Modifying Bad Habits

Last year I read a book called The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.  One of the many things I learned is habits save us time and energy.  Doing something habitually spares our brains from constantly making decisions.  For example, when getting dressed in the morning, I don’t decide which leg goes in the pants first.  It’s automatic.  When I get home I automatically put my keys in the same place. I don’t have to think about where to put them, or where to find them, later.

If I wanted to wake up to a clean kitchen, I was going to have to make emptying the dish drainer a habit.  As I mentioned previously, several things were working against me:

  • Bad stacker
  • Prolific creator of dirty dishes
  • Extreme annoyance and dislike for the task

How was I going to recondition myself?

I started small by working on the emotional aspect.  I stopped expending energy on chastising myself for not doing the dreaded task, which only succeeded in decreasing what little motivation I had.  Instead, I focused my energies on thinking of ways to trick myself into the emptying habit.  Here are a few of my more successful tactics:

  • 5-minute sprints – In the beginning when I felt tired and annoyed, I would challenge myself to empty dishes for 5 minutes and then quit.  I quickly noticed it only took 2 minutes.  I found this oddly motivating, even though it did make me feel a bit silly for being sooo resistant.
  • 2-minute rule – The Getting Things Done method by David Allen has a simple rule, if you can do something in 2 minutes or less, do it right away.  It was harder to make excuses now that I knew it only took 2 minutes, max!
  • Positive reinforcement – I liked the results.  Sink and dishes remained clean. Doing small amounts frequently made it easy to maintain.  This gave me encouragement.
  • Finding time – I found ways to reallocate my time.  For example when waiting for bread to toast, I trained myself to empty the dish drainer before checking my phone.

It’s slowly becoming a habit to empty the dish drainer asap and keep it that way.  Despite my best efforts, old habits are hard to change.  Stay tuned for the final part in the series when I share strategies for getting back on track.





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