A hot trick for productivity right now is to start small habits that lead to big results. People love it for the obvious reason that doing small things is easy, and the idea that making your bed every morning would lead to the corner office and a six-figure salary is pretty awesome.
There are many tricks and tips for jumpstarting your productivity. Some, like “eat the frog” are great and I live by them when I can get myself to (ahem). Others, like making your bed every morning, made no sense to me because I’ve always made my bed almost every morning and it hasn’t translated to my becoming a productivity goddess and total world domination.
But I’ve stopped ignoring this tip, and here is how my small habits helped me.
I have always been terribly inconsistent with personal care. Especially washing my face and flossing. It just seemed so difficult to do those two things every night before bed. And what happened? My teeth and face suffered. I always had breakouts and dreaded going to the dentist and having to tell them what they already knew – that I wasn’t flossing regularly enough.
Now, these two items have been on my mind and on my habit tracker for a long time. I have tried for years, YEARS, to make them part of my daily routine. Mostly by trying to use dwindling willpower at the end of the night and then shaming and guilting myself after failing yet again.
At the beginning of this year, I made a conscious effort to tackle these basic life tasks that have plagued me for so long. I started by doing my evening routine much earlier, like right after I put my kids down for bed (with the added benefit of not eating sweets after brushing my teeth so early). This was tough the first two weeks and really took a heavy lift of willpower, but once I started stringing together some days I didn’t want to break my chain and kept going even when I was totally exhausted.
After those initial difficult weeks that small habit chain held strong and this new sometimes painful task started to become a regular habit in my routine. Sure, flossing and washing my face added some time before I could crawl into bed, but it was only a few minutes and was not the burden I always thought it was.
After about a month a funny thing started happening – I was able to get other things done that had plagued my to-do list and haunted me late at night. These small habits I was able to cultivate were making me feel like I could conquer other things, like daunting work and home projects I had been putting off.
I think this happened for two reasons:
1. If I am the kind of person that flosses every day I could also be the kind of person that checks off the items on their to-do list. This is the person I aspire to be and I was actually becoming her before my very eyes.
2. I woke up with a sense of accomplishment from the night before. Starting the day on this high note of responsibility left me wanting to keep that feeling going throughout the day. There is nothing better than waking up and already feeling accomplished!
Now, I have a confession: I actually missed washing my face last night. I had a cut on my finger and I was tired and blah, blah, blah, I just didn’t do it. A few months ago missing one night routine might lead to missing a whole string of night routines. But, the good news is, I’m not freaking out about that. I am confident that this is just a little blip and I’ll get back on the floss/facewash horse tonight. And it didn’t even derail me from being productive today.
Now I just have to keep adding to my routine repertoire with other small habits I want to do daily like meditation and exercise. Oh, exercise – you are next!