Muscle Memory, Aristotle & Habits

August 4, 2016

So I got back from vacation on Monday night and Tuesday after work headed to the gym as has become a decent habit on most nights I don’t have dates or church obligations. Side-note: Bachelor in Paradise was on one of the TVs and if you thought The Bachelor was a train-wreck you’ve got to see this one. I’m sure there are some lovely people on the show but wow do they all come across as about 1 inch deep in substance. Going on that show might have replaced job-searching as my definition of the-place-I-don’t-want-to-end-up:) Anyway, I worked out for the regular 45 minutes, grabbed the Nalgene, phone, Kindle and headphones and headed back to the locker room to grab my gym bag. It was then I realized I hadn’t used my lock combination in 2 weeks and the key to the safe (or combo lock but safe sounds more exciting) was documented on my old phone at home.

Staying calm I was hoping that muscle memory would kick in. 39…09…28… no-go on the first try but something told me that they were the right numbers and I’d just not landed exactly on them. Tried it once more and voila! Amazing. Total testament to the power of doing things repeatedly so we don’t have to use active mental processes to carry them out. The brain is cool.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. ~Aristotle

I don’t know how Aristotle would feel about my connecting his quote to such ordinary things but…here are a few simple habits I’ve built over the past couple years, things that I now do without thinking too hard about them. These things help keep me on track and free up figurative and literal space to work on and think of bigger things.

  • Empty bags right when I get home. This goes for purses, travel bags, grocery sacks, tote bags of productivity tools I’ve dragged to the laundromat and bags I took to church.
  • Finish tasks that I start without browsing along the way. If I’m putting away groceries, put them all away before doing anything else. Laundry? Same thing. It’s easy to dabble and do a bit of one thing and a little of another and another before finishing the original task but I’ve learned multi-tasking is not all it’s made out to be. It just spreads mental energy thin and leads to a lot of half-way done projects.
  • Do dishes every night.
  • Give things a spot so I know exactly where to find them. My work badge goes in the door of my car. Receipts for entering into YNAB go on my teal desk. My keys go on a hook in the pantry.
  • Make my bed every morning.
  • Designate and schedule a time to do the things that keep or could keep getting pushed off: returning calls, dealing with email, budget, enter receipts, work on goals.
  • Give myself reminders on my phone of the things I know I might otherwise forget. Then I can not worry about them since I’ve made a plan to be reminded.
  • Eat a fruit or vegetable with every meal.

These are small things but they pay big dividends in the bigger areas of life. I think of small things as the cement or concrete (can never remember the difference) that holds the big rocks of life together. Like most of us, I’m still working on both the cement/concrete AND the bigger things but it’s nice to have some of the above nailed pretty well in place. What are your top habits? Do you share any of the above? Would love to know what things you repeatedly do that help you be excellent.