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Monday, June 08, 2015

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

I am WAY late in reading and reviewing this one. I've had it from NetGalley since late 2014, but I wasn't overly interested until the last month of so. As I've mentioned before, I've recently become obsessed with the idea of a morning routine and productivity habits. I listen to Rubin's podcast, and she's been mentioned quite a few times on other podcasts, so I finally had a reason to pull it out.

The author of the blockbuster New York Times bestsellers, The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, tackles the critical question: How do we change? 

Gretchen Rubin's answer: through habits. Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life. It takes work to make a habit, but once that habit is set, we can harness the energy of habits to build happier, stronger, more productive lives.

So if habits are a key to change, then what we really need to know is: How do we change our habits?

Better than Before answers that question. It presents a practical, concrete framework to allow readers to understand their habits—and to change them for good. Infused with Rubin’s compelling voice, rigorous research, and easy humor, and packed with vivid stories of lives transformed, Better than Before explains the (sometimes counter-intuitive) core principles of habit formation.

Along the way, Rubin uses herself as guinea pig, tests her theories on family and friends, and answers readers’ most pressing questions—oddly, questions that other writers and researchers tend to ignore:

• Why do I find it tough to create a habit for something I love to do?
• Sometimes I can change a habit overnight, and sometimes I can’t change a habit, no matter how hard I try. Why?
• How quickly can I change a habit?
• What can I do to make sure I stick to a new habit?
• How can I help someone else change a habit?
• Why can I keep habits that benefit others, but can’t make habits that are just for me?

Whether readers want to get more sleep, stop checking their devices, maintain a healthy weight, or finish an important project, habits make change possible. Reading just a few chapters of Better Than Before will make readers eager to start work on their own habits—even before they’ve finished the book.

So I admit, I didn't really read the description before getting started.  I thought this was going to be a lot more like the other book I read by her- The Happiness Project- and was quite surprised to find this one to be a lot more meta. There's a lot about the thought process of habits, and the reasoning why some habits stick and some don't, and not a lot of actual advice or examples.  That said I thought this would be a nice intro to The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and I was (am) really interested in the topic. It starts strong and I highlighted several passages and texted Trish a few times but by about halfway I was done with it. Even tho the actual content from chapter to chapter varies, the tone and the writing gets very very monotonous and I found Rubin's need to Name everything tedious and cutsy. (The Strategy of Distraction, a Questioner, a Rebel, A Tendency. A Something Capitalized.)

Overall, I am happy that I read this, as it fits in nicely with my study of habits and ritual and success, but if I'd just picked it up on a whim I probably would have set it aside unfinished and forgotten about it.


  1. I've been wondering about picking this one up after listening to the podcast. I've noticed the naming on the podcasts, too. It's not annoying one podcast at a time but I can see where it would get real old, real fast chapter after chapter. And I'd be looking for actual advice, too, not just "here's what habits are."

  2. I started strong with this too! And I ended up putting a hold for The Power of Habit, as well!


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