Sunday, November 30, 2014

One little habit, big rewards

The tasks (projects) shown above have no end, the result of bad habits, unconscious choices. 
Time for a change.

Marla Cilley, AKA FlyLady, started with a shiny sink. Keeping her sink shiny led her into more habits that help her (and thousands of people who read her blog) easily maintain a house she is proud to invite people into.

I subscribed to a couple of years ago and started some of the habits she proposes. My sink is shiny (most of the time), my bed is (usually) made first thing in the morning, and I’m “dressed to shoes” first thing. These are good habits to maintain. I feel good about my kitchen, bedroom, and person. These habits help me maintain a certain level of tidiness; I’m “company ready” (well, almost). However, the rest of Marla’s daily habits and routines are still not habitual for me. What’s missing?

It turns out that there are levels of habit, or Choice as Robert Fritz (The Path of Least Resistance) calls it. According to Fritz, there are three types of Choice: Fundamental Choice, Primary Choice, and Secondary Choice. If you haven’t made your Fundamental or Primary Choices, how can you stick to the Secondary (or daily) Choices?

A fundamental Choice is something like “I choose to be the creative force in my own life,” or “I choose to live” (as opposed to choosing to die), or “I choose to make it EASY” (that’s my big one). Fundamental Choices cover the way you want to live—your core values. Everything you do flows from your Fundamental Choices, whether you've made these choices consciously or not. To get the life you want, it’s best to choose consciously.

Notice that we’re making Choices here—not just wishing or wanting something, but choosing to make it happen.

A Primary Choice is a certain aspect of how you want to live, such as “I choose to get in shape and be really healthy,” or “I choose to write a blog on becoming the person I want to be,” or “I choose to maintain a tidy house.” Primary Choices cover large aspects of your life and require daily action (Secondary Choices or habits).

A Secondary Choice is a daily choice. “Right now, I choose to get up and go to the gym, instead of turning over to go back to sleep.” “Today, I choose to go to my office and write for X hours, instead of watching TV or playing Solitaire or whatever.” “I choose to wipe down the kitchen counters after breakfast, instead of leaving things out for ‘later’.”  The Secondary Choice is where daily routines come in. Once these Choices become habit, you no longer have to think about making choices every day, you just do the actions.

Right now, for me, a Primary Choice is to get my house (and life) organized (and de-cluttered). “I choose to live in a clutter-free, organized, and pleasing environment.”

Aside from getting the house de-cluttered, I have to build habits for keeping the house de-cluttered. Enter an important Secondary Choice: “I choose to put all my tools and supplies away when I’m finished with a task.” This one is HUGE for me. I’ve spent a rather long life flitting from one project to another without putting away anything from the previous project. Utter chaos. Even after binges of de-cluttering and organizing, I revert to my old habits. No more.

I've started doing what I call “End of Task” (idea from Andrew Mellen in Unstuff your Life), or “Clear to Neutral” (Thanh Pham of Asian or “Reset to Zero.” Whenever I finish doing anything, I put away everything that was used in the doing. This seems like such a little habit, but it's hard to do. However, I'm working at it and it’s already reaping rewards. Even though I haven’t de-cluttered yet, I am no longer adding to the clutter lying around on all surfaces of my home; even though I haven’t found a home for every item yet, I am putting things away in logical places where I can find them. When this one little habit becomes second nature to me, it will help with one of my Fundamental Choices: “I choose for it to be EASY!”

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” – John C Maxwell

Sunday, November 23, 2014

If it's important, you'll schedule time for it

Photo by Thurburn Barker

The things I schedule on my calendar are classes with teachers, meetings with others, and appointments with doctors, dentists, etc. What I don’t schedule on my calendar are the things I really want to do that don’t include other people. Why do I assign more importance to my commitments to other people than commitments to myself?

When I promise myself that I will work on a project or learn some technique, most of the time I let myself get distracted by the routine of doing things with other people. My schedule is so crowded that there’s no time for the stuff that’s best done alone. My muse is feeling so neglected that she is waking me up in the wee hours with wonderful ideas to work on. If I can’t or won’t schedule regular time for her during the “regular” day, she’s going to prod me to my computer when no one else is available.

So, how can I schedule time with my muse? How can I persuade myself to honor my commitment to her (and myself)?

I have thought of setting up regular sessions for experimental work, design time, class time (teaching myself) in the same way that a university class is set up, e.g., MWF 8:30 – 10:30. One problem is that all those appointments and meetings with others take up considerable time every week and finding a regular time-frame for scheduling private work doesn't seem to happen. Another problem is that scheduling private work is a commitment “only” to myself; I won’t be graded on it; I won’t disappoint anyone else if I don’t show up. When others are involved, I feel that I must respect their time; when it’s just me, well, I can just do it another time. Of course, “another time” doesn't exist.

