Five Myths about Goals, Habits, and Willpower

Goals, Habits, and Willpower New research shows that some of what we have been told about goals, how long it takes to form a habit, and the willpower needed to get those things done may be wrong. Here are some of those myths and ways to flip your beliefs. The best way to achieve your Read More

Goals, Habits, and Willpower

New research shows that some of what we have been told about goals, how long it takes to form a habit, and the willpower needed to get those things done may be wrong. Here are some of those myths and ways to flip your beliefs.

The best way to achieve your goals is to tell people

Goals, Habits, Potential

“Tell everyone your goals.” Going public with your goals has been a popular suggestion for years. But does it really make a difference? According to research by Peter Gollwitzer, Professor of Psychology at NYU, telling people your goals takes the edge off of motivation. It’s as if the act of telling people was the first step towards making progress towards that goal. So telling people you are going to lose 20 lbs by summer actually gives you a slight feeling of accomplishment and you may delay a relevant first step, like clearing unhealthy stuff out of your pantry.

Flip it: Keep your big goals to yourself but write them down and keep them visible in your planner and vision board. (Announce them to the world if you want when you’ve reached a milestone!

Start with the hardest, “worst” task first

Eat that Frog. Fit that big rock in the jar first. But is it a tasty frog? Is that the right rock? Should you focus on the hardest/easiest or the biggest/smallest? What’s important is to distinguish between the important/unimportant tasks. The hardest task may not be the most important task and vice versa.

So zero in on the most important task and break it down into micro-tasks. The satisfaction that comes from completing a tiny first step of an awesome (as in big and life-changing) goal is a feel-good motivator for getting things done. That accomplishment might provide just enough positive reinforcement to keep you moving forward with a harder/bigger task.

Flip it: Start with the smallest task of an important project. It may be the easiest, but it will give you a feeling of accomplishment that can provide motivation to keep going through the tougher ones.

It takes 21 days to form a habit

This idea originated from Maxwell Maltz, in his book, Psycho-Cybernetics (1960). 21 days is certainly a good start, but it may be just the beginning of making it stick. According to a research article in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it can take from 18 to 254 days to make a habit a… habit. Yes, 254!!

If you are new to meditating, hanging your keys on a hook, or making your bed every day, it may take a bit longer than 21 days. Consider that a 30-year-old who has never been the bed-making type will have been practicing the habit of leaving their bed unmade every morning for about 25 years (I’m giving 1- 5-year-olds a pass here!). That’s 9,125 days. So 21 days may not be the magic bullet, but it is certainly a milestone to be celebrated!

Flip it: Consider 21 days as a goal for a streak – an unbroken number of days you have practiced this new habit – and reward yourself with something meaningful. Note: “Meaningful” does not have to mean “expensive.”

We have a limited amount of willpower

Willpower printed on silver metal key tagGoogle “limited willpower” and you will see all three sides: It’s limited. It’s not limited. Have some sugar to get more. Ego depletion is the belief that we have a limited reserve of willpower. Deny yourself bacon at breakfast, a greasy burger and fries at lunch, and cookies and a Snickers bar in the afternoon and you are doomed to blow it all in the evening.

This concept gained traction in the late 1990s when Psychologist Roy Baumeister led a study on the topic. But more recently, another study has suggested this might not be the case. Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck discovered that the subjects of Baumeister’s original project already believed that willpower was limited. Note: Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success is one of my favorite books. I recommend it to all, especially parents who are trying to figure out how to support and motivate their children.

What does this mean? Henry Ford’s quote, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right,” may apply here. Belief may drive behavior.

Flip it: This is where positive thinking comes into play. When willpower reserves are running low, review your goals and your reasons why recognize your progress and give yourself a gritty pep talk to stay the course.

