When I moved in to my first sans-roommates apartment, I made a promise to myself. I wouldn’t let my dirty dishes situation get disgusting. I had just moved from a house where I was living with two boys and throughout the year we got caught up in the “these aren’t MYYY dishes so I’m not gonna wash them but I’m gonna dirty more dishes which you in turn will not wash because they are not yours” cycle. Having room-mates is like a case study in passive aggressiveness, don’t you think? In the end, when our sink was at it’s worst, I just threw a bunch of our dishes away. That’s embarrassing to admit but whatevs. So, with the promise of a studio apartment on the horizon, I scored some plates from a garage sale and headed to the Dollar General where I became the proud new owner of 3 forks, 3 knives and 3 spoons; a set of 4 plastic cups and 4 plastic bowls; and 2 ceramic coffee mugs. A five spot well spent. And I vowed, “From this day forth, I will wash dishes everyday.”
Now, years of dodging dish duty and co-habitation meant this would not be easy. I needed a plan. After some brainstorming I came up with the idea that I would wash at least one dish every single day as I waited for my morning coffee to brew. This seemed like the perfect time for mindless manual labor and I wouldn’t become distracted by other tasks because I would still be lacking my post-coffee faculties. Most days, to my surprise, I washed all my dishes from the day before in this little pocket of productivity. The dish-wand was already soaped up, the coffee wasn’t done yet, the radio was playing some jams. I started craving the completion of the task. In no time at all, the habit had cemented itself in my daily routine.
Today, the science behind habit formation has been written about a lot. Look here and here. And this book is incredibly popular! When I made my little dish-washing promise to myself I had no idea I was mapping out a strategy that followed the “cue, routine, reward” trajectory of habit formation TO A T…I just knew, after a few weeks, how powerfully effective it was. And I’m still getting my dishes washed on the daily. : )
Since making this realization about habit formation I’ve tried to utilize it whenever implementing new changes. Lately, I’ve used it for creating a daily yoga practice–just get on the mat every day…once I’m there, I’ve found, I may as well DO something. And am even proud to announce I’m going a MONTH strong on making my bed! (Which is saying a lot for someone who bribed their college roommate to make her lil twin bed for her in their dorm.)
I know this may seem like a rudimentary example in the grand scheme of life improvement but if you’re looking for a super simple life hack, it couldn’t hurt to try.
All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits – practical, emotional, and intellectual – systematically organized for our weal or woe, and bearing us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever the latter may be.” – William James