A recent study showed that Americans spend eight minutes a day looking for their keys. Sound familiar?
If that’s you, it could be easy to berate yourself for that reality. When we think of habits, we tend to think of the negative – like a bad habit of losing things.
But I find it much more encouraging to think of the positive side: what good habits would I like to add to my life? Just as bad habits can drag us down, good habits can point us in the right direction.
Good habits can save us time if we want them to. If a homeschool mom could get back 40 minutes a week by cultivating the habit of hanging her keys by the door – or figuring out why she loses her keys and changing it – wouldn’t that be a good thing?
Homeschool moms carry so much responsibility. If we can put some of that on autopilot so we just do it automatically, it can really make life easier. When it comes to dishes, laundry, cleaning and cooking, could a few simple logistical habits make your life easier? Could you put something on autopilot so you just do it automatically and don’t have to fuss about it?
Or for more inspiration, try this. Answer these questions to help you clarify a good habit you might like to add to your life:
Dream about what you want to do with your life. Consider:
- What you want a good day to look like?
- What do you want a good week to look like?
- What does a good month look like to you?
- What about a good year? 10 years?
For me, a good day includes a 30-minute walk and a quiet time. It includes a few minutes at mid-day to listen to Christian music, which helps refocus and reset my day. And of course a good day for me includes reading. If I don’t read, I feel like I had a terrible day!
A good week for me includes a Sabbath rest. A few weeks ago, John and I were at a conference that lasted all day Friday through Sunday. When we got home I felt like I’d never catch up. When I take a day of rest the entire week goes better. I feel more focused, more energized, more able to meet life with perspective. A good week for me also includes time at church, which is so good for my soul. It includes time for John and me to sit under the tree talking with the kids as we laugh and eat together. What does a good week look like for you?
A good year for me includes two opportunities to get away and gain perspective on my everyday life. One of those is a week of fun with all the kids and grandkids, and another might be a trip to visit ministry partners in another part of the world and see what God is doing among them. Even if you can’t get away twice in a year, does a good year for you include some sort of intentional family week?
Ponder those questions and see what you might want to add. For me, that was adding a walk every day. I had wanted to do this for a while but I’d leave it to the evening and then feel too tired to go out and do it. So now I get up first thing in the morning, throw on yesterday’s clothes, run a comb through my hair and go walk. If I do it first thing I actually get it done. Plus, the beauty of the mornings has really surprised me – the sky, the air, it all has such a special quality first thing in the morning.
I also added a green smoothie for breakfast every day – I just fill the blender with greens, throw in a protein, some juice, some fruit and some coconut oil. What an easy way to honor my body and get more vegetables in my life! My daughter Jonelle started cleaning up her room every evening. It gives her a brand-new start on the day in the morning.
Experts say it takes 30 days to build a habit. It seems so easy to us. Just decide to do something and then do it. But it’s always an uphill climb. We are creatures of habit, so to build a brand new habit takes incredible perseverance and push. You have to plan to say every day “I’m just going to grit my teeth and get it done.” And eventually it’s almost automatic.
Experts also recommend just adding one habit at a time. I recently added five, and I’m here to tell you it felt like my efforts were going to take over my life. It was too much to think about, too much will power to exert every day in addition to my normal tasks.
Of course, we shouldn’t let habits rob us of our ability to be free and flexible. But I actually think many habits allow us more freedom in the world. Here’s an example. We used to camp a lot as a family. Camping, as you know, is a messy and dirty business. You come home and the temptation is to just throw all the equipment in a corner to deal with it later. But I got in the habit of taking the tub of cooking equipment and setting it on the kitchen counter as soon as we got home. I’d refill the salt and sugar containers, clean everything, change out the dirty towels for clean ones, and repack it all. Then when someone suggested we should go camping, I’d give the kids their packing checklists and we could get out the door surprisingly fast. Because of some good habits we were free to be flexible and go camping more often.
As another example, keeping your house a little cleaner (or accepting a lower standard of cleanliness) can mean you feel free to invite company over more often. Likewise, meal planning can help you feel free to play with your kids outside more afternoons instead of scrambling to pull something together for dinner at the last minute.
So dream about how you want your life to look and pick one new habit to start today. Don’t overwhelm yourself with five new habits like I did. But enjoy the freedom your one new habit provides!