Think only of positive outcomes

I will be the first to encourage people to think positive,  happy thoughts! Positive thinking reduces stress and keeps you motivated to be productive. Negative self-talk, on the other hand, is self-defeating and non-productive. When I am anticipating a win or loss for myself, I hope and plan for the best, but… I also imagine the worst-case scenario. Why? Because it forces me to do a little risk analysis and imagine plan B or any actions I need to take to ensure a great outcome. It’s not that I’m planning for failure; I’m preparing for success! And rarely does the worst-case scenario happen!

Flip it: Think positively, but also analyze the worst-case scenario. You might identify some quick fixes that will help you realize your ideal scenario. Just don’t stay in the pit of negativity too long!

Do you need help with goal setting, habit-building, and accountability? Life coaching can help! Call me at 904-500-7678 (SORT), message me, or just go ahead and schedule your free consult for life coaching or organizing! I’d love to help you simplify, amplify and Zen Your Den® (and your life).

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Barbara Trapp, CPO®, Certified Professional Organizer®, Productivity Consultant, and Life Coach
Zen Your Den®
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Life Transitions Specialist, NAPO
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO

It’s National Checklist Day! (But you need to use checklists EVERY day)

Once upon a time, I was on a small plane that was about to take off from the Ft. Lauderdale airport to the Bahamas for a working vacation. Ahhh…that sounds awesome (note to self: plan another one of those). Okay… so I was a little nervous because a recent small plane crash was still making Read More

Photo of checklists on a clipboard. Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
Checklists are great productivity tools! (photo by rawpixel on Unsplash)

Once upon a time, I was on a small plane that was about to take off from the Ft. Lauderdale airport to the Bahamas for a working vacation. Ahhh…that sounds awesome (note to self: plan another one of those). Okay… so I was a little nervous because a recent small plane crash was still making headlines and this plane was packed with gear and suitcases right down the center of the aisle. Although the sky was a cloudless, beautiful blue, I’d brought a John Grisham novel along just in case I needed a distraction while flying over the ocean.

The side door closed and the engine sputtered to life. A few feet in front of me in the cockpit, the pilot was peering over a checklist in a large black ring binder. After a minute he slammed it shut. What I saw next got my attention. On the front was a cover sheet with these words in large black print: “HOW TO FLY A PLANE.” Our pilot had a sense of humor. I kept my nose in my book for the entire flight.

The History of Checklists

Humor aside, it was a real-life catastrophic plane crash in 1935 that launched the widespread use of checklists. Although the plane was in perfect condition, the flight crew had forgotten one simple, but crucial step: they had neglected to release the flight control gust locks. By the time one of the pilots realized the mistake, it was too late. As a result of this preventable accident, the “check list” was developed and is still required in all aircraft today.

Checklists Today

Checklists are essential for everything from preparing for takeoff in a plane to closing down a restaurant kitchen at the end of the day. They prevent critical steps from being missed and are one of my favorite organizing and productivity tools to create and use for complex tasks that need to be repeated. I love them because they free up memory space and allow me to focus on whatever is in front of me. I’ve created checklists for myself and clients to help with a variety of activities and projects such as:

  • Onboarding employees
  • To-do lists
  • Hurricane preparation
  • Contractor vetting
  • Weddings
  • Job fairs and vendor booths
  • Birthday parties
  • Community events
  • Garage sales
  • Presentations
  • Research/comparisons for purchasing a new car or RV
  • Setting up audiovisual equipment
  • Shopping (standard lists for different stores, customized grocery lists)
  • Packing (different kinds of lists for conferences, camping trips, extended vacations, cruises, summer camps, international travel)

What checklists do you currently use to help you stay organized? What activities of your life and work could be more organized with a comprehensive checklist? The objective eye of a professional organizer and productivity consultant can help you create the checklists you need to keep you and your family and/or work team on track.

Need help creating checklists and other productivity tools? Call me at 904-500-SORT (7678) or message me here for your free consult for organizing, productivity consulting or life coaching. I’d love to help you simplify and Zen Your Den® (and your life).

Barbara Trapp, Professional Organizer, Productivity Consultant, and Life Coach
Zen Your Den®
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO
Life Transitions Specialist, NAPO

Make Your Bed for Self-Care, Productivity and…Wealth?

