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Forming Good Habits
Old 05-21-2012, 11:18 AM   #1
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Forming Good Habits

I know that forming good habits is something that almost all early retirees are very good at. I was kind of a laggard though. Since I moved in my new place (~ 6 mos) I have read two books that I can really say have helped transform my life. One is The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, the other is Willpower, by Roy Baumeister, PhD.

From Baumeister I got among ther things, that exerting willpower is exhausting, and tends to deplete the stores of whatever it takes to exert willpower the next time. So, don't go on a demanding diet and try to quit smoking at the same time. Or, if you are kind of feeling a crush on someone at work, be careful about starting a stringent budget at this time.

From Duhigg, I got some suggestions about forming good habits, which tend to make it less necessary to make a stand on pure willpower. He introduces the concept of keystone habits- good habits that make it easier to form other good habits- not all at once, for this is asking too much of ourselves, but over time. One keystone habit that he emphasizes is making the bed first thing every morning. I had gotten out of the habit of making my bed in my old apartment because my bedroom was so small that I really couldn't do much beyond pulling the covers up. So I have plenty room now, I made this my first project. Only time I don't make the bed right away is if I am going to strip it and launder the sheets. I feel kind of sheepish admitting that this very elementary thing has helped me so much.

Over the ensuing months I am keeping house better, doing a better job of keeping my dishes washed and even sometimes put away, always exercising, almost always taking whatever supplements I have programmed, almost always doing my complete dental regime. I have even begun again some religious practices that I had not had the discipline to do for a very long time.

To mention again one aspect, exercise- I bought my C2 September 15, 2011. I think God Willing I will make 1,000,000 meters by Memorial Day. I never had this much discipline before, except when there was some coach and other players to give me grief if I didn't keep up.

Please wish me luck, I really want to succeed at this.

Ha
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Old 05-21-2012, 11:34 AM   #2
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That is an incredible accomplishment, Ha!! Congratulations on your success with the C2 and I hope you do not cut back after you reach that goal. There's always 2,000,000 meters to strive for.

As for the dishes, my habits are to put them in the dishwasher right away (usually), and also always doing any that I missed, cleaning countertops, and putting away clean dishes from the dishwasher while I am fixing dinner or making coffee in the morning. So, they don't stay in the sink or countertops more than a few hours if that (although I only run the dishwasher about twice a week).

I have noticed that a habitual routine at bedtime helps me to get to sleep. So, every night I plug in my rechargeable devices, take my pills, and turn down the thermostat just before going to bed. Then, one sudoku and I am (usually) out like a light.
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Old 05-21-2012, 11:40 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by haha View Post
Please wish me luck, I really want to succeed at this.

Ha
Good luck to you....

I need to start forming good habits as well. I haven't been taking very good care of myself lately.

You've inspired me.
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Old 05-21-2012, 11:53 AM   #4
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Every morning I walk for 20 minutes (at least) up and down hills. If I do that, then I feel like I've really set the cornerstone on my day. This is crucial especially during the hot summer days. Daily prayer and meditation in the morning is essential as well.

A friend of mine said that he takes "time-outs" if his day starts sliding downhill. Just like in kindergarten I tried that, and I have been practicing incorporating quiet time into my day as well.
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Old 05-21-2012, 12:19 PM   #5
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Interesting thoughts. Both of those sound like approaches that led to success at work as well. Personal discipline is very self-reinforcing. Amazing to see how a little thing like tidying up leads to greater achievement with exercise.

Good luck, Mr. Ha!
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Old 05-21-2012, 12:33 PM   #6
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A few days ago, in some internet posting, I read that a huge contributor to creating a successful new habit is to link it to something you already do and make it very specific.

For example, since you are already getting up, make the bed right after you get up.

Even an unrelated habit can be successfully combined with an existing habit. An example is if you decide you need to do 3 plies daily to develop your leg muscles, commit to doing them as soon as you return home from work just after you insert the key into your front door lock and before you open the door.

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Old 05-21-2012, 12:43 PM   #7
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To mention again one aspect, exercise- I bought my C2 September 15, 2011. I think God Willing I will make 1,000,000 meters by Memorial Day. I never had this much discipline before, except when there was some coach and other players to give me grief if I didn't keep up.

Please wish me luck, I really want to succeed at this.

Ha
Of course I wish you good luck. How far do you have to go to make it and how are you budgeting your time to ensure success?
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Old 05-21-2012, 12:52 PM   #8
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http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/20...ending-habits/

I tend to clean up our kitchen & bathroom counters every time I pass through, or while I'm waiting on the microwave. Maybe it's some sort of "stow for sea" habit.

