On systems.

“If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don’t want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change. You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

Last September, my husband called me a workaholic. At first I was offended but I took a few months to observe my own behaviour.

As someone who structures my work hours, deals primarily with client work, research and also writes and researches for fun, I’ve found “falling to the level of your systems” incredibly true. If you have no system (or not much of one), you’ll either be disorganized, impulse driven or far more reactive. Usually some combination of the three.

In my younger days, I was able to run a hefty and tight schedule right inside my head. These days, I’ve had to create a stricter work schedule, actually use my calendar and purpose to “clock out” at specific times, for the benefit of my health. I have a habit of zoning out once I start working and if I’m not careful, I can lose track of time. Can you say burnout central?

Two habits that have really helped me:

  1. Creating a daily to-do list and prioritizing everything from most to least important. I’ll also write any upcoming deadlines if necessary. I use a white board, so I easily erase tasks when they’re completed. I often pair this with habit-stacking (discussed in Chapter 5 of Atomic Habits). For instance, immediately after I wake up, I will write my to-do list.
  2. Setting my hours and making them consistent. Working consistent hours can be a huge issue for those of us who work from home, like our work or struggle with perfectionism (or just end up doing things at the last minute). For instance, I’ll answer emails between 7:00 am and 3:00 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays and I will go no farther. It may be hard at first (it definitely was and still is for me), but worth it in the long run. 

Do I do these things perfectly? Not one bit but these two habits have kept me sane in the past year, when I had too much on my plate. Now that my schedule has changed a bit, these still provide a great framework for my new rhythm.

What are some habits that have been helpful for you? Share with me.