Bringing in better habits

hour-glass
Image from here

I recently discovered a number of local to Ballarat bloggers and their blogs (obviously!).  New discoveries like this are always welcome – though these days finding time to read blogs is not always easy.  It’s funny when you realise that no matter where you go there are people pretty much like you and that’s what many of these blogs are.  Not exactly my life but a close enough approximation for me to connect and to get some inspiration from.  And that’s what happened when I read a recent post from Potential Psychology on creating good habits (or breaking bad ones, but let’s put a positive spin on it).

Now psychology isn’t really my thing, but the writer of this blog, Ellen, doesn’t talk in any sort of ‘psycho-babble’, it’s not preachy and the tips are straightforward common sense.  For example to change habits she suggests having a good think about it – is this really something you want to do, or something you feel you should do? – and then start small and make it fit your life, otherwise you’re setting yourself up for failure.  What I especially liked about this post was Ellen sharing her own journey to better habits – learning to run.

So what are the habits I want to change?  I have two, they’re kind of related.  Firstly, I thought, I want to be an early riser.  My five year old bounces out of bed at about 6am with a smile of her face and itching to get stuck into her day (her three year old sister is just about the dead opposite of this!).  Miss Five gets herself something to eat, pulls out the iPad to watch a few shows, starts the first of her involved role-playing games with a dozen or so dolls and soft toys and entertains herself for sometimes up to TWO HOURS.  I suggested she try to sleep in a little recently after a couple of late nights and a mild illness, she replied “But I like getting up early Mum”.  Oh how I wish this was me!  When she’s desperate for a proper breakfast she comes into me and begs.  This is when I get up, usually around 8am.  That’s pretty late for a ‘grown-up’ I reckon.  If I was working I would be up considerably earlier and next year when school starts I will have to be.  But that’s not why I want to change this habit, I want more time to do the things on my daily lists and an hour or more extra time in the morning seems like a good place to get it.

I told Mr Good my plan, he laughed.  He laughed and said if you want to do that you’re actually going to have to get some sleep at night.  He’s right, I am a terrible sleeper and often the best (sometimes only) sleep I get is between 6am and 8am.  I was a bad sleeper before I had kids, now I’m ten times worse.  And if I think it about part of the reason we moved was to reduce my stress and my levels of exhaustion.  When we moved I made a pact with myself that unless absolutely necessary I WOULDN’T get out of bed until 8am.  Seems kind of ironic now that this is exactly the habit I now want to break, but this time last year I desperately needed redress the sleep debt crisis I was in after over a year of getting 3-4 hours a night (and broken sleep at that).

So this habit change is going to be tough.  I need to work on improving my sleep – which also means working on keeping Miss Three in her own bed and I really have no idea how to approach that.  We have done the tough love thing in the past and after several horrid nights she does stay put….. but it never lasts and then we’re back to square one.  The rest of it is about switching off my maddeningly active brain so I can fall asleep and working out strategies to get back to sleep when I wake (or get woken) during the night – this can take me several hours at the moment.  In short it’s all a bit more complicated than just setting my alarm earlier and hauling myself out of bed.

The second habit – also about giving me more useful time – is having a short shower.  A much simpler task so let’s start with that.  Firstly I should admit, this is a life long habit and one that was possibly passed on through genetics (thanks Dad).  However in the years of working everyday my showers were speedy things, just long enough to wake me up and get me clean.  Then children came along and the shower became a retreat, a (usually) solo activity in a world of anything but solidtude.  Now it’s time to give that up and take back a few extra minutes for reading, studying, blogging, organising, housework or whatever.

The big question is how long, is long in this context.  I’m not exactly sure, but probably over 15 minutes, sometimes a long way over 15.  There, I’ve said it, let’s move on.  My strategy is simple, use the kitchen timer, when the bell rings the water goes off.  The hard part is following through!  I started by just cutting a couple of minutes off and am now down to ten, which includes hair-washing if needed.  This morning I had something of a breakthrough.  I felt like I had been in the shower for a while longer than I should have and figured the timer hadn’t work – which occasionally happen – so I got out only to realise I had two minutes left.  I possibly had a smug, self-satisfied grin on my face after this.  Time to cut it down to eight minutes obviously.

If I am to do as suggested and really think about why I want to change these habits, is it because I think I should or because I really want to?  The answer is both.  It will be better for our water and gas bills (argh!) if I take shorter showers and that’s a good thing.  But the want part is the time – the extra minutes in the morning is enough time to get the kitchen cleaned up properly after breakfast which means a clean kitchen when we get home.  It means mornings are less rushed in the getting-out-of-the-house stage, good for everyone involved. The school drop offs should be less stressful next year.  I can take half an hour to sit and read or write or garden without the guilt of having housework or study to do, because I would have already done it (in theory).  It’s all about maximising the hours in the day I have and sleeping in and long showers have slipped down the list.  I WANT more time to DO the things I enjoy the most.

