In my effort to get my wild, disorganized, crazy-making life under control, I have made progress. I have struggled with this for years, and am determined to finally, for once and for all, fix it. I think, in Gretchen Rubin’s book, Better Than Before, I have finally found the tools that make sense to me, to accomplish this.
My biggest problem is disorganization. I’ve written about it many times before. I have too many things on my plate; I run around in all directions trying to satisfy every need, and end up not doing well at any of them. Then, frustrated and discouraged, I beat myself up over not being the person I want to be.
My second biggest problem is procrastination. It goes hand-in-hand with having high standards, I think. By waiting until the last possible moment to finish a task, perfectionism has to – out of necessity – go out the window. It is a painful life, though, to have every major accomplishment be fueled by an adrenaline rush brought on by panic at having let everything go until there was no time left.
I could tell stories. With company due to arrive at dinnertime, with a house to clean and a meal to prepare, I might decide it was absolutely essential that I move the furniture, rearrange the books on the shelves, clean out the coat closet and oh, maybe paint the dining room while I’m at it. With an up-coming move, when it was necessary to have everything packed in boxes and ready to go by a set date, I have been known to try to use up all leftover yarn (rather than pack it, for heaven’s sake) by crocheting a couple last-minute afghans, for Christmas gifts. Or sort through every single album and box of photos, to finally get baby-books put together. Or any number of other not-packing-related activities. You get the idea.
It has to change. I have to change. I am working hard at it.
Rubin’s book starts by defining habits, and how they are actually helpful to us. Habits can be good or bad, to cultivate or to eliminate. She then goes into a series of questions to help determine personality type, which makes a huge difference in how each person responds to expectations. I am an “Obliger,” which means I am pretty good at meeting outside expectations, but not good at meeting expectations I put on myself. I am also a procrastinator, an abundance-lover, an abstainer and an opener, among other things. They are not all pertinent today, but they all reflect the ways I form and maintain habits.
Having a habit means you don’t have to decide. Most of us get up and brush our teeth without stumbling over a decision of “should I brush, or should I not?” Brushing our teeth is a firmly-in-place habit, that needs no further thought. Most of us, if offered a cigarette, would instantly and easily refuse. We are in the habit of not smoking. A smoker trying to quit might find himself in quite a different dilemma. He would have to decide, each time.
Writing is less stressful for me, since I made the decision to do it every day. When my goal was to post a blog “two or three times a week,” every day was a question. Would I take time to write today? Every day demanded a decision, and it became one more item in my long list of things I could – or should – spend my time and energy on. When this year is over, I doubt that I will continue to write every single day. What I will do, though, is set specific days to write, to avoid the conflict of having to decide.
There are other areas of my life where I am trying to form good habits, to get rid of some of the “backlog” of things to do, enforce healthful or helpful behaviors, and take some of the day-to-day chaos out of my life. There are specific tools to help make those things easier, too. Monitoring, scheduling, and accountability are what Rubin calls the “Pillars of Habits.”
One of the many things I am scheduling and monitoring this month, on my brand-new, ever-so-gratifying checklist, is time spent working on various tasks. Today, I am writing and editing for the Beacon. Tomorrow, I’ll write about what I managed to accomplish. That’s accountability!