Thursday, October 17, 2013

Day 17: Habits

When something isn't working; stuff's piling up, dinner's not being cooked, bills aren't being unpaid, something, obviously, is broken--and it may not be you!

There are two parts to our household systems, as I discussed in this post.

  1. everything in the system has a home, there is a storage solution in place, and
  2. there is a procedure, or method of dealing with the items
I used two examples to talks about the first part, the way we have something set up, (or, in organization-speak, our "storage system") 1) changing out my budgeting papers from a file folder to binder, and 2) changing the form on which I record my meal plan.

Now, we'll talk about the second part: the way we deal with the stuff, our routines or habits.

If something is out of order and it isn't how you have it stored, then you need to ask yourself: am I in the habit of using this system? Have I given myself time to create the habit of using the system consistently?

Do you know what actions you need to take to maintain this system?

Here's an example:

I want to make this paper system work for me. It has actions associated with it which I need to do in order for it to work:

  1. The top tier holds actionable items with a deadline. I also holds the days mail until I deal with it. (Comingling these two categories does not work. Perhaps I ought to find another home for today's mail). I need to check this daily.
  2. The second tier holds actionable items which do not have a deadline. I should check this every few days.
  3. The third tier holds reference items which need to be put away in their various reference spots (unless they are items pending.) These need to be checked once a week.
  4. All of these are items which need to be filed and this pile is already higher than I would like. I need to handle this weekly, as well.

If the area you are dealing with (like a linen closet or a cupboard where things are generally stored) the steps are essentially the same:
  • identify how the space becomes disorganized
  • then identify what you need to do in order to either prevent it from happening (i.e., have fewer bed sheets so the stack doesn't topple when I remove a set) or identify what you can do to address the situation before it gets out of hand.

Now the next thing you need to do is set a time to do those actions. Setting a time, or deciding when you will take action gives you a greater chance of actually doing those things than not setting a time. So, in my example above, every few days is vague. Thursdays and Tuesdays ought to be enough. Desk day is Thursday, so that takes care of once a week.

Scheduling when I will deal with the paper in the trays is one of the first steps to making it a habit. But a schedule is not enough. How will I remember to check the papers every day, let alone on Tuesdays and Thursdays?

A habit needs a cue (or a reminder, or a trigger), the routine, and a reward.

We'll talk more about that tomorrow.

ETA: You can catch all the posts in the series here.

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