I’ve got another ‘life hack’ post coming up on making the most of the time available.  In the meantime tell me about how you have or hope to bring in a better habit in your life.  How did you break that old habit?  Did it last?  How did it change your outlook?

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7 Responses to Bringing in better habits

  1. potentialpsych says:

    Hi Joanne! So glad my post was helpful 🙂 I’ve got a million and one ideas for better sleep and if you’ve had a long history of poor sleep you’ve probably seen them all. You might like to try this book if you haven’t seen it?
    http://www.thehappinessinstitute.com/products/productDetail.aspx?ProductID=23

    My six year old son is like your daughter. Leaps out of bed ready to go, unlike his little brother who drags himself into bed with me for a bit of waking up time. We have a monkey clock called Momo in the boys room and the rule is that they are not allowed out of their room until Momo wakes up (opens his eyes at the time the alarm is set). Doesn’t always work but on the whole it’s been great.

    As for the other changes, remember the baby steps, focus on the ‘why’ and don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t happen as fast as you want. It’s the old Pantene saying – ‘It won’t happen over night but (if you persevere and you really want it) it will happen. Good luck! Ellen.

    • Barbara Good says:

      Yeah, I’ve heard of those clocks. Thankfully Miss Five always waits til it’s light and not 5am of something totally insane. I’m happy that she’s happy and I love that she’s so independent in the mornings. Im sure give her a decade and I’ll be dragging her out of bed at 11am!
      I shall remember your advice and come back and read it again if I need to. Thanks.

  2. renlikesred says:

    I LOVE sleeping in. My mr 5 is just like your miss 5 and sorts himself out at 6am and R is just like me and Your miss 3 and often sleeps til 8am. Because a strict routine is all I could cling to when jake was so little and difficult, he was strictly a 7am -7pm baby, it was easy for me to get up at 7 on the dot every morning when I had a baby to feed but yes, now that he can get himself something to eat I find it so hard to push myself out of bed before 8. I know the morning would run so much more smoothly if I was up earlier. My problem is that I enjoy the quiet house to myself late at night and don’t want to give up that ‘me time’ either. Even on the mornings j starts kinder at 8.30 am my alarm goes off at 7 but I struggle to get up until about 7.40 and then fly around in a panic! That said, because I know I’m hopeless in the morning I prepare as much as I can the night before like laying clothes out, setting things out for breaky, showering at night etc…

    • Barbara Good says:

      Yes, giving up the quiet of late night is a drawback. Thankfully we’re in a reasonably good place for the night time routine and they are asleep by 8pm most nights so I still get that quiet for a bit. But Miss Three is usually up again about 1am and ends up in with me – not ideal at all and part of the reason I sleep SO badly.

  3. I set my alarm to get up at 5:30 and when I adhere to it I LOVE it! Best case scenario I get a whole hour uninterrupted to myself. Worst case, I wake Orik as I get up and he joins me but the tablet or something on iView had he’s happy. Even just the duplo without older siblings to monopolise it is good for him. I’m generally uninterrupted. In saying that, I am a late night owl with insomnia problems too. I have just purchased 2 hop vines, more for their rapid growing habits for shading than for beer making use. The relevance of mentioning this on y0our blog is that hops can apparently help with insomnia. I think they would stuff a pillow with hop flowers. I have no idea if it works but I intend to try it. 🙂
    As for long showers, I totally hear you. Mine are usually around 10 minutes I think but I know that the water goes on HOT and I let the brain box just switch off. I have no gas bill to worry about but it sure does use a lot of water. 😦 I’m trying to cut down but the shower is also a sanctuary from little people (unless they need to ask an urgent question like “what’s for breakfast”) and it’s hard to give that up.
    Good luck and I look forward to hearing how you go. 🙂

    • Barbara Good says:

      5.30am is hardcore!! I couldn’t do that, I’d be happy with 6.30-7am. Mind you I am awake most mornings at 5.30, but most of the time have only had a couple of hours broken sleep at that point. I’ve also read too much about the health risks of not getting enough sleep to be both a night owl and early waker. I’m more at 10.30pm to bed and hopefully a 7am waker (soon) with some reading before I go to sleep. Theoretically that will be 7-8 hours for sleeping, but how much I actually get is anyone’s guess.
      Not sure I’ll be growing hops anytime soon, but if it works for you great!!
      We feel that same way about our shower/sanctuary. A hard one to give up but it is getting easier.

  4. Pingback: Progress report on my new habits | The New Good Life

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