Whether you’re trying to get to the gym three times a week, review your “next actions/to do list” three times daily or introducing family decluttering time three nights a week, all require forming a new habit. And creating a new habit is hard work. Here’s some advice for organizing yourself so you can get that new habit established. Five practical strategies.
Practical Strategy #1 – Make it Super Easy on Yourself
“Super” easy means, for example, packing your gym bag the night before. Also laying out the outfit you’ll wear to the gym. Getting everything ready so you barely need to think about whether you’re going or not.
#2 – In Sight, In Mind
We all know the opposite of that phrase. This means, for example, that you leave a post-it note on your computer monitor which says: “8 a.m., noon, 4 p.m. – review “next actions/to do list.” And cross out the time as you review your list each time.
After you’ve reviewed your list at 8, and move the note off your monitor so you can work, put the note where you’ll see it. This works for those of us who try to use Outlook/calendar reminders but we never really read them; we just click them to get them out of the way! (Although to solve that one, you could add sound like ocean waves rumbling to your reminders.)
When my dad had to remember to do something first thing in the morning, he’d leave a notepad in his path to get out of bed.
Where’s the one place you always see in the morning? Leave a note there (bathroom mirror, next to the coffee pot, at the table where you sit and sip tea in the a.m.)
#3 Tie to An Existing Habit
Keep forgetting to get back to going through the mail? How about doing it while you’re cooking dinner and waiting for something to finish?
Need to take a new medication or vitamin? Put the bottle next to your toothbrush, your coffee, or the breakfast foods you eat each day (yes, right in the same cupboard).
#4 Ask for What You Need
For some people, you need a booster, someone who can support but without any emotion. This is not nagging. It is a helpful person who can get you started on the new habit. Someone you’ll voluntarily check in with, because checking in with someone else is just that extra boost you need to get started.
Or if you’re trying to get all your household members to join you in a quick pickup and declutter each day, talk about it at a family meeting. Ask how they can help,what they can each do on their own.
#5 Reward for Effort, Not Just Results
It’s tempting to wait until you know your habit is established, to wait for the big reveal, until you reward yourself.
Research says don’t wait. Reward for effort so you stay motivated.
My colleague Melissa Mannon (workshop co-leader) attended a recent organizing workshop I led. She and her daughter, together, devised her daughter’s list of things to do in the morning, so she’d get to the bus on time.
What’s the reward? After some of the tasks, her daughter does three pirouettes (and I’m sure gets applause!).
Sometimes, it really doesn’t need to be a big reward, just some fun to break up the routine of routines!
How Long Does it Take to Form a New Habit?
Traditionally, research has shown it takes 21 days to instill a new habit. Longer if you have ADD or another brain based challenge.
New research from Psychologist Phillippa Lally of University College London suggests that habits take much longer to form … an average of 9 1/2 weeks or longer.
The good news is that missing one or two days of repetition will not impede the process.*
So don’t struggle; make it easy on yourself by using some of these strategies above.
*As quoted in Scientific American Mind magazine, Jan/Feb 2011