The Habits Project


Gretchen Rubin, in The Happiness Project: Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun, spent a year pursuing the topic and the practice of happiness. She picked an area of focus each month and consciously worked on projects and habits related to that focus. What she focused on in January, I will focus on all year: Boost Energy. She did this by going to bed earlier, decluttering, organizing, exercising, and acting the way she wanted to feel and be.

In a virtuous circle, research shows, being happy energizes you, and at the same time, having more energy makes it easier for you to engage in activities – like socializing and exercise – that boost happiness. […] I know that when I feel energetic, I find it much easier to behave in ways that make me happy. […] I decided to tackle both the physical and mental aspects of energy.

To boost her energy and vitality, she resolved to go to bed earlier, start exercising, clear her messy office and bedroom closet, and accomplish a few procrastinated nagging to-do items.

I added one last resolution that combined the mental and the physical. Studies show that by acting as if you feel more energetic, you can become more energetic. I was skeptical, but it seemed worth a try.

Before I was pregnant with Geneva, I had finally – after 10 years of working at a homemaking groove and losing any groove with pregnancy and newborn stages – worked out a “reasonably clean home” routine that worked, found homes for everything, decluttered pretty thoroughly over the course of 3 moves, and figured out an exercise and diet routine that worked for my body and personality. These things do boost one’s energy and happiness, freeing up emotional, mental, and physical energy for other tasks, projects, and goals. Energy and happiness are not dead-end goals, pursued only for their own sakes, but ones that make other goals easier to accomplish.

So! Having finally working out the right habits at long last, and knowing I was prone to losing it all during pregnancy, surely I could just stick with it through one short stint of 9-10 months, right? The momentum would carry me through and this time I wouldn’t fall off the horse, crush the freshly turned leaves, and lose my groove. After all, it’s not like my pregnancies are difficult.

Uh-huh.

Here I am.

The only habit I have now is sitting on the couch and zoning out in front of my laptop screen. All those others? Lost but not forgotten.

And 2013 is the year they are to be found again.

I’ve set new year task-oriented goals and resolutions every year for the last few years, and generally meet about 60% of them (cough except for 2012; turns out my rate was 35%). That never discourages me. “Aim high and hit 60%” should be one of my mottos, I think. It’s generally how I roll.

But this year I’m going to try something different.

I’m going to lower my aim and try my hand at snipe shooting. Precision targeting is not my speciality, but after years of trying and trying and slowly, slowly making progress in managing myself and my home, I had been hitting close enough often enough at long last to see that it was worth the effort. Most of my attempts have been to completely overhaul the house, my attitude, and my routines. I begin with determination and soon either peter out or totally frazzle myself. This is the year I actually try to do it right and take it one small step at a time.

Organization, home management, health, and attitude are foundational skills, upon which, if they are laid down strong and straight, will support other goals and projects and ministries. So those habits are where I’ll direct my attention. I would like to work with our landscaping, have a cut flower garden, do more home decorating, come up with a good capsule wardrobe plan, raise chickens or ducks for eggs, and all sorts of other inspiring projects. But we continue to tread deeper into the homeschooling woods with 5th grade next year, which I can’t postpone, and which will require my energy and organization. It would be silly to put too much effort into my wardrobe until I’m the right size again (and it will likely take 18 months to get there), and in the same way, doing well what’s in front of me now should come before adding more projects or opportunities or responsibilities.

This is the year for establishing habits of organization, good attitudes, and health: Home energies.

To grow accustomed to putting things in their right places rather than putting them down (including appointments down on the calendar rather than in the back of my mind) will decrease stress and boost productivity.

To grow accustomed to responding to my children with kindness, humor, and grace rather than exasperation and snark will decrease the atmosphere’s stress and boost our enjoyment of our time here at home together. That time is just beginning for one, but is half over for another. It’s time to make the most of what time I have left, while I still have time to establish the predominant childhood memories and feelings my children experience.

To grow accustomed to both conserving and growing my energies through eating right, exercising, and resting well will decrease the physical stress and boost physical energy.

It’s difficult to juggle many responsibilities, but that difficulty increases exponentially when I’m scattered, grumpy, and sluggish. So addressing those areas is where I will begin.

4 Responses

  1. Missy
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    Once again you are thinking about many of the same things I am. It sounds like maybe you are trying to take the CM approach to habits – pick one and really work on it for 6 to 8 weeks. So you don’t necessarily have a high bar – but you establish habits that truly become a part of you. Now, this is all theory – of course – because I have yet to actually do this. I also had a friend tell me about this book “Cleaning House: A Mom’s 12 month guide to ridding her house of youth entitlement” by Kay Wills Wyma. I haven’t read it – but I think it might apply to my house. Happy New Year – may you be blessed and find the energy to enjoy all of them!

  2. Mystie Winckler
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    Yes! The CM approach to habits, but for myself and not even attempting at this point to apply it to the kids. Several of the habits I plan on I thought I had made into habits before I was pregnant, but they weren’t so solid and ingrained that pregnancy couldn’t undo them. :)

  3. Meredith_in_Aus
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    Happy New Year, Mystie and family!

    I love how you think – I can see so much of my own thoughts here, but I love how you actually write them down.

    I began working slowly on some goals (love your motto too, BTW) in August after reading at Money Saving Mom and hit about 60% (grin). This new year, though, will be an overhaul year for me as we have finally bought our own home (again, after a 12-year renting interlude). Yay! We don’t move ’til the end of Feb, so up until then it will be major decluttering, followed by major organisational endeavours once we are in the new place – all in order to better facilitate glorifying the Lord and enjoying Him forever, of course.

    Look forward to reading Simply Convivial in 2013!

    In Him,

    Meredith

  4. Mystie Winckler
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    Congratulations on your new house! That’s exciting!

    My best organizing during a move tip is to map out the house you’re moving into before you move and make a plan for where things will go before you start unpacking. Of course you’ll still rearrange and move things around as you live there for awhile, but it makes the unpacking phase tons smoother!

    That and, of course, don’t pack anything you don’t want to find a home for in your new house! :) Decluttering is good.