The problem with good intentions in life-style changes is that we (I) tend to want to do all the good things at once. Whether it’s maintaining a cleaner home, working out, eating more nutritiously, or anything else, I tend to set my sites too high. Baby steps, Anne. As it is noted when listing baby developmental milestones, “no baby learns to do all these at once, it is a gradual process”. Equally so for me. It’s hard to know where to start when intentionally adding a habit to your life. So I’ve broken down what works for me using the habit of maintaining a cleaner home as an example.
Breaking down the habit
Reflect on where you are now
I looked around and realized that my home was (mostly) a disaster all the time. Floors were rarely clean, and the only chore that got done regularly was laundry. And that was only because we ran out of clean clothes at about the same time every week. I knew something had to change.
Research the best methods
Knowing that I needed to maintain a cleaner house and knowing that would take some sort of plan, I hit the books. Well, Pinterest. I looked through a ton of blogs on organization and cleaning and maintaining a clean home. I downloaded multiple chore sheets, and tweaked them to fit my home. This wasn’t the first time I’d tried to develop cleaning habits, but it was starting from almost scratch because now there was a baby (and more house) in the mix.
Set achievable goals
After listing every possible chore known to man, and putting that into a week (or two) long schedule I realized that I was aiming far too high. There was no way under heaven that I was going to have time to wash the drapes once a month. Maybe the bedsheets, but not the drapes. I narrowed the list down to one major task a day and left a day or two for catch-up/other chores/lazing around on the couch scrolling through Pinterest. This was more achievable for me.
Develop a plan
Once I had decided my achievable goals, I made a plan. It doesn’t work for me personally to do a load of laundry every day. Because then I’d be doing laundry every day and I’d have to murder something. So I put all my laundry on one day. Well, mostly. That being said, I made a schedule of what I wanted to accomplish every day, with room for error, that worked for me. Something that I knew I would be able to fit into my day and accomplish with minimal difficulty (as far as chores can be minimally difficult).
Find a system that works for you
Once I had a plan I knew I needed something to ensure that these things would, indeed, get done every day/week. I am “list” motivated. This means that one of my main methods of motivation is checking something off a list. For others it may be seeing the results of your effort, or being recognized for your hard work, etc. etc. For me, it’s lists. So to help me get everything done every day I found a planner app for my phone/tablet where I could input my to-do list every day and check it off as I go. And let me tell you, it was awesome to see all those checked off tasks on the days that I accomplished all I had planned. Not gonna lie, sometimes I even added tasks I did that I hadn’t planned on doing just so I could check them off the list.
After I spent the first two weeks stressing when I didn’t accomplish everything on my list I slowed down for a minute and realized that was a ridiculous way to live. I adapted and stopped stressing out. If I didn’t get all the floors vacuumed on Wednesday I stopped stressing about it, and stopped waiting around until the next Wednesday to do it. If I had time, I’d get it done the following day, and if not I’d put it at the top of the list the next day it was due and left it at that.
Ta-da! Mission accomplished
At some point, months after using my planning app day after day, I realized that I hadn’t looked at it in over a week, yet the chores were still getting done. Bam! Habit acquired. It was exciting to see myself improving in keeping my home (more) maintained.
Set new goals
My next attempt at adding a positive habit to my life is to try to eat better and be active every day. I may still be shooting too high to try to achieve both of those at once, but we’ll see how it goes. Again, I have a handy app to help me out, and goals that are very achievable. I’m not going to try to start running a mile every day, or even every other day, when I a) hate running, and b) haven’t been doing any physical activity on a daily or semi-daily basis (excepting hauling a 9 mo. old baby around). I’m going to follow these same steps and see how it goes.
What would you add to this list? What positive habits are you working on this year? I’d love to hear about them and what methods you use to keep on track.