Establishing a good habit such as staying organized begins as a challenge and later reaps so many rewards that it can be hard to believe you once lived otherwise. The trick on how to get organized and stay that way is to make organizing a habit. The great thing about habits is that once established the brain goes into a sort of autopilot mode and doesn’t have to think, it just responds. This is good for people who are overloaded and stressed by what they must accomplish in a day, a week or a year. Athletes and other doers in the world understand the advantages of good habits. They don’t have to think about every action. They have trained their brains to respond. By establishing good organizing habits you allow your brain to act automatically.
In his book, The Power of Habit, New York Times journalist Charles Duhigg writes about what is needed to form a habit. Basically, what is required is a cue, an action, and a reward. For instance, whenever I come home I place my keys on a hook near the door. At first, I needed to remember to do this. But after weeks of repeating the same routine I don’t even think about it now. My cue is passing through the door and seeing the hook. My action is to take the keys from my hand and place them on the hook. My reward is always knowing where my keys are, not wasting time looking for my keys, and not getting stressed that I’m going to be late getting somewhere because I can’t find my keys.
Habit formation can be a slow process. The myth of a habit forming in 21 days reportedly began when Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon, observed that it required at least 21 days for an old mental image to be replaced with a new one. Researchers have actually found the average time a participant took to reach the autopilot stage of habit was 66 days with a range between 18-254 days. What is possible for all of us is to learn new routines. That’s right, bad habits can change and be rebuilt. The more we practice, the easier it gets. It does require commitment.
Simple acts such as dropping a towel on the floor after a shower can be replaced with hanging the towel up. The placement of a laundry basket can make a difference. If you feel it’s time to get organized, consult a professional organizer who will help you discover the right cues, actions and rewards to get organized. Given some time, you may be surprised at how organized you are without even having to think about it. That is one of the biggest benefits of developing good organizing habits – it gives you freedom to relax and think about the things that make you feel good.