Many of us are accustomed to making resolutions or setting goals this time of year. And probably, almost just as many of us are hopeful that we won’t throw in the towel by the end of January or get caught in the trap of thinking we have until December to achieve our goals. I would like to turn that thought on its head and work on building habits instead!
So why do so many of us fall flat on our faces when it comes to achieving our goals? We start out gung ho and before we know it, we are fizzled completely. The answer is simple – we do not take the time to begin building habits that will edge us closer and closer to our goals. We wake up on January 1st with an unreasonable expectation that change will come easily and quickly. Experts agree that change creating positive habits cannot happen without a strategy. And that strategy must work to create habits that build one task upon another. The only lasting change is incremental change.
How can creating habits help you reach your goals?
1. Reduces thinking and saves your brain for the good stuff
Creating habits in our lives takes a large part of the thinking out of what we are doing by setting up processes. For example, most of us probably do the dishes at least once every day. You fill the sink with hot water. And while the sink is filling you may package up the leftovers to put in the fridge. Then you stack the plates and bowls. Don’t forget to check the water level in the sink! The pots and pans get stacked next to the sink and then the stove and cleared countertops get a good wipe down. You shut the water off and put away any clean dishes in the dishwasher or drainer. Now you can get down to the business of washing dishes.
Imagine if you had to think through this process or refer to a checklist every time you had to clean your dishes? UGH! This is also true to help us to get to our goals. Creating positive habits through step by step processes creates muscle memory. And creating muscle memory frees up the brain and reduces stress and thus increases productivity and creativity.
2. Builds natural behaviors so you can automate
Most productivity gurus call this system of setting up processes automation but typically they are using technology to automate an email sequence, a weekly report, or something along the lines of customer service. What I am going to suggest is that you incorporate schedules and batching into your daily repeat activities. Bear with me here because this is good stuff! This has made all the difference in the world in my home, work, and blog life.
Let’s start with schedules. I am suggesting cleaning schedules, meal planning, budgeting and bill pay, and schedules for all the other things you do in your day to day life. For example, my cleaning schedule looks like this:
- Daily: Laundry, counters, paper, and dishes
- Monday: Master bath and dusting
- Tuesday: Vacuum and glass
- Wednesday: Main bathroom and 20 min tornado
- Thursday: Hard floors
- Friday: Master bedroom
- Saturday: Wash sheets and towels
Notice that I spiked out most of the chores to their own days rather than dragging out the entire gamut of cleaning supplies every day. I am batching tasks in this schedule. To me, it is easier to vacuum or mop, dust, or shine glass in the whole house in one sweep than it is to take those supplies out of their homes every day to clean room by room. This schedule creates a habit for every day of the week that I rarely have to think about. I just do it naturally. Or sometimes, I ignore it naturally.
My mom would spend the majority of every Saturday morning cleaning the whole house when I was growing up. I am not saying that her way was bad but personally, that idea just makes me want to be sick every Saturday and then my house really would be a disaster area! I prefer to work in 25 or 30-minute segments and I still get the same results without it killing an entire day of my weekend!
3. Helps to eliminate procrastination
Do you ever wish that you had more hours in the day? Or this… have you ever logged onto Facebook or Pinterest for a quick peek and found yourself down a huge rabbit hole an hour later? Personally, I have never experienced this – hack, cough, hack, hack! Building habits through schedules will help you to avoid procrastination and keep you on track. With a little discipline on the front end, this will naturally lead to less time in rabbit holes and more free time in your day.
Notice I mentioned a little discipline. Creating and sticking to a schedule takes intentionality. You don’t have to be brutal about it but make a promise to yourself that you will stick to the schedule as best as you can in order to create positive change in your life. In short, no surfing Facebook or Pinterest until the bathroom is clean.
How Long Will Building Habits Take?
How long does it take to build or break a habit? This is very important in terms of creating your strategy. Expert opinions vary from 21 days to exactly 66 days to as many as 264 days. I would argue that the length of time it takes to create a positive habit or break a negative habit will depend on the personal motivation of the person making the change or how difficult the change will be. We need to allow ourselves time to learn about creating our personal habits and give ourselves permission to ask for grace. Grace – not excuses. Give yourself time to allow schedules to become a natural part of your life. And make sure to track your progress and build in a reward for meeting your goal.
Building habits sets us up for success in ways that we would not even think about. Perhaps you might be thinking that this is a much too regimented way to live life but I would argue that this has actually added a great deal of freedom to be spontaneous. One habit will build upon another habit and soon the incremental progress will be far beyond your imagination.
So ladies, don’t blink! And no more procrastinating! December is coming quicker than we realize. And the older we get, the quicker that time passes. Can anyone feel my pain right now? Write down one area of your life that you would see a definite benefit in having a schedule to follow. Then create the schedule. Let’s start a conversation either here or on Facebook.
I will expand on this more in another post. In the meantime, be blessed. Remember to whom you belong.