It all started when my husband was out of town for a week, and I was home alone with our two kids.
Being an introvert and a homebody, not leaving the house for a week is generally very appealing. It motivates me to spend less time binge-watching TV and more time being productive. I always feel the urge to buy new storage bins or tackle that one room that I never feel like dealing with. While it all feels very motivating, having two children two years and under really puts a damper on my elaborate plans. A revamped and tidy space starts to feel impossible. I would get the kids fed and in bed for the night, do a quick walkthrough before going to bed myself, and feel defeated. The motivation was there, but it just felt like time was not on my side!
No matter how often I would pick stuff up at the end of the day, I felt like I couldn't attack the parts of the house that I wanted to, and I didn't know how to fix it.
I walked to my room, feeling a bit down on myself, and decided to read before going to sleep. As a team focused on efficiency and productivity, we read the book "Atomic Habits" by James Clear. It is an incredible look into our time and how we form bad habits by repeating unwanted actions. I had extra time to read with my husband out of town, so I absorbed each chapter and connected it with my own life. It's such an enticing read that it made it a breeze to get through! One thing that stuck with me was his fifth chapter. In it, he states, “The simple way to apply this strategy to your habits is to fill out this sentence: I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION]”.
While this seems simple to implement, you’d be surprised at how difficult it is to follow through. At least with anything of value. I found the book so motivating that I thought, “Tomorrow, I’ll start doing twenty-minute blocks of time where I just clean! That will surely help me stay on top of things.” To no surprise to anyone with children, I’m sure, twenty minutes was much longer than I thought. I still got to the end of the day with a list of things to do.
Deflated, I walked through my messy house to lock up and decided to cozy in my bed and continue reading the book. Clear said something else that struck me. He said, “Habits like ‘read more’ or ‘eat better’ are worthy causes, but these goals do not provide instruction on how and when to act.”. I devised a new plan. I chose to be a bit more specific with myself and cut the time down to something more realistic.
The next day, I told myself that I would clean something in the house each hour for five minutes. It felt small and insignificant, but I knew it was something feasible. I spent less than an hour cleaning that day; my house looked like I had spent all day cleaning. I was so surprised that each five-minute window had such an impact! Loading the dishwasher or dusting the furniture doesn’t take more than five minutes, so I could do those things and have a couple of minutes to pick up toys or fluff the pillows on the couch. That night, I felt on top of the world! I got the kids fed and in bed, walked through my immaculate house to make sure everything was locked and had a huge grin on my face.
I was a new woman!
I couldn't believe that there was such a transformation in my house. It made everything easier to keep up with and I didn't even need five minutes each hour the next day. In awe at how Clear's ideas had helped me so much, I started thinking about what would change if I applied this to all aspects of my life. We all have things that we push off because they're inconvenient to tackle. Most of those things, too, would take no time at all to finish if we forced ourselves to spend undivided time on them. Whether it's five minutes or fifteen minutes, the trick is to be specific with your time and your goals!
I challenge you to be specific about how and when to act and intentional time doing the thing you keep putting off. I bet you’ll be as surprised as I was!
- Abigail Alano