What if I begin to see my muse as a separate person? What if my muse has a name of her own? What if she is someone “else” I can make an appointment with? And, what if I realize that she is very disappointed when I fail to show up? OK, I’ll try to find a good time for the private work that won’t always be prey to the vicissitudes of an already too-full life. So, when is the best time?

My muse seems to really like early mornings. If I don’t get up (at a “reasonably” early hour and start working with the ideas crowding my mind, she starts waking me in the middle of the night. The good part of middle-of-the-night work is that the world is quiet, and I can concentrate. No distractions. I get a lot done. The bad part is that I really need a good night’s rest; I feel like a zombie when I've under slept. And, I don’t like the possibility of waking DH; he needs a good night’s rest, as well. So, for now, I’ll start getting up an hour earlier than my usual time. I know it’s only one hour, but it’s one hour more than I’m doing now.

As for the question, “Does she have a name?” I’ll have to wait to see what she reveals to me.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

First things first: What do you want? (What do you want to create?)

SAM contemplating the pristine snowy landscape. New-fallen snow is so clean uncluttered and serene!
Photo by Janet Bickle

Why do so many of us have trouble knowing what we want?  As children we are taught not to ask. If we’re never allowed to ask for what we want, we don’t learn how to create what we want in our lives. In his book, The Path of Least Resistance, Robert Fritz discusses how we’re taught to react or respond to situations in our lives rather than knowing and creating what we want. Simply put, you have to figure out what you want before you can set about creating it. 

In my first post, I figured out that I want to become an organized, productive person. The first clue about what I want was that I've spent so much time over the decades writing about getting organized and productive, and complaining to my friends about how disorganized and unproductive I am. Getting organized always seemed like an impossible goal, though it continued to be a goal. But, did I take it seriously enough to learn how or to do anything about it? It always seemed impossible because I grew up in a terminally disorganized household. Now, though, I’m learning that there are skills and mind-sets that will help me get there.

1.       Decide what you want (to create)
What’s important to you; what are your fundamental choices, or core values?
The Path of Least Resistance – Robert Fritz; Unstuff Your Life – Andrew Mellen; Improv Wisdom – Patricia Ryan;
2.       Turn Pro (a mind-set)
“It is one thing to study war and another to live the warrior’s life.” – Telamon of Arcadia, mercenary of the fifth century B.C.
The War of Art – Steven Pressfield;
3.       Build habits, even (especially) small habits
Think of dripping water that carves holes in granite!; Mini Habits – Stephen Guise;
4.       Recognize RESISTANCE
Those small words in the back of your mind that stop you from doing what you really want.
The War of Art – Steven Pressfield;
5.       Make quick decisions
Decide what to do and get on with it.
The Path of Least Resistance – Robert Fritz; One Year to an Organized Life – Regina Leeds;

So, what do I want to create? I want to create an organized and productive life. What do I mean by “an organized life?” To be organized means that I have only the number of things that actually serve me, no more, no less; it means to be able to find things when I want them; it means to have a clear work surface and area so I can actually work there; it means to schedule the time I need to do my work, not just mull it over in my mind; it means to schedule time for the important things in my life other than work (creating a tidy, company-ready house would be good, too!).

And, I want to create a productive life. As they define it over at Asian, Productivity is "consistently taking action on your goals."A productive life means actually spending the time I need to produce the work (fiber/mixed media arts, writing); it also means spending the time on nurturing relationships that are important to me.

Now that I've defined what I want, it’s time to figure out how to create this wonderful organized, productive life. Oh, and…

Finally, I've decided that I WANT IT TO BE EASY (and EASY may not be what you think)!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

How long does it take to become the person you want to be?

How long does it take to become the person you want to be? (How long is a piece of string?) How much attention do you pay to the process? How do you know what kind of person you want to become? How do you find out what you really want?


Photo by Thurburn Barker

Recently, I found some old notebooks of mine, not only journals, but also lists of goals, etc. The thing I noticed about the entries over the years (decades!) is that the same stuff comes up again and again and again—especially on my lists of goals. Prominent on every list and in every notebook is my desire and struggle to get organized. So, apparently the person I want to be is an organized (and productive) person. That is the desire. That is what I want to be, or so it seems. So what has been blocking me for so long? Time for a bit of research to see how others do what I long to do, how to become that organized, productive person.

Recently, I've found some excellent books and blogs on the subject of being organized and productive. And some of these books and blogs have gone a long way to help me understand how I’m sabotaging myself and how to change my thinking (and acting) to help me enter into to sisterhood/brotherhood of organized, productive people.

For the next little while—perhaps a year? (longer? shorter?)—I plan to explore ways to become the organized, productive person I want to be. One of the tenets I've already learned is that one must build habits, so the habit of posting a blog entry on a regular basis will be one of my first steps to becoming more organized and productive. The plan for this blog is to post once a week to start. That timing may change as I build the writing habit.

So the journey begins. It’s about time.

Happy Birthday to me; happy birthday to me…

What better way to celebrate 7 decades than to launch a blog on becoming?