer expectations).  Throughout the book Rubin gives examples of how to create wanted daily habits based on these four personalities and why different solutions work best for different people.  She also explores more specific personality traits like: are you a lark or an owl?  Are you a marathoner, sprinter or procrastinator?  An underbuyer or an overbuyer?  A simplicity lover or an abundance lover?  Finisher or an opener?  The list goes on, and I found myself underlining which traits I identify with most (obliger, lark, procrastinator, underbuyer, abundance lover, opener).  I’ve always been one to jump at the chance to take any kind of personality quiz, so this was definitely my favorite part of the book.  By figuring out which categories you fall under, the author shows you how to form good haibts depending on what’s best for each individual — not an overall blanket of “one solution fits all.”

This book came at a great time in my life because lately I’ve been feeling a bit… unfocused.  I moved back to America almost one year ago, and sometimes when I’m feeling a little overwhelmed or lost I think, you should be totally well adjusted now and have your shit together.  In many ways I have definitely adjust to life back home, but as you all know, there have been a lot of changes along the way.  I moved to Texas in August, I rented my very first apartment, I work at Starbucks, and I’m waiting to start my new job at a 24 hour youth residential treatment facility for specialized and intense youth.  For a while I was working at Starbucks everyday for about eight hours, and then I would come home and do freelance writing for another three to four hours each day.  Then, I started training for the facility on the weekends, so I was working about 60 hours a week.  At home I was often exhaused and burnt out, so all I could do was zone out on the couch in front of the TV for the rest of the night — I was doing a lot, but I was also feeling pretty unproductive.

Currently, I have cooled it on the freelance and my training is over, so I’m just working at the coffee shop, doing some writing jobs on the side and waiting for the girls to be assigned to our facility so I can start to work there full time.  I hate the feeling of being in purgatory, that waiting place for one event in your life to end and the other to start so you feel like you have a normal routine again, and recently I’ve been feeling a little disoriented.  Specifically, I’ve been torn on how to manage my time betwen things that I want to do and things that I need to do.  I want to read a book, but I really need to figure out my insurance plan and all of those details.  I want to sit and write, but I really should get my oil changed and give my car a good wash and vaccume.  The pull between what I want to do and what I must do drives me a bit nuts, and as a result I avoid both things and sit on my butt in front of the TV and watch another episode of whatever is on Hulu. (Great solution, I know.) Surprisingly though, this is a fairly common thing!  Rubin breaks down how to solve these problems in a variety of different ways depending on your personality, and she gives seriously helpful habit forming tips that has really helped me already.  For instance, for me, I need to write down what I want to achieve for the day, and the task doesn’t have to be that big.  Sometimes I get so overwhelmed by the big picture that a simple task seems impossible and useless to start — I often feel defeated before I ever start.  Instead of my goal being “figure out my insurance plan”, which sounds pretty intricate and all-encompasing, I break it down.  First, what is covered by my medical?  What tests are free and what will I be charged for?  Second, what is included in my free dental exam?  What is covered if I need a filling?  By narrowing down specific questions I have, the task seems much more manageable.  Also, schedule time to do something pleasurable.  Spend 1pm – 2pm on the phone with the insurance company asking all of your questions, and then spend 2 pm – 3pm reading.  I’m a pretty “go with the flow” type of person, and I find the idea of scheduling my free time kind of silly; however, I feel a lot more calm when I can see that I only need to devote one hour to this necessary but undesirable task, and then I can move on to something that I enjoy without feeling guilty.

I definitely recommend this book for those who need a little more direction, encouragement and inspiration in their life!


I have circumnavigated the globe, I have lived overseas, and now I'm back in America about to marry my beautiful fiance, Renee. Follow our adventures in travel, getting healthier with Plexus and starting a brand new life.

3 thoughts on “Better Than Before

  1. Hmmmmm-sadly I think you got this one from me:-/ making the lists definitely help. And honor your tiredness. Even for a half hour. Love you, Mama

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