Make your bed for good self-care It may seem pointless, especially if you live alone. I mean, who will know if you leave your bed unmade this morning? And you’re just going to crawl back in tonight anyway, right? From an efficiency standpoint, this may be one task you can let go of. But research Read More

Make your bed for good self-care

Photo of made bed and side table (Photo by Christopher Jolly on Unsplash)

It may seem pointless, especially if you live alone. I mean, who will know if you leave your bed unmade this morning? And you’re just going to crawl back in tonight anyway, right? From an efficiency standpoint, this may be one task you can let go of. But research shows that if you make your bed first thing in the morning, you’ll be more productive the rest of the day.

In the evening I (usually) come home to a neatly made-up bed ready for a fresh night of rest. How considerate of “morning me” to take the time to straighten the covers and plump the pillows! On the other hand, if morning me skipped making the bed in exchange for a little more time looking at social media, I come home to a disheveled bedroom. It’s a bit of a letdown and it means more work for tired “evening me.” Unless I’m sick, I’m going to straighten the covers and arrange the pillows before I get in regardless.

Why didn’t morning me think enough of evening me to do this?

When I wake up and head to the kitchen, I (usually) see an empty sink with dishes in the drainer, having dried overnight. It’s a morning habit for me to put them away while making coffee. It requires no concentration and very little time. But occasionally, there is a pile of dishes leftover from dinner and a dirty pan on the stove. Wow, dried-on kale is stubborn. And rice is the worst! This is going to take awhile.

Thanks a lot, evening me. Now I might not have time to make your bed. So there! (I see a little tit-for-tat going on here.)

When I make my bed in the morning I am practicing self-care. “Morning me” gets a little rush of adrenaline after checking that first chore off my morning to-do list, also known as my morning ritual.

I’m on a roll here! What’s next?

Next thing I know, I’m lining up my shoes in the closet, taking out the trash, and watering the plants.

What experts are saying

“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” This is what retired Admiral William H. McRaven, author of the book, Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World*, said at the 2014 University of Texas at Austin Commencement. It is just one example of many habits that shaped him in his career as a Navy Seal that he applies to everyday life and work.

In his book, The Power of Habit*, Charles Duhigg refers to making your bed in the morning as a keystone habit. Make your bed (keystone habit), and then put away some clothes. Brush your teeth (keystone habit) and then floss. One habit prompts the next habit.

Can making your bed make you rich? In a  CNBC article,  7 Rich Habits of  Highly Successful People, Socio-economist Randall Bell, Ph.D. is quoted as saying, “those who make their bed in the morning are up to 206.8 percent more likely to be millionaires.” Hmmm. There may be something to this bed-making thing.

Three reasons to make your bed in the morning:

    • It’s an easy task – low-hanging fruit that gives you the feeling of accomplishment.
    • It starts a chain of neatness habits.
  • Evening you will thank you (and maybe even clean up the kitchen).

If you think making your bed takes too much precious time, set a stopwatch. You’ll probably find it takes a smaller amount of time than you expected. And if it takes more than a minute to make it, you may have waaaaay too many decorative pillows on your bed. Put the ones you don’t actually sleep with somewhere else until you have guests to impress.

So get up, make your bed, and get going, you fabulous morning you!

Need help getting organized and building good habits for a productive life?  Call me at 904-500-SORT (7678) or message me here for your free consult for organizing or life coaching. I’d love to help you simplify and Zen Your Den® (and your life).

Barbara Trapp, CAPM
Professional Organizer, Productivity Consultant, and Life Coach
Zen Your Den®
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO

*We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

It’s National Simplify Your Life Week: 4 Ways to Declutter Your Life

Just a week to simplify your life?? With the right mindset, you can make some real progress! Here are four suggestions to do just that: Schedule Chores and Errands In his book, The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy, Chris Bailey outlines his year spent conducting numerous productivity experiments on Read More

Just a week to simplify your life?? With the right mindset, you can make some real progress! Here are four suggestions to do just that:

Schedule Chores and Errands

In his book, The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy, Chris Bailey outlines his year spent conducting numerous productivity experiments on himself. One concept, scheduling blocks of time for various household tasks, proved to be a winner. It may not sound fun and exciting, but you might try this for a month. Instead of scattering tasks throughout the week, schedule a block of time for all your errands (grocery shopping, gassing up, etc.) and another for chores (laundry, vacuuming, cleaning). You’ll simplify your life and might free up some time in the process!

