Habit formation. Forget everything you know. The 21-Day theory is bogus. Willpower is finite in the course of a day. But! Good news! Skinnerian psychology can save your rear. And this is wonderful news. Whip out your homemaking binder; these habit formation techniques can help you to strategically build more hospitality, gentle moments, self care, hygge, and cozy snuggles into your (beautifully permacultured, excellently home made) life.
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Permaculture Plus Houskeeping Clarity: The 21-Day Habit Formation Idea is Just Plain Wrong
Basically some guy implied it in a white paper and the media ran with it. The rest is history - this misinformation spread just everywhere. It takes maybe 60 or maybe 90 days to form a habit, it turns out. But don’t worry. You can work toward effective habit formation by being savvy, self-caring, and crafty. And I’m about to tell you how.
Permaculture Plus Houskeeping Clarity: You Have a Limited Amount of Will Power
We know how willpower works. Basically:
- You have a limited amount per day.
- You start with the most willpower in the morning and declines from there.
- The more willpower you exert, the less you have for the rest of the day.
- Making decisions counts as willpower usage.
Therefore you want to:
- Prioritize which decisions you want to make and which actions you want to control
- Schedule those decisions and actions for early in the day, when your willpower is high
- Reserve enough willpower to continue to be kind to your family at the end of the day, when your reserves at at their lowest point
What does this mean for homemaking?
So the fewer decisions you make, the more willpower you have left. And if your actions are subconcious, you’re not using willpower to drive them. That’s why Automatic Backburner Cleaning is so amazing - it reduces the strain on your willpower reserve. You don’t want to spend all of your willpower on house work. Save it for making impressive life decisions and being kind to the people around you.
Similarly, knowing where everything goes will prevent you from running into a costly decision-making barrage every time you clean. If you made the decision already about where the statuette of the kicking horse goes, you don’t have to stand there and ponder that decision again. So decide where things go and label the spot where things go. Again and again.
Permaculture Plus Houskeeping Clarity: Microresolutions Prevent Burnout and Fast-Track You Success
Forget grand gestures. Abolish big design overhauls. Make a small move to effect a big change.
It turns out that we try to make habit changes that are much too big. We are unlikely to switch from being a couch potato to “walk-running five miles a day.” We’re not going to talk to our difficult great-aunt on the phone every day if we haven’t even sent her so much as a Christmas card in seven years.
Take your bold new habit idea and cut it half. Then cut it in half. Then cut it in half again.
Therefore, “I will run/walk for five miles a day” becomes “I will run/walk for two and half miles a day” becomes “I will run/walk for three-quarters of a mile every day.”
And if I were you, and if I were a couch potato, I’d rephrase that as “I will walk for five-then minutes every day.”
Because you want your new micro-habit, or as Caroline Arnold calls it, microresolution, to be incredibly, drop-dead easy. Erase barriers to entry; you want to dissolve your resistance.
Using this method, “I will call my difficult great-aunt every day” becomes “I’ll send my difficult great-aunt a pithy little text every other Tuesday.”
The idea isn’t to stop there, of course. The idea! The idea is to gain momentum.
So you get your microresolution/micro-habit rolling, one or two at a time. Two weeks later, introduce (1. a tiny expansion of a current micro-habit or (2. another microhabit.
Slowly, steadily, your life will transform.
Microresolutions work will with cultivating synergy and developing your designs, particularly when you’re creating new processes. If you want to develop a habit of loading and running the dishwasher every night after dinner, start by bringing your dinner dishes to the counter and placing them next to the sink. Not your girlfriend’s dinner dishes. Just yours. A week or two later you can move to rinsing those dishes. A week or two later, you can deepen the process.
See? When I say “laughably easy” I mean “laughably easy.”
The trick? Don’t get ambitious. Think small. Think teeny-weeny. Put your creative energy and motivation somewhere else.
Permaculture Plus Houskeeping Clarity: Skinnerian Psychology is Fun, and You Can Use it On Yourself
A few years ago I read a book called The Four Day Win by Martha Beck. Martha is my go-to guru whenever I need inspiration - she’s an author of many wonderful books (and does so much more). The Four Day Win taught me that you can apply psychology to yourself and train yourself to do the things that you want to do.
It’s a diet book. Not gonna lie. I bought it because I wanted to lose weight and I hadn’t discovered the low sugar/high fiber method yet. (It’s a very loving book, btw, very sweet and gentle.) But the premise of the book rested on reinforcing new habits by rewarding them.
- Determine what your new teeny tiny microresolution is with regard to the art of cultivating synergy.
- Determine a system of rewards. Create one reward that you will give yourself on successful consecutive days 1, 2, and 3. Designate a much bigger large reward to give yourself on successful consecutive day 4. Put these rewards on paper and put that paper where you can see it.
- Anchor your microresolution to a pre-existing habit. (I will do X right after I brush my teeth in the morning.)
- Divide your days into four-day cycles. You will have days 1,2, and 3, on which you will give yourself a tiny reward if you are successful in completing your microresolution. You will also have a day 4, on which you will give yourself a much bigger reward.
- Every time you successfully complete the new microresolution, reward yourself at once with your preplanned small reward.
- If you complete the new microresultion for four days in a row, give yourself the much larger pre-planned big reward.
- Continue your cycles. Every day you fail to complete your microresolution - no biggie. But the cycle resets to day 1. Keep going, keep going, keep going.
Permaculture Plus Houskeeping Clarity: Combine What You Know About Willpower, Microresolutions, and Psychology to Craft New Habits
This can be some super fun design work. What do you know now about your behaviors, processes, and objects? How do you want to cultivate synergy? Which new habit would be best to begin affecting automatic backburner cleaning? Design a mini-habit or microresolution that will encompass all of the above.
- Craft new tiny babystep habits,
- schedule them for times when your willpower level is high,
- anchor them to existing habits,
- and reward yourself for completing them.
Permaculture Plus Houskeeping Clarity: Habits You Should Cultivate
In other words, decide where stuff goes by cultivating synergy, and tweak your processes and behaviors by using the automatic backburner cleaning method.
Navigation: Permaculture Plus Houskeeping Basics, The Intersection of House Cleaning and Permaculture Design Theory, Take Care of Our Planet, Take Care of Each Other, Share Your Extra, Slow Down and Be a Sherlock, Embrace Baby Steps and Micro-Habits, Design Solutions Based on Behavioral Patterns, Promote an Eclectic Mishmosh, Cultivate Synergy, Collect Leftovers and Momentum, Be Able to Use What You Have, Leverage the Edges, Rejigger Your Approach Based on Feedback, Reuse Recycle Repair Renew, Go Waste-Free, Use Change as a Catalyst for Innovation, Luminaries of the Permaculture World, Quick and Dirty Tips, Perfectionism is Not Your Friend, Shopping, Habit Formation, Time Management, Lazy is a Good Thing, Why Houskeeping
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Permaculture Plus Houskeeping Footnotes!
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Here, take this, it'll help you on your journey.
But you probably won’t actually need the chainmail.