Book Review: Better Than Before

(or: I snooze, I lose)

Title: Better Than Before
Author: Gretchen Rubin
Rating: 5/5

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If you’ve asked me recently what I’ve been reading, you’ve undoubtedly been treated to an unsolicited monologue on Gretchen Rubin’s research on habits. Sorry, not sorry; the book is crazy interesting.

I picked this one up a whim, hoping that it might have a tip or two that would help me finally get my shit together. I mean, sure, I’m not a total mess. My apartment’s (usually) clean and organized, my rent gets paid on time, and I’ve outgrown the habit I had in my early 20’s to spend every dollar I make (and then some). However, there was still a lot I was hoping to change: I wanted to start packing my lunch instead of buying it, make time for yoga, write more, and (most of all) stop hitting the snooze button.

Thankfully, Better Than Before is filled with lots of great strategies for working on those habits. Near the start of the book, you’re asked to do some introspection to figure out which common characteristics you possess and what you value most in life. This self-analysis helps guide you throughout the rest of the book, giving suggestions on which tactics work best for which preferences/types.

For instance, I discovered that as an Obliger, I do better when I feel external accountability for my habits. This means that I’m better at following through when I have to sign up for an activity or if a friend is counting on me to participate. I’ve noticed that even just writing something down in my schedule helps. It’s almost as though I feel accountable to those words on the page. I was surprised to realize that I’m also an abstainer; that is, I’m more successful when I fully cut something out than when I try to moderate it.

With those two discoveries in mind, I set out at the start of last week to kick my bad snooze button habit. I decided that my best bet was to stop snoozing altogether (strategy of abstinence), rather than trying to save it just for the days that I was really tired . Further, I’d mark the days that I was successful with a checkmark in my Bullet Journal (strategy of monitoring), so that I could keep track of my progress and (hopefully) see an unbroken chain. Lastly, I decided to start my snooze-free mornings  by getting out of bed and playing with my beloved cat Maury, so that the habit both gave me an intrinsic reward (hanging out with the world’s most awesome cat) and made me feel accountable to someone (even if he’s not human).

So far, I’ve been incredibly successful. I did screw up one day last week when I’d worked really late the night before and somehow managed to hit the snooze button while I was still asleep. However, that broken day in the chain of snooze-free checkmarks is killing me a little inside, so I’m determined that it will be the only one.

Whether you’re interested in getting rid of a bad habit, developing a new habit, or just learning the psychology behind how and why we develop habits, you’ll be inspired.

  1. I’ll be picking up a copy! Also… yoga buddy? I hear it would be good for my back.

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