In my previous post, I began my contemplation of habits and how they affect our lives. I realised that establishing an awareness of my habits, good and bad, is essential to ensuring that I control them, and not the other way around, as it has been with my consumption of alcohol.
I now know that I am the type of person who needs external accountability to ensure I successfully maintain my decision to change a bad habit to good, or indeed sustain a new one. I have always loved writing. I have kept little notebooks and journals filled with observations and plans and stories and even, embarrassingly, poems, since I was very young. But my personal writing have always been undisciplined and sporadic. I love the idea of writing a novel. But have I? Of course not.
Since establishing Marrickville Maman in January 2014, I have written 85 posts. There is NO WAY I would have sat down 85 times between then and now and written in a focussed, lasting way had it not been for the fact that I made my intention to write regularly PUBLIC. I set the outside expectation of producing something for other people to read. I had external accountability. And it worked.
I love the story I recently read about Victor Hugo’s way of ensuring he got his writing done – he had his servant hide his clothes away for the day. Left naked in his study, Hugo had no choice but to write.
That’s not to say I am entirely lacking in self-discipline in every area of my life. Four mornings a week, I put my exercise gear on as soon as I get out of bed. That way, walking the kids to school and then home again is a no-brainer. I just do it. (That’d make a great slogan …) I have then at least had a vigorous walk, and I usually do another twenty minutes or so of exercise once I get home – because I’m already in the mindset, it’s easy to maintain the habit.
I make Mademoiselle Headstrong’s bed and then mine. (Captain Chatterbox makes his own. I love child labour!) It takes moments, makes the bedrooms look neat, and makes me feel happy. I profoundly dislike disorder.
I make a large jug of herbal tea and let it steep and cool. I then have little cups of tea from it throughout the day. It’s done once, done early, and then I don’t have to think about it again.
I plan a weekly menu around the various activities of my family and write a weekly shopping list. I know what food we have in the house, we all know “what’s for dinner?” every night, and I don’t have to think about what to cook more than once. It saves time, money, and a daily emotional breakdown.
Every evening, I write a simple list of things I’d like to get done the following day. It is not set in stone – a busy life, especially one involving the vagaries of small children, requires flexibility above all – but I am the type of person who gains enormous satisfaction from ticking items off a list. In addition, I find that getting stuff out of my head and onto paper induces a sense of calm. I don’t have to remember everything because it is written down. So simple, yet so effective.
Inspired by Gretchen Rubin in her wonderful new book Better Than Before, I suggested to The Husband that we have a set “bed time” every evening, as a way of knowing there’s a full stop to the day and of transitioning calmly from being awake to enjoying a consistently restful sleep. He agreed, our “bed time” is 10.30pm, and he commented just this afternoon how positive this new habit is proving to be. I love it, too.
In conclusion, I’d love to hear about the habits that help make your life smooth and pleasant or, conversely, about the ones you’d like to change or eliminate – please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.
“I should monitor whatever is essential to me. In that way, I ensure that my life reflects my values.” – Gretchen Rubin
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