I've Learned SO MUCH from the By the Book Podcast!

I listen to numerous podcasts but one of my current favorites is the By the Book podcast! I discovered it earlier this year through an ad on the Freakanomics podcast (which my husband listens to obsessively) and was instantly HOOKED. I’ve listened to every episode since then (which is saying something since they have several seasons!

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The premise of this podcast: The brilliant and hilarious Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer read through a self-help book for every episode and try to live by it for two weeks straight. They chronicle their adventures with wit and thoughtfulness and I’m pretty obsessed. I’ve learned so much from so many episodes! It’s also helped me to be a lot more careful about my own self-help reading and encouraged me to take a closer look at the authors and what they’re really saying.

For example: The Miracle Morning book has personally really helped me in the past. After getting my depression under control (FISHER-WALLACE STIMULATOR, SERIOUSLY Y’ALL), The Miracle Morning has changed my life more in the past year than anything else! Going through the SAVERS approach regularly (silence/meditation, affirmations, visualizations, exercise, reading, and scribing/journaling) helped me remember that I have ALWAYS wanted to be a writer and got me on track toward pursuing that path really seriously. However, the By the Book episode on Miracle Morning pointed out a lot of issues with the book and its author and helped me realize that I had been doing a lot of “take what I want and throw away the bad” in my own approach to it. Which is totally fine. I still use it sometimes. But a lot of the advice in the book is kind of victim-blamey and makes me uneasy when you actually look at closely. So now I’m more careful about how I suggest that book to friends; I include a lot more disclaimers and points about how I actually use it.

By the Book has also made some really significant changes to my life in the past year! It’s inspired me to make numerous changes.

Here’s what comes to mind now (I may add to this later as I remember things or add more!):

Things I do now or have done because of the By the Book podcast: (links go to the episode on Stitcher’s website)

Look! Plants I’ve somehow kept half alive, plus an old soda bottle I now use to water indoor and outdoor plants, and our compost pail!

Look! Plants I’ve somehow kept half alive, plus an old soda bottle I now use to water indoor and outdoor plants, and our compost pail!

  • We now plan out our family meals ahead of time and try to do all the grocery shopping once a week. John and I pick and make the recipes together and have found it makes our life WAY simpler when we actually know what we’re eating at night. (From the “America’s Cheapest Family” episode) 

  • I published a short story as an ebook on amazon. I had already written this story and submitted it to an anthology. When it was rejected, I thought - YOLO and decided to put it on Amazon as an experiment. It’s been fun! I’ve earned about $40 from it, which is cool. (From the “how to write an ebook that makes you money forever in 7-14 days” episode)

  • I’ve invited friends over to work at our house whenever they like. Not many people have taken me up on this, but I do love that as someone who teleworks full time and has a pretty big house, I can provide an escape for my student friends or other friends who work from home. (From “a girl’s guide to joining the resistance”)

  • I reuse and recycle more things, have started composting (blog post coming about this soon!), and make my own reusable wet wipes for cleaning. (“zero waste home”)

  • I focus on only saying nice and supportive things to myself. (“What to say when you talk to yourself”)

  • I try to use my phone less when I’m out and about (“bored and brilliant”)

  • I try to only check my email and social media twice a day. Honestly, I’m pretty bad about this, but just knowing it’s an option for days when I REALLY need to focus is good. I also now outsource time-consuming tasks i hate to people on Fiverr . I’ve found a cool personal assistant guy and have had him do some cost-comparison research tasks which have been really helpful! (“4 hour work week”)

  • So Kristen and Jolenta have only done one “diet” book and it had such a bad effect on Kristen that they don’t plan to do another one. This episode and a lot of their conversations in later episodes helped me come to grips with a lot of my disordered eating habits (I tend to either over-eat or under-eat, and neither is healthy) and develop a more healthy approach to my body. I don’t weigh myself any more and I don’t really plan to again; it’s highly triggering for me. Instead, I eat healthy most of the time, avoid too many processed foods, practice delaying my first meal until 12 pm or 1 pm (which effectively means I usually am intermittent fasting for 14 hours), and exercise regularly. And that’s enough for me. As long as I’m feeling healthy and happy with how I look, I don’t need to know my weight; it’s just not important. Thanks K&J for helping me realize that! (“French Women Don’t Get Fat”)

  • I’ve worked to define what types of clothing and accessories are and aren’t my style and have been donating or selling things that aren’t my style. If I go shopping now, I’m much less likely to impulse buy anything, as I know exactly what I like and what looks good on me and I’m not willing to spend money on things that don’t fit in those categories. (“curated closet”) 

A snippet of the pinterest board I made for the Curated Closet.

