I’ve mentioned my daily routines several times before. Having established routines is a concept I first came across from FlyLady (although I also recently saw ZenHabits.net talking about them a well). Once I got past the garish design and the stay-at-home-mom lingo, I found some great common-sense no-nonsense organization, productivity, and self-improvement tips. Here are just a few examples of what I’ve learned and implemented from FlyLady:
- Declutter often.
When handling an object, ask yourself: “Do I love it? Does it make me smile? Do I have a place for it?” If you can’t say yes to all three questions, you should seriously think about getting rid of it. I’ve emptied out a lot of my closet this way.
- Break up housecleaning into zones.
I’ve been lax at this more recently (one of my goals is to redevelop my housecleaning routines), but the idea is that you break your house into five zones and focus on cleaning that zone each week. FlyLady’s zones match up with the weeks of the month, including partial weeks for areas that probably don’t need as much work.
- Shine your sink.
This is FlyLady’s very first step for people who are trying her system. To shine your sink, you have to do all the dishes and then give the sink a good wipe-down at the end of the day so that the sink is shiny and empty, ready to be used the next day. It’s a small habit that you can develop and begin to take pride in. The shiny sink idea then starts to propagate through the rest of the house — you start taking a few more extra minutes to clear the counters and make those shiny… then clean the stove… then start actually cleaning up as you cook instead of waiting until the end. FlyLady encourages you to create a “shiny sink” for each room of your house — for me, it’s making my bed every morning, and cleaning up my desk after I finish working.
- You can do anything for 15 minutes a day!
FlyLady encourages “baby steps” — making small improvements to your life and home. One of the ways you can do this is by committing to declutter or clean for only 15 minutes a day. And I mean only 15 minutes a day — not 15 and then feel like you are in the zone and should do it for another 50! Just do as much as you can for 15 minutes, and then stop. This keeps you from thinking that cleaning will “take a long time,” and your house will be 15 minutes cleaner or decluttered — always a good thing!
Going back to my original purpose for this post, however, the biggest thing that I’ve gotten out of FlyLady is the concept of daily routines — and how to start them.
We all have things that we know we should do every day in order to lead healthy, happy lives. Brushing your teeth. Some form of regular exercise. Doing the dishes. Drinking water. Checking the calendar. Some of these things — perhaps “brushing teeth” — are habits that we’ve already established long ago and do without thinking.
The idea that I first learned from FlyLady was to build on existing routines to help establish new routines, or “habits” if you want to call them that. Instead of trying to “schedule in a habit” into your day (where most likely it will get pushed aside by everything else), hook the habit into something you’re already doing. Usually the easiest type of habit to hook into is something you’re doing in the morning when you first wake up, or something you do in the evening before you go to bed.
Here’s an example. My dentist and hubby tell me that I should brush my teeth sometime in the morning, instead of just at night (which is how I grew up — just once a day brushing). I already do some things routinely in the morning — wake up, make the bed, put on exercise clothes, go for a walk or run, take a shower. Since I’m in the bathroom already while I’m taking a shower, I can hook “brushing teeth” to right after I shower. I get started by writing a big note with a dry erase marker on the bathroom mirror: “BRUSH TEETH AFTER SHOWER!!!” (Post-its work quite well in other locations that don’t accept dry erase marker. :)) I leave that note up there for about a month — by that time, it’s become a habit to brush my teeth after my shower.
Here’s another example. I want to develop the habit of shining my sink before I go to bed. I get started by writing a big note: “SHINE SINK” and attaching it to the headboard above my pillow. (Alternatively, since I brush my teeth right before going to bed, I could do the dry erase marker note trick as well.) This reminds me to shine the sink before my head hits the pillow.
FlyLady’s whole system is built on a series of email reminders (which I no longer subscribe to), but I’ve found that post-its and mirror-notes work just as well. More recently, the daily tracking bubble form in my organizer is serving a similar purpose.
Routines aren’t just for personal things like taking vitamins regularly and brushing your teeth, however. FlyLady encourages you to hook in housecleaning routines — such as clearing up for 10 minutes before going to bed — and productivity routines — checking your calendar for the next day’s appointments at the end of your workday, for example.
I can’t claim myself to be a queen of routines, yet, as I’m still plugging away on trying to turn my desired routines into habits. My morning routines are working out a lot better than my post-work and evening routines, so I may need to take a second look at why my post-work and evening routines aren’t working for me very well and try to tweak them. In fact, I recently tweaked my morning routines, which helped them to all fall into place:
- Before: Here’s what my morning routine used to look like. Unfortunately, I’d usually forget to do the last three items on a daily basis.
- Get dressed
- Brush teeth
- Comb/dry hair
- Eat breakfast – The kitchen is right by our entryway, so it’s easier for me to go into the kitchen and start eating breakfast than it is to do anything else.
- Take vitamin – Moving breakfast up somehow helped me to stay in the “routines mindset” and remember to take my vitamin. Perhaps I was always rushing to get to work and would forget? I’m not sure, but remembering to take vitamins miraculously happened when I switched breakfast to be earlier.
- Shower – I’m still in my grungy exercise clothes, so I rarely forget to take a shower. 🙂
- Brush teeth – I’m in the bathroom already, so this is easier to remember.
- Comb/dry hair – Ditto.
- Get dressed – No-brainer.
- Devotions – My special reading chair is right by the closet.
I think I found that location was key for me to be able to successfully hook my routines together. Part of that is my natural laziness — why go from the kitchen all the way back into the bathroom, when it’s so much more convenient to stop off in the office and check my email and get sucked into working? By grouping the actions together that were near each other, I became a lot more successful at my routines.
(This helps me to realize that when we move at the end of the summer, I’m going to have to reconfigure my routines to fit our new space!)
The other routines that I’m trying to develop (which currently are listed as after work and evening routines) are:
- Do one thing that works towards my monthly goals
- Practice harp
- Clean my desk
- Pick up around the house for 10 minutes or less
- Put ice packs and bottled water in freezer for Steve’s lunch
- Lay out clothes for tomorrow
- Shine the sink
I’m finding that harp practice just goes by the wayside as I leave it for the end of my “working day,” just before I start dinner. Perhaps I need to hook it in with lunchtime so it actually gets done (and provides a nice break, as well). Part of the problem why some of these things don’t happen is that I would much rather hang out with Steve than, say, clean the house. One thing I might try is to do some of the cleaning/prep things while he brushes his teeth/gets ready for bed. Any suggestions are welcome in the comments!
Do you have daily routines or try to have daily routines, and how are they working for you?