I recently read The Power of Habit, which talks about keystone habits. Those few habits that help us keep all of our other habits going strong. Which got me to thinking about what mine might be.
Having just come out of a somewhat chaotic few weeks, I’m really dying to get back to routine and the last few days it’s been a struggle to figure out where I should put my efforts. Thinking about it in terms of what few things can I do that will have major impact has been really helpful.
For example, doing a load of laundry every day is great because a load gets done and it doesn’t pile up for the weekend, but it really doesn’t lead me to do anything else different with my day or help make better decisions. However, staying off my phone between breakfast and leaving for school - that sets a completely different tone for the day than when I’m scrolling that time away.
When I think of good days, days that run smoothly, feel productive and the connection to my people and myself is strong, I think of the following habits happening. And it’s funny that in describing them, without intending to, I listed other habits that happen when I focus on the keystone ones.
I’m curious to see what happens now that I’ve actually identified these. Pretty sure I’m going to become the most productive and connected mom ever. I will make sure to report back when that happens.
1. Limited morning phone use. This is probably the number one thing that sets me up for a productive, non-stressful day. Between the time the kids get up and when we leave the house for school, if I am good about limited to my phone use to just snapping a quick photo or looking up the weather so many things come together.
First, I'm way more present with the kids. Which is good on its own, but it also means the kids are more likely to play on their own throughout the day because we've started the day with solid connection. Which then means I get more done. WIN.
Second, it means I plain get more done in the morning. If I'm not on my phone, I have time to make breakfast, get us all ready, start the laundry for the day, make lunches, and maybe even take on a small project or read library books to the kids.
And finally, it sets me up to not spend my day scrolling. I get my “hits” in other ways, like by accomplishing a task or doing an activity with the kids, versus refreshing a social media site to see what's new.
2. Monday night yoga. Getting out of the house for yoga at the beginning of the week means I kick off my week saying that my alone time / health / hobbies are important AND it reminds me early in the week how good it feels to move my body. Which means I'm 100x more likely to keep moving my body (more yoga, 10 Minute Mamas, or long walks) throughout the week.
3. Early to bed, early to rise. Most time I spend on my computer after the kids go to bed is not super productive. I am not one who functions well in the evenings and “work” tends to mean getting distracted every two minutes but something unimportant. So while I do answer emails and things like that, I am much better off if I get in bed by 8:30 or 9 with a book and wake up at 5 for alone time and getting work done.
Starting my day before my kids is HUGE. I am so much more patient with them when I've had a little time to myself in the morning, been able to check my email, go over the calendar and to do list, etc. Motherhood is not easy for anyone, and I think for introverts one of the things we struggle with is never being alone. That hour or so I can grab for myself in the morning if I get off my computer and go to bed early is life giving. It's such a cycle: filled up mom -> filled up kids -> less stress in general, repeat repeat repeat.
AND, getting up early to fill my tank + getting enough sleep usually means staying off my phone in the morning is much easier. It’s all so interconnected!