Ironically enough, despite this post’s ties to the new year, goals, resolutions, and all that jazz, it’s something I’ve been meaning to write about since early December. Perhaps it’s better that things didn’t work out for posting until now; early December is rather a rush toward the end of the year for many of us, and early January is a bit more conducive for reflection and assessment.
Self assessment is, of course, a great place to start. In November I read Crystal Paine’s ebook 21 Days to A More Disciplined Life (on sale through Saturday for .99! ~ that link is to the kindle version, but I highly recommend the pdf format for printing). It was still lurking about in my brain when a book I’d had on hold at the library for months finally came in ~ Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life & Business. Pip read it first and told me I would like it; she was right. Duhigg, a fabulous writer, documents the research and science behind how our habits are formed. From when we get up in the morning to when we go to bed at night, so much of what we do is driven by habits we’ve adopted. Our brain is wired to rely on habits and we *will* fall into some sort of routine; the only question is if it is routines we consciously work on incorporating into our lives or if they’re habits derived from the world outside us. One way Duhigg makes this clear is by thinking about what we do when we wake up in the morning… probably we do close to same thing every single morning. We may think we’re making independent choices about each action in the mornings, but our brains are falling back on the same activity repeatedly. Maybe it’s drinking tea and checking e-mail. And if you’re like me, the e-mail might remind you that you have to pay the water bill, and you then have to go rummaging for the bill. Find it half an hour later, change two diapers, pay it, discover a new e-mail about a sale on an item you’ve been wanting for a while, rummage around for your purse, order the item, read books aloud to sticky toddlers, throw in a load of laundry, start lunch, survey the mess of a kitchen, put toddlers down for a nap, remember you’ve got to call a doctor’s office, make the call, fix lunch, be reminded while fixing lunch that you need to get chicken out of the freezer for tomorrow’s lunch, wonder if you should use a different recipe for tomorrow’s lunch, go to a favorite recipe blog to look up new ideas, resurvey the mess of a kitchen, sigh, feel like a failure, and change diapers again.
Some of this just comes with the territory of being the mother to a one-year-old and two-year-old. A lot of it comes, however, from needing to be proactive about the triggers for many of my habits. And here is another area where Duhigg and Paine are on the same page with some extremely helpful and crucial advice. It is so easy to get overwhelmed by *everything* that needs to be done. I have tried to change all of it at once so many times and each time is a spectacular failure. Duhigg talked about keystone habits, though, and that golden phrase has been marching through my head for weeks. A keystone habit is something small that you change that somehow, almost like magic (or that’s how it feels, anyway), helps you to start changing other habits without even really trying. Take the example of my mornings from the last paragraph. Instead of resolving to Do More Dishes, Keep Up With Laundry, And Everything Else, I have been trying to make one simple change: the computer is mostly off-limits until the children go down for their nap. It is amazing how much more productive my mornings are when I keep myself from the time warp of the internet. Actually, this is something Paine talks about too… how mornings really *are* a better time to be productive. This morning, even while dealing with sick and cranky babies, I was able to switch laundry, fold a load of clothes, cook and clean up breakfast, put lunch in the crockpot, and leave the kitchen as clean as it was last night. Ladies and gentlemen, this felt amazing! By changing the trigger for my mornings (the internet) I’m able to change several other things as well.
Another fascinating keystone habit is exercise; studies have shown that when people start doing regular exercise (even light, easy exercise 3-4 times a week), many other lifestyle habits change without . I didn’t know that this summer when I started taking daily walks with the children; I was trying to find some way to benefit all three of us without wrecking the house for half an hour daily. I did notice other things starting to change, though; each day I exercised I found it easier to get other things done.
And finally (for this post, anyway) there’s the crucial importance of making reasonable lists and sticking with them. It may sound wonderful to say, “I’m going to start eating better,” but unless you’ve given yourself specific ways to do it, it won’t happen. Write down a weekly menu. Take time to cut veggies and put them in snack bags for your week. Give yourself time to comparison shop a little bit so you can afford healthier groceries.
For those lists and creating routines, I thought it would be fun to do a giveaway with this post. One reader will win this 2013 Household Manager 2013 Calendar. Yes, I know it’s 2013 already so you’ll be getting it a few days late, but sometimes it’s easy to get bogged down in thinking things can only change because it’s a New Year. We are given so many new minutes, hours, and days and each of them is an excellent time to give ourselves a fresh start. 🙂 And this calendar is pretty awesome… there’s a weekly menu planner section, a notepad for grocery lists, a to-do notepad (great place to write the small, weekly goals that add up to big yearly achievements!), and there’s room to write activities for up to seven family members… it’s a homeschool family friendly calendar!
Please leave a comment sharing one of your favorite practical book titles (can be on home organization, personalities, strengthening one’s prayer life… you name it ~ anything you’ve read that’s helped you out in life!). I’m wanting to add to my reading list for 2013 from your suggestions. 🙂
Make sure we have your e-mail address!
The contest ends Monday, Jan. 7th at 9 pm Eastern Time. I will contact the winner by e-mail and announce the winner on the blog by noon on Tuesday, Jan. 8. And then I’ll get your calendar to you asap so you can start benefiting from it as early as possible. 🙂