Gretchen Rubin


If you’re feeling stuck in a not-so-satisfying relationship with work, Gretchen Rubin offers up the Labor Day holiday as a time to rethink what it is you really want.

What do you want to accomplish in your upcoming year of work? ... It could be something as big as switching careers or something as mundane as cleaning out your desk.
— Gretchen Rubin, author and expert on happiness, good habits, and human nature

I think this is a great idea. AND...I have no idea what I want to accomplish in my upcoming year of work. 

What I’m confident I can rethink, though, is what I want to do with lunch: make my food a little bit better for me, and act on something that matters personally even when the day feels out-of-control busy. This tiny oasis of happiness and satisfaction I know I can build for myself gives me a better shot at clarity. And clarity is what I’ll need to figure out what I truly want to say I’ve accomplished by next Labor Day.

Are you rethinking your workday lunch break? If you need help, I’m here.

Gretchen Rubin Reads

I love Gretchen Rubin.

I’ll confess, though, that some days I’m super-jealous of what this woman accomplishes. For example, here’s a tidbit from this morning’s email:

Every Monday, on my Facebook page, I post a photo of all the books I've read that week using the hashtag #GretchenRubinReads.

It surprises me how much satisfaction I take in doing it. I love reading the comments from readers, and I've gotten many great suggestions, too.

I also love to read, but what can I report from last week? I read one-third of one book. It’s a challenging and insightful book, but no matter how much I love what I’m reading, I generally don’t spend as much time as I’d like doing it.

What if I noticed, though, not that GR is whooping me in reading volume but that she gets satisfaction from doing and sharing what makes her feel alive? Why be jealous of that kind of satisfaction? She has it today, but I can have it, too. We all can.

During today’s lunch break, I’ll read another 15 minutes of this book. I’ll be a person who reads, and that matters just as much as how much I can read in a week, or what I eat today, for example. It counts, and I bet GR would agree.

What brought YOU satisfaction last week? Be honest: think real satisfaction, not whether it feels brag-worthy on social media? (And, to be clear, GR isn’t bragging. She’s being GR. She’s setting an example of how good it can feel to live more of the life we’re meant to experience.)

Do you think she makes her own lunch, too? All the more to love.

GR and her sister Liz host  a podcast  that’s a do-not-miss for me, full of tips to make your life a little happier—including  ideas for overcoming a lunch break stumbling block .

GR and her sister Liz host a podcast that’s a do-not-miss for me, full of tips to make your life a little happier—including ideas for overcoming a lunch break stumbling block.

Reading More One Lunch at a Time: Cheryl's Summer Solution

Happiness enthusiast Gretchen Rubin reads A LOT. (Just last month she read 18 books. This is not unusual.) If you want to be a person who reads more, check out her Reading Better Than Before habit download or these 13 tips. She clearly knows how to make more reading happen, but two of her tips trip me up:

7. Always have something to read.

8. Maintain a big stack.

In #7, GR says to keep your book handy so you can grab any spare moment to read. That’s good advice. For me, though—and maybe for you—“more reading” will happen during my 15 minutes of lunch You time. So, yes, I’ll need to know where to find my book.

And trust me: I have #8 covered.

But my problem isn’t having enough books. It’s deciding which book that’s hard. I’m usually trying to choose at night when I’m tired and have no decision-making energy left. So I end up NOT choosing, and not reading before I go to sleep, and ultimately not having a book queued up for the next workday’s lunch. Having a full shelf of books waiting motivates GR, but to me it’s a constant reminder of “not doing enough.”

This year’s first pick?  Consider the Women  by Debbie Blue! I’ll start it as soon as I finish  this one .

This year’s first pick? Consider the Women by Debbie Blue! I’ll start it as soon as I finish this one.

Here’s my summer solution:

I write on slips of paper a dozen or so titles I’m honestly dying to read. Then between Memorial Day and Labor Day, when I’m ready for a new book, I pick one from the Book Cup. There’s no risk of being disappointed because I love all the choices, and I don’t have to force myself to think when I’m sleepy. I just start whichever one gets picked, and if I don’t love that book, I abandon it for the next one. So instead of wishing and wondering about those books, I am the person who actually reads them.

Quiz Follow-Up: The Four Tendencies

I recommend this because it’s a great book, not because I get paid if you buy it.

I recommend this because it’s a great book, not because I get paid if you buy it.

A couple weeks ago, I posted author Gretchen Rubin’s quiz to identify which tendency in her four-part framework describes how you respond to inner and outer expectations. This can help us understand why we act and why we don’t act—at lunch, or anytime.

Did you try it? I did.

I was surprised to discover that I’m an Upholder. I’m less surprised that Upholder is a discipline-loving tendency, and that it’s not the most common one among the 1M+ people who’ve taken this quiz. There’s some Questioner in me, too. While it’s true that I’ll do what I say I’m going to do for myself and other people, it’s only when I believe it’s what’s best. Just someone wants something done doesn’t mean I’ll do it. (Sorry.)

Do these Box Lunch Lifestyle tips fit your tendency?

UPHOLDER: “I do what others expect of me—and what I expect from myself.”

  • Because you only embrace changes that feel truly gratifying, be sure you’re pursuing a quiet dream that’s an honest “want to” and not a “should.”

  • The best choices for each day are wins—not “perfect” ones (e.g., don’t overdose on Better Food discipline).

QUESTIONER: “I do what I think is best, according to my judgment. If it doesn’t make sense, I won’t do it.”

  • Trust that your Box Lunch Lifestyle practice is based on the sound theories of a lot of smart people including not only Gretchen Rubin, but also James Clear, Michael Pollan, and Chris Guillebeau to name a few.

  • There’s no arbitrary start date. If you believe a better life comes with a better lunch, today’s the day.

OBLIGER: “I do what I have to do. I don’t want to let others down, but I may let myself down.”

  • Aahhh! Here’s your permission to be just a little bit selfish most days of the week.

  • A Box Lunch Lifestyle should be fun, and easy to explain to friends at work who can help keep you on track. (Or join in!)

REBEL: “I do what I want, in my own way. If you try to make me do something—even if I try to make myself do something—I’m less likely to do it.

  • You make the Box Lunch Lifestyle rules that work for you—or make them and break them. (But don’t kid yourself that a little self-love doesn’t matter.)

  • This can be as public or private as you want. Rebel as you wish.

Do you have other Four Tendencies ideas, thoughts, or suggestions to share? Don’t be shy.

P.S. If you want to learn even more, at the time of this posting Gretchen Rubin is also offering this online course.