OTOH at USNA we learned to sleep on top of our flawlessly-made bed linens & spreads, instead using blankets (folded neatly next morning) or sleeping bags (hidden behind locked closet doors). You'd make your bed in August and not strip it again until the following May. Each morning you'd get out of bed, tug it a few times in the right places, and be on your way in 30 seconds or less. If you were good at bed-making, you could use only one one sheet folded in just the right manner, which eliminated multiple layers of fabric at top & bottom and made hospital corners really tight.

I kept that habit up through all the years of sea duty. People were impressed that my rack was kept so neat and that I was so organized. USNA alumni just smirked.

Some sort of rack rebellion has carried over into ER. Today at home we only make the bed if company is coming for a house tour. It seems pointless to make the bed in the morning if you're diving back into it after lunch for a nap. Usually we just pull the sheets up and throw the Vellux blanket across the foot of the bed. The bedspread stays in the closet for months at a time...

Under the "new habits" idea, though, I've been stretching each morning for 10 minutes 4-5 times/week. Big difference. If I'm learning a new taekwondo form, it also helps to spend 20-30 minutes each morning working through it (with the book or the DVD) until I have it in my head.

The biggest improvement I've made in my morning routine is to write first. 20-30 minutes of researching & composing a blog post before I check Twitter or FB or Linkedin, let alone e-mail.

The second-biggest improvement I've made is taking the Windows Solitaire icon off my PC desktop. Three weeks so far, and I miss it less every day. I used to spend a lot of waiting time while Vista would catch up on something, and Solitaire helped me avoid getting frustrated at the delays, but Win7 moves a lot faster and I don't wait as much. Next I'll upgrade the RAM to 4 GB (the design max) and this old core 2 duo should last until it blows a power supply or a hard drive.
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Old 05-21-2012, 12:52 PM   #9
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Interesting that you started with making your bed. A blog I read on happiness also touches on people that make their beds.

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One answer comes up more than any other. Im not saying that this is the most significant thing you could do to boost your happiness, but it does seem to be a thing that people actually doand that boosts their happiness.
This most popular resolution? To make your bed.
http://http://happiness-project.com/happiness_project/2012/05/guess-whats-the-most-popular-resolution-for-happiness/

I find it interesting that in the comments someone was talking about making the bed was mostly a female thing and some disagreement.
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Old 05-21-2012, 04:48 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haha View Post
Please wish me luck, I really want to succeed at this.

Ha
You betcha we/I wish you good luck on this! Great post with good ideas and practices to consider. Thanks!

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Originally Posted by W2R View Post
As for the dishes, my habits are to put them in the dishwasher right away (usually), and also always doing any that I missed, cleaning countertops, and putting away clean dishes from the dishwasher while I am fixing dinner or making coffee in the morning. So, they don't stay in the sink or countertops more than a few hours if that (although I only run the dishwasher about twice a week).
That's my attitude toward dishes as well. I really dislike having cups/dishes standing around on the counter or in the sink, especially when there's a perfectly good dishwasher sitting there ready to take them. That could be a hangover from the days when you had to wash and dry dishes by hand (horrors! remember that?).

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Every morning I walk for 20 minutes (at least) up and down hills. If I do that, then I feel like I've really set the cornerstone on my day. This is crucial especially during the hot summer days. Daily prayer and meditation in the morning is essential as well.
I don't pray, but I agree on meditation. And walks are one of the most under-appreciated activities there are. What a calming thing to do on a nice sunny day
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Old 05-21-2012, 05:48 PM   #11
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I have read that you must do something you don't ordinarily do, consistently, for at least 3 weeks, for it to become a habit. Part of this is, I think, because after 3 weeks, you will know for sure if it's something you can stand to keep doing

Good luck with your resolve (habits are resolutions, after all). The only caution I have is not to let one's good habits become obsessions. E.G.: I must have my daily nap, even if visitors are present; I must ensure everything in my vicinity is made neat, even if my host and hostess are not the tidiest people in the world; I must get the same machine at the gym at the same time every day, even though I know somebody else likes that machine too; and so on.

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Old 05-21-2012, 06:01 PM   #12
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I'll get the habit book, thanks.

Keeping house clean is so different from taking your supplements. The latter sounds more like a memory issue than a resolve issue. Does. The book really talk about habits like that?

I know someone who cleans the kitchen and sweeps the floor after every meal. I admire it but wonder whether it's worth the extra effort.
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Old 05-21-2012, 06:33 PM   #13
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Another help with house keeping habits is Flylady.com.

