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Building Better Habits & Routines

The Secret To Making Good Habits Stick

By January 21, 2024May 24th, 202414 Comments
One woman is telling the woman sitting beside her a secret

We all want to have good habits, right? When we exercise good habits regular, routine things happen automatically.  One of the habits that my mother insisted I cultivate was to put things back where they belong. I can still hear her inside my mind saying ‘did you put it back’ when I leave something out. I immediately put whatever it is back.  There are many, many good habits to cultivate. The secret to making good habits stick is not so secret. It is to be consistent.

Think about small things like brushing your teeth, hanging up a bath towel, or putting dirty clothes in a laundry basket. Then there are other habits like saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. These are small things that many people grow up practicing, but they are habits.

Bigger habits, the ones that help you manage and maintain the organization in your home require more thought and consistent, intentional practice.

The problem is how do we cultivate the willpower to be consistent?

The first thing to determine is your reason for creating the habit. Once you know why you are working (and it is work) to make the habit stick, it is easier to practice.

Make the habit small

Small changes are the easiest to incorporate. You can add to it when you feel really good about the smallest step.

Do not skip practicing two days in a row

Life happens. You may forget to practice the habit. Be kind to yourself. Acknowledge that you slipped. Forgetting one day is ok. But it is harder to get back on track if you let yourself slide two days in a row.

Work on one habit at a time

Another thing to understand is that if you want to create more than one new habit, only work on creating one habit at a time. You may find that a couple of habits work well together and may even hinge upon one another. When that happens, you have hit the jackpot. Because you’ll notice right away if you slip up.

The secret to making good habits stick is practice

We can probably all agree that this is the truth. I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying ‘practice makes perfect’. What this means to me is that the more I practice doing something the better at it I become and the easier it is. You can apply that to absolutely everything.

Let’s see how this applies to tidying your bedroom

If you want to leave your bedroom tidy every morning before you go about your day, you will make your bed, put away any clothes, shoes, or jewelry laying around, and toss any trash.

The first time you do this you may think to yourself this is work. If you do it again tomorrow, you may find there is less to put away because you did it the day before. Keep reminding yourself this is something you want to do. Before you know it, you go about tidying your room without intentionally walking through the steps. Once you do that you know that you have created a good habit. You are no longer asking yourself; did I make the bed? Did I put my clothes away? Is there any trash on the floor? Do any glasses or plates need to go back to the kitchen?

Here is a less obvious secret to making good habits stick.

 It is that you like the way it feels, looks, or the way it works.

Here’s an example.

You’ve had a very long busy day and are tired when you get home. The first thing you do is drop everything and kick off your shoes. You change into comfy clothes and go into the kitchen to get a snack.

Then you notice the mess of stuff you’ve left by the front door and think you don’t like the way that looks. Because you’re tired you think about leaving everything as it is until tomorrow, but you decide to take 10 minutes and put your things away.

Why?

The reason is that your good new habit is to put things where they belong. None of the stuff you dropped when you walked into your home belongs by the door. You like the new habit of putting things away because you know where to find them. And you like the way the entry to your home looks when it is tidy.

Yes. It is work to make good habits stick. The more often you actively practice them the better they stick.

If you are interested in creating a new habit, reach out to me. We can work together to determine how to make a new habit fit with your lifestyle.

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer® ,a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of  DNQ Solutions, LLC and co-owner of Release●Repurpose●Reorganize, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia.

14 Comments

  • Julie Stobbe says:

    I like all your suggestions. One new habit at a time, it is too difficult to practice and be consistent if you are trying 5 new things a day. If you’re keeping track of 5 new habits which one did you skip for more than 2 days? Yes, one at a time, practice, be consistent and don’t skip is great advice. When I am starting a new habit I add it to my daily to do list so I write it down each day, I read it daily then do it daily.

  • Julie Bestry says:

    All of your advice is spot on. Every time I talk about consistency, there’s someone who quotes Emerson’s, “consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” but they don’t recognize the FULL quote, which is, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” In other words, Emerson was talking about not being willing to change your mind, and not refusing to build habits. Never skipping two days in a row is definitely key, but I’ll be honest; I’ve learned that if I skip at all, it’s so much harder to get back on the horse the next day. Instead of skipping altogether, I try to do the absolute minimal thing. Like, rather than skipping practicing Italian altogether, I’ll do the teeniest lesson, or perhaps a beginner lesson. Even if it looks like I’m not going to hit my 10K steps for the day, I still walk (often while practicing Italian — I guess I break the one-habit-at-a-time rule) so I’m at least a little less short of my goal.

    You CONSISTENTLY create wise blog posts, Diane! 😉

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Julie, I really like the idea of doing something towards the habit – like the teeniest lesson of Italian – rather than skipping it altogether. Doing something is always better than doing nothing!

  • Great post, Diane! I found that visualizing the tasks I have to do each morning before doing them helps me remember and embed them into my routine. Thanks for the tips!

  • Believe me, I know how hard it is to start again if you miss two days. I find it very hard to start again if I miss even ONE, and it’s a real struggle.

  • It’s that time of year when many of us are working on forming new, beneficial habits. Organizing, decluttering, exercising, losing weight, watching less TV, or eating less sweets all come to mind. I love how you said that sometimes we might skip a day during habit formation but caution against skipping two days in a row. That makes a lot of sense. It takes emotional energy and concentration to do something new. So building momentum and consistency, as you said, is essential.

  • Great advice! I es[ecially like that you remind us that if you skip one day you will probably be OK on habit forming – but two days can be very harmful. Try putting a checkmark or a star on your calendar everyday you practice your new habit. You will hate not seeing the checkmark or star there.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      I love the idea of keeping track with a checkmark or star on a calendar. That visual really helps to keep the momentum going.

  • Seana+Turner says:

    Habits can really be our best friends! I love that idea of never skipping a new habit two days in a row. That is a great way to add a bit of accountability and keep that habit forming process going!

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