“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness, concerning all acts of initiation and creation. There is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision.” – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
We are looking forward to a new year and as Oprah says another chance to get it right. The end of the year is a time for celebration and a time for reflection. Did you accomplish everything you wanted to do? Are you happy with how the past year went? What would you like to change?
Large bucket lists and overly ambitious goals are daunting. It's human nature to resist reordering the status quo. The University of Scranton's "Journal of Clinical Psychology" cites getting organized as the number two resolution in the top three. Yet, only a small percentage of people achieve their resolutions. It's a good time to consider how we can inspire lasting positive change.
Small Steps of Kaizen
In my organizing work, I see firsthand how small steps lead to big results. This is Kaizen, the Japanese system of continuous improvement in management and manufacturing. Kaizen has been applied to healthcare, psychotherapy, life coaching, government, banking, and many other industries. Wikipedia notes that Kaizen literally means "good change," a daily process of productivity through small adaptations.
We can apply it to organization as well. Incremental improvement rather than innovation is the key. Charles Duhig, author of "The Power of Habit" says, "Small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach."
Organizing seems simple. Step one: Plan. Step 2: Organize. Step 3: Keep it up. Organizing requires work and once achieved, it is not a static accomplishment. My clients are thrilled when they see their organized homes and offices after each session. They soon realize if they want their spaces to stay organized, they need to focus attention on maintenance. A large part of organizing is creating systems and building skills to support new habits. It's helpful to prioritize so you can focus on modifying one habit at a time. Small steps.
The Power of Habit
Duhig says, "Each person's habits are driven by different cravings. Change might not be fast and it isn't always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped." He explains: "MIT researchers ... discovered a simple neurological loop at the core of every habit: A cue, a routine and a reward. His strategy: Identify the routine, experiment with rewards, isolate the cue, have a plan.
The routine is the habit. The cue is not as simple. For Duhig's habit of eating a cookie every afternoon in the cafeteria, he questioned whether the cue was hunger, boredom, low blood sugar or just needing a break before moving onto the next task? He experimented with rewards. He tried a break with coffee at his desk, an apple in the cafeteria, a cookie at his desk, or a chat with someone nearby. Then he analyzed how he felt after each reward. He discovered a fascinating fact. It wasn't the cookie he craved but social interaction. Now, he stops work at 3:30 to chat briefly with an office mate. He found a way to substitute a healthier habit for a less desirable one.
Duhig concludes: "Sometimes change takes a long time. Sometimes it requires repeated experiments and failures. But once you understand how a habit operates – once you diagnose the cue, the routine and the reward – you gain power over it."
How will you use the small steps of Kaizen and the power of habit to create a more organized life in the year to come?
Great last-minute clutter-free gifts
Dance or yoga classes
Gift certificate for massage or manicure/pedicure
Savings bond or contribution to 529 college fund
Theater or concert tickets
Flowers, chocolate or wine