Monday, January 6, 2014

Willpower and Tidiness

My grandmother was right.

 I really do need to make my bed everyday. But that I need to make it so I can lose weight (or do any other task requiring willpower) is a bit of an eye-opener!

Another simple old-fashioned way to boost your willpower is to expend a little on neatness. As we described in Chapter 7, people exert less self-control after seeing a messy desk than after seeing a clean desk, or when using a sloppy rather than a neat and well-organized Web site. You may not care about whether your bed is made and your desk is clean, but these environmental cues subtly influence your brain and your behaviour, making it ultimately less of a strain to maintain self-discipline. Order seems to be contagious. p. 252, Willpower by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney (2011: Penguin)
In Chapter 7, Tierney and Baumeister write, "When offered snacks and drinks, people in the neat lab room chose apples and milk instead of the candy and sugary colas preferred by their peers in the pigsty." (p. 156)

As well, it turns out that once you expend some will power putting good habits into place (and vanquishing bad ones) not only does life go a little more smoothly (avoiding those crises which require self-control to get through well) but it conserves your will power so that when the inevitable storms do hit you, you can weather them better.

This makes intuitive sense when you consider the tenure track professor, as they do. Those who wrote when they had bursts of inspiration tended not to get tenure as much as those who plodded along, writing or researching a bit every day. In fact the correlation between self-control, habits and desired oucomes was strongest for working and study habits--and weakest for dieting and exercise.

However, the idea of establishing certain habits to make the effort easier-- the more automatic something is, the less will power it takes to do it-- is worth exploring.

Some habits to develop (and some to continue):

1. Make the bed every day. (Just 'cause.)
2. Do the dishes before going to bed. (So the counters is clean and making breakfast is easier)
3. Put on my work out clothes every morning. (So I don't have to think about going back upstairs)
4. Tidy the living room before bed. (So there's room to move.)
5. Menu plan. (I could even expand this to include all my meals for the day, not just supper.)
6. Write it down. (I am actually keeping a "five minute" journal this month where I just take five minutes to write down how my day went with respect to sticking with the Whole30. Again, another idea from Willpower. Tracking --of any and all kinds-- is good.)

What habits would you put into place to make it easier to achieve your goals?


onshore said...

Makes sense.
I need to work on the habit of doing the dishes every day. There are not many dishes to wash by hand so I tend to postpone it to the next day.
I did do the dishes daily while taking the secrets workshop, but that habit didn't stay

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Great post. I need to make the bed every day and keep the dishes washed too.


i said...

I just love what you have written.
For me everything is hard doing...
I love reading you, all makes sense!
litle by litle I will get there
I need to do a litle everyday!

Pleas keep blogging

thefarmersdaughter said...

I totally agree. I only started making my bed every day about 5 years ago (and I am almost 48) it makes a HUGE difference. I'm from a long line of counter/sink cleaners so I have never understood people with dirty dishes left everywhere....

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