How to Develop An Organizing Habit
If you want to get and stay organized you are going to need to learn how to develop an organizing habit that works. For real success to take hold, you must stop rearranging your things every couple of weeks and make the deeper connection between your things and what you want.
The reason your organizing efforts don’t last is that you failed to consider the role of habits in the process. Habits are routine behaviors taken care of by the unconscious. The unconscious thrives on pleasure and comfort RIGHT NOW.
That is why change is hard. That is why even when you want to keep things tidy, your mind will have your body leaving the clothes on the floor at the end of a long day. The TV or the sleep are much more fun, and you are on autopilot.
To be efficient, you need to turn over as much as possible to the unconscious – unfortunately, you have unknowingly been teaching it bad behavior. Time to do better.
Before you start thinking that you are not capable of ever achieving order if your unconscious brain is going to override your conscious desire every time, I’ll give you the secret to rewiring it.
You have to change your behavior, and that requires creating a feedback loop in the brain to override the bad code, and you must repeat it often until the new code is etched into the unconscious part of your mind.
Actually, there are 3 keys to adjusting your behavior:
The first one is INTENTION
What is the outcome you want?
Connect the new action to your desire.
Your brain must know why you are doing the new behavior. It already knows that the old behavior is easy and comfortable so it needs an alternative to even want to try it.
The second one is ATTENTION
How are you going to give attention to the new behavior?
Because it is not yet in the unconscious, you are going to have to have an action plan or checklist that you can refer to while you practice it – even for the really “simple” stuff. In other words you will have to think it through and use energy to do so, until it becomes the habit you want.
Your action plan must include the 3 steps to paying attention to a new behavior.
- Identify a cue for the new behavior to be attached to.
- Then do the behavior.
- And then finish up your action plan with a reward for having completed the new behavior for a certain number of times in a row.
For instance, add flossing your teeth to right after you have brushed them and you are more likely to have it become the habit to floss right after you brush than if you just randomly thought, “I should floss right now.”
Set up the reward in advance. Rewards are not just because you deserve it – because you do – you have been working hard, but because you are retraining your brain and have to prove that the new behavior is worth it. The reward closes the feedback loop and next time will be easier if you made it fun.
The third key to develop an organizing habit is PERSEVERANCE
This is why organized people know that organizing isn’t a one and done kind of thing, but a constant ongoing process. Because the cornerstone habits of organizing have been developed with practice, it is not overwhelming and requires very little energy.
Picking up my daily debris and putting it away on my way out of the office, or on the way to bed happens on autopilot now. Although, I will tell you that every time, I add something new, or stop doing something, I have to go through the process again.
That’s just the way it goes. Good thing I know how to turn it over to autopilot.
Practice is another word for perseverance while learning something new. Practice teaches the mind and body to work together to get an outcome. Practice helps you anticipate and accommodate obstacles and get right back to it as soon as you can.
Through repetition of a thought out plan, we gain mastery. The only way to stay organized is to put things where they go over and over again. Then one day, you don’t even think about it, the ice cream ends up in the freezer instead of melting on the counter.
If you already have mastered the art of putting the ice cream in the freezer, you can add the new habit of putting the bowl and spoon in the dishwasher and wiping off the counter. Keep the counter clean for a week and reward yourself with something special – maybe a beautiful new bowl to eat your ice cream out of.
Look at that, I’ve created a new habit cue and plan off of a reward. And now you know how to develop an organizing habit.