The house has been clutter free for two and half weeks! No, I did not ship the boys off to boarding school. I just happened to listen to a podcast (Number 214 from the Art of Manliness) with author Caroline Webb who wrote the book How to have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform your working life. It was a fascinating interview that touched on a lot of great ideas and changed the way I run the house and how I approach each day. Here is what I learned.
The rule of three. Not three strikes and you’re out. Rather, pick three things, yes, just three, that you want to get done in a given day and focus on those things above all others. There is a good chance you’ll be so productive you’ll be able to do more than three things, so you should. The key is to not be too ambitious. For example, if you’re going to tackle cleaning the oven then don’t also put down washing the windows. On a given day I may have the following: clean bathrooms, sweep/mop floors, write
I always try to get some writing done during the day and by putting it on the list I am sure to at least get in thirty minutes to an hour.
Set your intentions. Think about what you are ultimately trying to achieve, and, for lack of a better term, write a mission statement. This seems like a rather odd thing to do for us stay-at-home types, but amazingly it makes a difference. It does not have to be anything fancy–just what you want to focus on an ongoing basis. I wrote mine in about five minutes and posted it on a note card by my desk.
Keep the house uncluttered and clean, be a writer. Model how a Christian man should act by living for Jesus, acting in his image and being selfless. Along with Erin work to provide for our family and bring a united front for the welfare of the household.
Plan for the fires. Not the kind were you get to roast s’mores but the ones that always seem to pop up when you have children. You do this by taking a moment to troubleshoot at the start of the day. For example, when one child has an epic meltdown as we are trying to leave for school I am simply going to go sit in the car and say serenity now, serenity now, over and over while sipping my coffee.
Do something physical. This one is pretty self-explanatory. Run, walk, hike bike, burpees, jumping jacks or yoga. Something to get your heart rate up.
Positively prime your mind. Think of positive outcomes more than negative ones and your mind will start associating more positive thoughts with the things you need to do. For me, that means to tell myself that there is enough time in the day, which is something I have always struggled with. Since I’ve put this plan into action, however, I have been working very hard to ignore the parrot of negativity squawking on my shoulder and have been telling myself I do have enough time. Time for at least ten minutes of exercise, time for the run I have planned and time to get everything done on my list. Its taken a bit of effort but it is certainly paying off.
There is no foolproof plan to making life run perfectly smooth and perfect isn’t fun anyway. But this is the best I have found thus far and the best part is that it is straightforward and simple. Having to stick to only three tasks a day helps me focus and not get too overly ambitious. I have found that I am far calmer because the house is not cluttered and the laundry is all put-away, and I am able to finish my list each day. I have found that I have extra time to get more things done than I had planned. I feel more accomplished at the end of each day.
Erin also feels calmer and I like to think the boys do as well. They certainly are not beating on each other as much as they were before I started this. But that could just be a coincidence.