No matter how scatter-brained you might be, you probably have at least one thing or at least one set of habits that you do every day without fail. For me, it’s my espresso/soy latte habit. Every single day, one of the first things I do is turn on the espresso machine, fill the steamer jug with soy milk, add sugar, grind the coffee, make the coffee, and steam the milk. I then always rinse out the steamer jug and the small, chipped Mikasa cup I use to collect the espresso.
This habit is non-negotiable. I plan ahead to make sure I have soymilk and roasted coffee (I also roast my own coffee in a cast iron pan on my stove.) The steamer jug and coffee cup are always ready when I need them. This tells me I am capable of planning ahead and capable of maintaining a complex list of habits if the reward is great enough. My coffee is important enough to me to make sure I am able to make it easily, without irritants, obstacles, or frustrations.
By habit-linking, I can attach another desired habit to this set of habits. Since I usually wash the dishes some time between dinner and bed and leave them to dry overnight in the dish drainer, I wake up to clean, dry dishes that are ready to be put away. I had already identified the dish drainer as one of the obstacles to doing the dishes (post to come on this topic), plus, even though my Fiesta Ware is very pretty, a full dish rack looks cluttered. So, it was very easy to insert “put away dishes” after turning on the espresso machine. It takes just a couple of minutes at most and removes one of my excuses for procrastinating on washing the dishes later
Another place where habit-linking works for me is my coming home routine. I always park my car in the garage and hang my keys up on my little VW Bug key rack right outside the garage door.
I wanted to add two things to my coming home routine– emptying out the car and putting my purse away. This was a little more difficult than changing my morning routine because I am one of those people who detests making more than one trip into the house with the bags. However, I also combine errands, usually going grocery shopping on days when I have work (and thus have my lunch kit) and dance classes (so I have my dance bag.) Emptying out the car on work days involves my purse, my lunch kit, my dance bag, any mail I might have, and any groceries or fast food I’m bringing home. My son comes to help when he realizes I’m home, but sometimes he’s not around. On those days, I have to suck it up and realize that making two trips is better than leaving detritus in my car. I had to be aware of how I was sabotaging my desire to keep a clean car so that I could convince myself to just do what I needed to do.
Of course, bringing in all that gear means I need to deal with it, or else it becomes part of the problem in the house. I no longer want to transfer the mess from the car to the house (my old way of “cleaning out the car”), so I have to make sure I deal with it all right away. I take the lot into the kitchen, leave the food and mail on the counter, and take the purse and dance bag into the bedroom. If my son is home, he puts away the food while I empty my purse (watch here for a link to my post about emptying my purse) and take my work clothes out of my dance bag. The work clothes and dance clothes go into the laundry and the dance bag goes into the closet. Then I deal with the mail. If I have brought home fast food, that’s when I can eat. If I try to do these things in any other order, if I try to eat before putting away the purse and dance bag, I end up not putting away the purse and dance bag and things like hair clips or work pants get misplaced.
For me, habit stacking has been more difficult in the evening because until recently I did not have any sort of evening routine. I have had to start from scratch, because I need some kind of defined start or catalyst. For some, the nightly brushing of the teeth is a good catalyst, but I like to do that last thing before I lie down, so I still need something to start the routine. At this point, I’m still at the stage of needing an alarm to force me to start my evening routine. I hope for it one day to become as ingrained as my morning coffee routine.
Because I get very enthusiastic about changing my life and making all of the things better all at once, I usually end up going full sail and getting burned out. This time, I decided to take it slowly and just make a couple of small changes that I knew would have big effects. I have been actively habit-linking for almost a month now and it has made a big difference in my days.
What non-negotiable habits or routines do you have? What habit would you like to link to an existing routine or habit?