A Systematic Approach

I recently bought my 6-year-old daughter day of the week socks. When I wrote a post on my personal blog about the system she spent an hour making to store them in a labeled shoe box, I loved the education I got in the comments.

We spend a lot of time dreaming up systems to make our lives more organized and better. And then we have to form the habits to use them so that we don’t have to pointlessly overthink everything. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”

Here are some of the lessons I gleaned from the comments on the post:

  • Only touch it once: We can increase our efficiency by making decisions and taking action on things when we have them in hand. This applies to both physical and digital assets – putting away our coats when we walk in the door and filing/acting on our emails the first time we read them.
  • Eye level is buy level: Our systems are most effective when they are visible and seen. So even if they are obstacles to our progress, we will use them if they are front and center. And if they are pretty or attractive solutions, we might be motivated by the aesthetics to continue.
  • Habits are harder to form if we live with others: Psychologist Wendy Wood studies the formation of habits and found that people that live with others have fewer habits because of the disruption, especially caused by children.
  • We can do well in one area and still ignore another: We may be organized at work and have chaos at home. Habits change when our context changes so it’s not whether or not we are self-disciplined people or not, just that we need to establish the habits we want for every context.
  • Systems are foundational: Author James Clear has a great tag line – “We don’t rise to the level of our goals, we fall to the level of our systems.”

Thanks to everyone who commented on my blog and helped me compile this list – especially Ally Bean,  Em, Endless Weekend and Tamara Kulish whose comments I’ve adapted here.

Now that my daughter has the sock system, I just needed to find one for the school backpack and coat. I hung a rack not six feet from the front door and am hopeful it’s a system that will stick!

What are your habit forming tips and tricks?

Please come visit my personal blog at https://wynneleon.wordpress.com .

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(featured photo from Pexels)

16 thoughts on “A Systematic Approach

  1. Great blog. Aristotle is right but there is always getting into habits so much we go into autopilot. Guess that is where mindfulness comes in.

    1. I think you are right about the mindfulness – and maybe the cues and context help too. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  2. The only habit I have is getting out of bed in the morning and making myself a cup of coffee. Beyond that, it’s anybody’s guess. I hope to improve as I get older. Your hints gleaned from others and shared by you might help. Thank you!

      1. Well thank you, and right back’atcha might I add! 🤗🌹

  3. Thank you, Wynne, for sharing another excellent post! I truly appreciate that you share your insights.

    One point that I keep in mind when forming a new habit comes from “Think and Grow Rich.” I believe it was within its pages that I read that if we’re going to start a new behaviour, we must follow through with it–or that we’re wise not to begin it at all. Why is this so important? Because we’re impressing the mind. Unless we desire to impress it with the habit of quitting what we begin, we must follow through. Choose our habits wisely.

  4. I loved the quote by James Clear. I added it to my collection, so thanks ☺️. I’m a fan of the obstacle for ensuring I get things done, especially things I might procrastinate on (due to challenge or dislike). If I put the tools on the kitchen counter, if I leave the things I need to get done in the hall where they impede, I do it.

    1. A brilliant strategy, Em! Thanks for adding that to the thread. Did it work for gardening the other day or did the weather interfere?

      1. It worked for a few minutes. I’m in a battle with spring rains this year. The rain is winning.

      2. I hear you on that one – it seems like we have a lot of glimpses into warm sunshine but not a lot of extended visits. But good for you for getting out!

  5. Wynne, a helpful post. <3 Habit frees your mind from some of the mundane details of life. Being organized saves time looking for things.

    When I was working, I used to lay out clothes and pack my lunch for the next day. I put anything I did not want to forget to take with me by the front door. The next morning, when I got up at 5 or 5:30 AM, I didn't have to fight the brain fog so much.

    1. What a great trick, Cheryl. Using your self-awareness and preparation to make an early morning easier – great idea! I find that when I pack my daughter’s lunch before I settle down for the night that I just feel more prepared.

      Thanks for the lovely addition and comment!

  6. How disruptive children are – this is soo true. I leave the house to do work – otherwise I neither give them nor my work the attention they/it deserves. Cutting out distractions is crucial. Great post Wynne 🙏

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