Her premise is to practice one habit per month, then in the next month add a new habit.

All new "fly babies" start with the habit of 'shine your sink'. It simply means to thoroughly clean your sink until it shines and then never allow a dish to sit in the sink. Before going to bed the dishes are either in the dishwasher or washed...either way there are no dirty dishes the next day.

Making the bed, keeping the main bathroom clean, keeping laundry done and pampering yourself are other habits learned from the site.

I started following Flylady about four years ago. I was the poster child CHAOS person (can't have anyone over syndrome). Today my house isn't spotless but it is picked up, the bed is made and there are NEVER dishes in my sink.
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Old 05-21-2012, 10:35 PM   #14
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I dispute your basic premise (regarding ERs being good at it). Forming good habits is something I'll consider if I survive trying to break a few of my bad habits.
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Old 05-22-2012, 02:02 AM   #15
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I reviewed Baumeister's book Willpower here. I was slightly disappointed; the book was less good than either the basic research (which I've had the privilege of reading, as part of my studies), or some of his previous work. Check out Meanings of Life and Is There Anything Good About Men?, for example.
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Old 05-22-2012, 10:17 AM   #16
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Thanks everyone for the good wishes. Monday when I posted I was at 904km. After DFW's question I realized I had log way to go, so I did 21 km yesterday to set me up better @ 925km Monday evening. My cutoff is the old traditional Memorial/Decoration Day on May 30. So if I am well along this weekend I can go ahead and party a bit and still be fairly confident. Compared to someone who does hard labor for work this is nothing, but for a typical softie it is challenging.

@Omni- thanks for the linking idea. I have read this but need to look for ways to use it. I have a bad habit of wanting to leave something undone on a project, and am looking for ways to just sail by this odd hangup.

@ Lisa99, great site! I will use it. Re: dishes I think I would do better if I had a dishwasher. There is a space and plumbing, but the last owner when she moved to Pt Townsend took out the dishwasher, (I guess it was broken)and put in more kitchen storage. Just yet I cannot figure out how to do without the storage, so no dishwasher. I do enjoy shining the stainless sinks with Bar Keepers' Friend when I get them emptied in the early evening. My Swedish dance partner is the best housekeeper I have ever seen, and she doesn't have a dishwasher so maybe I 'll just try to let her approach in this matter rub off on me.

@Amethyst- no worries that I will get too good at this, it can't happen, I am coming from a very low level.

@ Al- No, he doesn't mention these things. I am just telling what I improved, mostly off of making my bed every morning. The meat of his book is how to change bad habits. One big idea of his: bad habits are very hard to extinguish, but easier to attack by replacing them with a better habit that is cued by whatever used to cue the old bad habit, then seek a reinforcer for this new habit.

Now I have to hit the rower!

Ha
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Old 05-22-2012, 11:13 AM   #17
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I enjoyed Duhigg's book as well. Here's a good summary excerpt available online that I've been using for reference. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg (an excerpt)
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Old 05-22-2012, 12:24 PM   #18
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I also like to make the bed first thing in the morning. Since DH retired he sleeps later than me and he feels that beds should be left unmade for a block of time after you get up, he says it needs to "air out".

So I would go into the bedroom a little later to make the bed and he'd already have his stuff (clothes, books, boxes, other assorted crap) all over the unmade bed, including my side, which I found to be beyond the scope of "sharing" in a marriage. So I'd move his stuff to his side of the bed and pull up the covers on my side.

We never discussed this, but he has taken over the bed making. I don't know what his margin is for how long the bed needs to "air out" but if I stay out of it he makes the bed when he's ready. He still puts things all over the bed (dirty socks, jackets, tools, bags) but if it's on top of his half of a made bed, I can live with it.

I like having tidy habits that make life simple and efficient. But I realize he's not like me and I have learned to let go and compromise.
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Old 05-22-2012, 02:30 PM   #19
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Interesting thread as I just two weeks ago started making the bed every day, trying to make it a habit.

Lisa - I found Flylady quite a few years ago when I was working 50 hours with two kids under 14. Very helpful and encouraging site that helped a lot with the CHAOS of our house at the time. I stopped getting the e-mails a few years ago but still think of "you can do anything for 15 minutes" often, to the point of setting the timer when I have some drudge work to do. It really works!
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Old 05-24-2012, 07:04 PM   #20
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Good luck, ha!

I have been letting things slack a bit, so am going to incorporate making my bed daily -- you've inspired me!
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