A snippet of the pinterest board I made for the Curated Closet.

Look at these plants I’ve managed not to kill yet!

Look at these plants I’ve managed not to kill yet!

  • I actually let myself actually watch TV without doing work sometimes. I mean, not all the time, I usually am working on some craft or blog post or something if I watch TV, but sometimes! (“Pantsdrunk”)

  • I’ve really tried to walk outdoors more and keep my house plants alive more consistently. I re-planted our dead herb garden and have managed to keep 4/5 plants alive for the last few months! (“nature fix”) 

  • I’ve let go of some project ideas that were GOOD but just not for me. This book specifically talks about letting go of the ideas that aren’t a match for you so they can go “find someone else” they’re better suited for. This was how I finally let go of the idea of writing a non-fiction book about marital surnames. It still fascinates me and I think it needs to be written about, but I just don’t have the passion to pursue that myself. I prefer my fiction writing. (“Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear”)

  • I had actually already “konmari-ed” several parts of our house but this episode has helped me retain some of the ideas - specifically, does this item give me joy? If not, I should donate it and let someone else enjoy it. (“The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”)

Self-Help Book Gleanings: Checking Email and Social Media Only Twice a Day

I’ve been really addicted to the By the Book podcast the last few weeks. I’ve marathoned through three seasons pretty quickly! I actually really enjoy self-help books and have used several in the past to improve my life.

Gratuitous cute cat photo because all the boys were hanging out in my office with me today and it was super sweet. ❤️

Gratuitous cute cat photo because all the boys were hanging out in my office with me today and it was super sweet. ❤️

Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod is a key example of this; sitting down and actually focusing on what I want out of life using the SAVERS method he outlines there helped me realize last year that I’ve always WANTED to be a writer and I needed to start working toward it consciously. The SAVERS method is Silence/meditation, Affirmations, Visualizations, Exercise, Reading, and Scribing/Journaling. I don’t Miracle Morning every day, although I try to, and I don’t do all the steps every type I journal (I’m most consistent about journaling and reading = usually a writing, self help, or history book). I also don’t follow the thing about waking up early. I do it whenever I wake up. With all the faults in the method (the By the Book hosts HATED this book), it’s really really helped me and honestly was the second biggest factor in me starting to pursue writing as a career (the first biggest factor was getting my depression under control, which gave me the energy to pursue all these other things).

Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin has also helped me understand my brain and what actually motivates me, which in turn has helped me build good habits. I have ADHD and have STRUGGLED in the past to build even the simplest daily habits, but the things I learned from this book have allowed me to change that.

Anyway, since I don’t have the time to read as many books as I’d like, I’ve taking inspiration from the By the Book Podcast and trying to implement some steps from the books they read into my own life. The episode on Bored and Brilliant, by Manoush Zomorodi, inspired me to start keeping track of my mobile usage via the Moment app. I then deleted the Moment app off my phone a few days later, as it was super depressing how much I used my phone, lol.

I listened to the episode on The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss yesterday, and I was really inspired by certain elements of it - specifically, getting time back to do the things you really want to do by reducing email and social media checking to only twice a day, at two set times. The moment app experiment really bothered me, plus John and I recently moved off our parents’ cell phone plans to our own, and actually paying for your own data usage has a strange way of making you want to heavily reduce it!

I tried it out today, and only checked my email and social media accounts at 12 and 5 pm (I unconsciously went to my email more times than that just by instinct, but clicked out as soon as my mind caught up). A few small exceptions: for author branding reasons, I posted on Hootsuite, which allows me to post without getting distracted by all the people and posts on social media. I also spent a little time fixing up my author page Facebook cover photo, which wasn’t initially optimized for mobile. I’m on twitter right now doing some author branding things just to like, keep my name out there and keep interacting with people so they actually check my blog when I update and such.

Overall, it was a HUGE reduction of the time I would usually have spent messing around on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I was able to focus a lot more on my work today, and I made time for a ton of other activities, even though I also had a doctor’s appointment that ate up 1.5 hours. I wrote on a short story for almost an hour. I fixed up my author facebook page. I posted on this blog and fixed up formatting and such. I walked to and from the gym for my hour long parkour class. And I still have time to just hang out with John and the cats, watching a German Netflix show and writing this post. I also feel more focused and less depressed; I’ve known for a while that studies show that social media makes you feel sad and upset, but I’ve always felt I was somewhat immune to that, since I use social media to keep up with friends and family across the country and generally have friends that are very positive and upbeat about things. But clearly, I am affected too. Limiting my social media definitely seems like it’ll help me.

Plus I think I’ll save a ton on cell phone data!

I’m excited to see how this all works for me when I actually get more in the swing of things!