Fixing Broken Windows with Foundational Habits

I set goals for myself a few times a year: New Year’s Day (like everyone else), in the spring, and in the fall.  I’m also making plans most months in between.  I set a few goals for myself in the spring that involved getting the idea for this blog nailed down, getting more comfortable with my Learning for Mastery class, and launching this blog.  So far, so good.

Since it’s fall, I feel like it’s time to set some new goals for myself.  I always try to set foundational goals for myself.  If I want to be more productive in all areas, there are certain habits I need to have in place first.  Gretchen Rubins is a genius when it comes to habits.  There are two principles that she talks about in her books that have really stuck with me.  The first is the principle of “Broken Windows,” and the second is the principle of “First Things First.”  I’ll let her explain:

The “broken windows theory” of policing holds that when a community tolerates minor examples of disorder and petty crime, such as broken windows, graffiti, turnstile-jumping, or drinking in public, people are more likely to commit more serious crimes.  As a law-enforcement theory, it’s controversial, but whether or not it’s true on a city-wide level, I think it’s true on a personal level.  My “broken windows” are the particular signs of disorder that make me feel out of control and overwhelmed.

And . . .

From what I’ve observed, people who get their basic Foundation habits under control find it easier to add additional good habits, even if those habits don’t seem relate.  Why? Because Foundation habits keep us from getting too physically taxed or mentally frazzled, and then, because we have more energy and self-control, we follow our healthy habits more easily.

When I pay attention to what my “broken windows” are, I can figure out what my foundation habits need to be.  “Broken windows” in my life include the following:

  • a sink full of dishes
  • not getting myself ready for the day
  • disheveled rooms all over my house (I have five kids, remember, so this one is rough)

These three things need habits that address them so that I am in a better frame of mind to tackle other habits.  Gretchen says that her foundation habits cover the areas of sleep, exercise, tidiness, and eating/drinking.  Good habits in each of these areas usually translates to good habits in other ares.

I’d like to add one more idea, though.  If getting enough sleep is a foundation habit for me, that’s great, but what if I have a problem getting enough sleep?  You can break down habits like these further and look at the triggers that cause you to stay up too late or sleep poorly.  Charles Duhigg talks about this in his book The Power of Habit.  Perhaps an unmade bed is a broken window for you, which causes you to avoid your room, so you stay up late and watch television instead of going to sleep.  What if you made your bed every morning so that by bedtime you feel the gentle tug of a cozy, inviting bed with crisp, clean sheets and a fluffed pillow where you can read quietly before drifting off to sleep before 11:00?

So, my new goals are to build some new habits.  And the habits I choose to build address my broken windows, my foundations, and my triggers.

Here’s the plan:

  • Rinse the dishes as they get dirty and run the dishwasher every night
  • Fix my hair every day
  • Reset each room in the house once a day (actually a pretty quick and painless housekeeping habit)
  • Start getting ready for bed at 9:30, read a “bedtime book” and turn out the lights before 11:00
  • Try to at least go for a walk every day (and remember that it’s a gift to myself, not a chore)
  • read to the kids at night (build bonds and help them love reading)
  • meditate for five minutes a day

I think these habits will make the biggest impact on how I feel about everything else in my life–particularly the biggest struggle I have, which is parenting with a short temper.  This learning project, this blog, and these habits are all slowly leading me toward becoming the kind of calm parent I want to be.  I have already started to see the benefits.

What are your broken windows?  What foundation habits will you choose to build this fall?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!