A few months ago, I found a podcast that I really enjoy, Happier with Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elisabeth Craft. Rubin is the author of a number of popular books about, well, happiness and how to have more if it in your life. Her best-selling titles include The Happiness Project, Happier at Home, and Better than Before. The weekly podcast is a free download from iTunes. In it, Rubin and Craft share their reflections on what is working well and not so well in their lives.
One of the parts of the podcast that I like best is their “try this at home segment.” These are suggestions for small modifications to life that provide a big return on happiness. For instance, one suggestion was to always make your bed. It just takes a minute, but it starts the day on a positive and successful note. Another was the one minute rule. If a job will take a minute or less to complete, do it right away. Hang up your clothes at the end of the day; file the bank statement instead of leaving it on the kitchen counter; respond to that email; you get the idea.
Another idea that I really liked was the Power Hour. Rubin uses this technique to blast through a lot of small jobs that are cluttering up her life. She sets a timer, grits her teeth and goes like gangbusters. I decided to adopt this technique to tackle the hundreds of small tasks I needed to do to organize the trip I’m leading to Paris. Ordinarily, I have all the planning done months in advance, but due to the November attacks, the trip was sidelined for a while to give the families a chance to reconsider. Now here it was almost January and I still had almost everything to do. I felt buried. Where should I even start? I set the timer for an hour and did as much as I could. In another week, I powered through another hour, and then another.
There’s an expression in French, Rien ne sert de courir, il faut partir à point (ree-n nuh sair duh koo-reer, eel foe par-teer ah pwaahn). It literally means “It serves nothing to run, one must leave on time.” It’s close to the English expression “Slow and steady wins the race.” Since I couldn’t leave on time, I had to engage in a series of wind sprints rathen than a steady marathon, but Rubin’s Power Hour really worked for me. Now it’s time to pack my bags and power through a week with ten excited students.