If the saying ďbad habits are hard to breakĒ is true, then the OPPOSITE should be true, as well. Good habits are hard to break. Of course, once you establish a good habit, it is even HARDER to break.
WHERE WE GET IN TROUBLE
The difficulty lies in ESTABLISHING the good habits to begin with. I think bad habits come by easier because it doesnít require effort. A bad habit is usually something done for convenience, self-satisfaction, etc. But when we commit to making a positive change in our lives, we are faced with a sometimes daunting CHALLENGE! Letís face it, being organized is a good habit! You reap so many benefits from it. It could be peace, satisfaction, time for more important things, and even make you a better person.
FOCUSING ON THE POSITIVE
If this is all true, then how do we begin to build good habits into our lives? I think it begins by first looking at what could be done better or what could be IMPROVED. Instead of only focusing on whatís wrong or what part of your life is disorganized, weíll feel more prepared if we take a more positive approach. Consider relationships in your lives, your work, what you do on a daily basis, and then begin to write down what things could be changed or improved. Sometimes you will see a direct CORRELATION between two seemingly different areas.
A PERSONAL EXAMPLE
For instance, in the past Iíve sometimes failed to establish good habits for my children in the morning before school starts. Since they are young, I know that I have to TEACH these habits to them...they will not learn them on their own. But the fact that I was disorganized in my morning routine was also affecting my relationship with them. If mornings are spent with a lot of yelling (my yelling at them to hurry) or confusion (no one knows who is supposed to do what next), and strife (now weíre not getting along because weíre all frustrated), it is obviously going to affect my relationship with my children. So being disorganized in our morning routine and my relationship with them is directly related. It would be wise to establish some good habits for our morning routine. Now instead of seeing myself as a terrible mother, I would instead decide that I need to work on CHANGING how our mornings go. Isnít that much more positive?
PUTTING IT INTO ACTION
After you have determined what needs to be changed or improved, you need to devise a workable but flexible PLAN. I emphasize the word flexible! If you tend to be a perfectionist, you will want to get the plan right the first time. But more than likely, it will need to be TWEAKED some. Donít consider that to be a failure! It is merely a road leading to the true path of building a good habit. Good habits donít just happen...they have to be worked at.
And part of being flexible, is realizing that different seasons in your life may cause you to scrap the original plan and compile something entirely NEW. Let me give you a personal example. Last year all three of my children attended the same elementary school. I had a great morning routine and was really satisfied with the results it brought. Now itís a new school year and they all have DIFFERENT school hours. Toward the end of summer I began to devise a plan that would work for our morning routine. I started off by writing down what time they needed to be at school. I then wrote down all the things that I wanted them to be able to accomplish in the morning. If it was something that could wait until after school, I didnít include it. I then estimated (generously) how long each task would take to complete. That gave me a good idea on what time I would need to wake everyone.
STARTING WITH YOU
But I didnít stop there. I also had to devise a plan for MYSELF. I didnít want to wake up and be rushing to follow through on their routine, while I wasnít even ready myself. So I did the same thing for myself. I thought about the times I needed to leave and what I wanted done before I left. I was then able to come up with a workable but flexible schedule. Itís only been about 4 days of school and already Iíve tweaked it once. I may find that it needs to be tweaked again. But thatís okay! At least Iím BUILDING some good habits, even if they take some time to perfect.
PUTTING IT INTO ACTION
Okay, so you have devised this workable, flexible plan...what is the next step? As the Nike commercial says, ďJust do it!Ē Donít procrastinate, donít wait just ďone more day,Ē donít assume it wonít work before trying it. Just do it! You canít build a good habit if you never TRY it. If it fails, fine. Then you will have discovered not that you are a failure but that the plan failed. So sit down and consider what went WRONG, determine what changes can be made and try again. I think one of the biggest obstacles that stands in the way of us developing good habits are our own selves! We get in the way! Donít allow yourself to keep doing the same old thing if it isnít working. Remember, good habits are hard to break! So once you establish them, they will be so easy to come by.
BACK TO MY STORY
Now, going back to what I shared about our morning ROUTINE. Between 5 a.m. and 8:35 a.m., this is what happens in my home... I wake up, drink my coffee and read my Bible. I also journal on my laptop, take a shower, get dressed, brush my teeth, put on makeup and do my hair. I then wake up my 1st and 3rd graders, and while they are on the couch waking up, I feed our pets. By then itís time to sit and read a devotional with my children, then get them breakfast. I then supervise all the rest of what they need to do: brush teeth, get dressed, fix hair, make beds, etc. In the midst of this, I wake up my 6th grader. I get the kids lunch boxes into their backpacks (which are always prepared the night before), tell the kids to get their shoes on and then get my 6th graderís breakfast, which he eats while I leave to take the other two to school. I help out for about 15 minutes with collecting and marking off homework, go home and supervise anything my oldest has left to do. While he finishes up getting ready, I usually put a load of laundry in, sweep, and wash breakfast dishes. I drive him to school and when the bell rings at 8:35 a.m., the morning routine has been COMPLETE.
THE SECRET TO SUCCESS
Itís a lot. But it doesnít feel like a lot. I could do all those same things and have it feel like a lot if it werenít done in an organized manner. If I hadnít developed good habits, it could cause incredible stress and frustration. The key is that I follow through on this EVERYDAY. One little glitch (for instance, deciding to ďquickĒ read e-mail) and my plan will fall through. Once you make a plan and it works, STICK with it. That is my final thought on establishing good habits. Donít change what works! Sure, I could use a little more sleep. Itís not my favorite thing to do, wake up at 5 a.m. But even one half hour difference, and something gives in my plan. Usually itís my temper! So have the stamina to stick with what works. Remember, focus on what changes and improvements can be made. Devise a workable and flexible plan. Tweak when necessary. Just do it! Begin to implement and use the plan. If it ainít broke, donít fix it. But for goodness sakes, if it isnít working (which means itís broken) FIX it!
Stephanie Romero is a self-published author and has done many articles via e-mail and through her local church newsletter. Writing is her passion and her heart. She has been married for 14 years and has three children who are 11, 8, and 6 years old. She is in a new season of life, as this year she puts her children into school after homeschooling for the past 5 years.
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