Keep ONE calendar

Simplify your life! A road sign with complicated simple words on sky background
Simplify your life!

A young college student contacted me for help with scheduling, time management, and general organization. Her first semester of school hadn’t gone well and she’d failed two courses. Her second semester would be a “do-over” – she needed to improve her GPA for nursing school.

I asked what planning system she was using if any, and she proudly produced four colorful paper planners with calendars, each for a different area of her life. I asked if that was working for her and she admitted it wasn’t. She spent more time updating her various planners (or looking for them) than actually getting assignments done. I encouraged her to select one planner for everything.

Recently I asked a new Baby Boomer client the same question. She also used four calendars! A large calendar pad covered the top of her small desk. She carried a decorative 5′ x 8′ planner for personal appointments and lists, and a larger, more serious looking planner for her new home business. She also used a digital planner. She too had hired me for help with time management.

Do you see a theme here? Both clients were trying to use multiple systems and still needed help with time management. Systems should serve your needs, not the other way around. Using just one calendar/planner instead of several can simplify your life.

Digital and paper planners and calendars

For individuals (middle school age and older), I recommend using one planning system. If seeing a “big picture” view is important to you (as it was with my Baby Boomer client), then select a paper planner with a two-page-per-month spread insert or, for digital planners, select the “month” view on a larger screen. Busy families and couples may need a shared calendar. A large wall/fridge calendar with everyone’s appointments is one solution. Or, for the tech-savvy, appointments can be shared by “inviting” others to the appointment.

What’s the difference between a planner and calendar? A planner may have both a calendar and a to-do list. I record all my appointments in my digital calendar so I can use alerts and GPS map features. My to-do lists are in a paper planner because ultimately, I am a paper planner person.

Stack Your Habits

Want to form a new habit quickly? Try habit-stacking. Let’s say you want to develop a new habit of taking a vitamin D pill every morning but you keep forgetting. You have no problem remembering to brush your teeth every morning because it’s an ingrained habit. To form the new habit of taking the vitamin, you put the bottle near your toothbrush. Then when you brush your teeth you will see the bottle, reminding you to take the vitamin. You’ve stacked a new habit on top of an old one! The strength of your strong habits can help you create new ones. Habit stacks create routines. Routines can simplify your life.

Here’s my morning routine:

  1. Turn on the coffee machine (old habit) and while the water is heating, empty the dishwasher (new habit).
  2. Fix my coffee (old habit) and make a glass of iced lemon water (new habit).
  3. Bring my coffee and water into the living room (old habit) and while the coffee cools a bit I meditate (new habit).

There are many books on the subject. Try Habit-Stacking by S. J. Scott for a huge list of examples.

Have Less Stuff

Numerous clients have become wistful over magazine layouts of uncluttered designer homes with nary a scrap of junk mail or tchotchke in sight. One client admitted she would be happy just living in a hotel room. Another took me to a relative’s home to show what they wanted their own home to look like. Nothing was out-of-place. Each room had what it needed to function and nothing more. The difference? Less stuff. They had simplified their home.

If you truly want a zen-minimalist-sparsely-decorated home but every existing space is filled, you will need to do some serious downsizing to achieve your dream. Stuffing the excess in storage units, closets and attics is not the same as downsizing.

Ready to simplify your life? I offer nonjudgmental help to busy and overwhelmed women like you! Call me at 904-500-SORT (7678) or message me here for your free consult. I’d love to help you simplify and Zen Your Den® .

Barbara Trapp, CAPM
Professional Organizer
Zen Your Den®
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO