Tiny Actions That Make A Huge Difference

Make Your Bed

Make Your Bed!

In Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, he made this ‘astonishing’ statement: “Making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget.”  Do you find that astonishing?  I mean, what the heck does making your bed have to do with sticking to a budget?  Nothing.  But the premise of Duhigg’s book is that certain small changes in ones life can be a catalyst for more and more small changes, which, over time, add up to huge changes.  Duhigg didn’t say it quite so eloquently, but that’s the point in a nutshell. 

I have experienced the sense of well-being that comes from a (small) job well done. It motivates me to take on another “small” job, which eventually leads me to the confidence that I can tackle the big jobs, too.  So I was not really astonished when I read the statement about the correlation between making beds and sticking to budgets; I get it.

I believe that people in general are most at peace in an environment of order (please note that I did not say perfection, but order). So it makes sense that making your bed first thing in the morning could serve as a catalyst for productivity in your day.  You’ve brought some order to a small part of your world, you’ve done something productive first thing in your day, you see immediate results (the made-up bed) and you  have created a little momentum for the next action.

What if you could take that same idea—a little order/productivity in my day leads to more order/productivity in my day—and expand it a little.  Say, expand it to encompass your whole family.  Can you think of something small that you could do to implement movement towards order (and more peace) for your whole family?

I talked to a young mother who was struggling with the demands of home, job, family, travel, etc.  Her home was in a constant state of chaos which fed a subtle internal chaos within her children and husband.  Though the laundry was clean, it was never put away.  Though the family meals were home-cooked, they were eaten around the kitchen table rather than on it because the table was a catchall stacked with mail, gadgets, books, etc.  Even the family car bespoke of chaos.

I suggested she think of one single, small change that would contribute to a greater sense of order for everyone in the home.  She immediately noted that having a cleared, clean kitchen table would make a noticeable difference.  It was the first thing seen as they walked in their house, and so it would immediately shout “order” to the family.  Also, it would make meal time—family time—much more pleasurable.

She set a goal to keep the table cleared and clean for 30 days in a row (sound familiar?).  She let her husband in on the idea and he gladly got on board.  They made some simple provisions to accommodate their goal, which included placing a basket near the back door to hold their mail and other items that were usually thrown on the table.  She cleared the kitchen table, and then remained diligent about seeing that it stayed that way.  After a several day “chain” of having a nice, orderly kitchen table, she was busy packing for a business trip after dinner, and her husband took over the chore for her (it was a family project).  After a week or so, she noticed that not only was the table staying clean, but she was being more consistent with putting away the laundry, as well. Her husband was talking of home improvement projects within the home that he wanted to take care of at first opportunity.  They could actually sense a greater level of peace within their children.  And they all lived happily ever after.

Well, not really.  But they will, I’m sure.  The point is, attacking one particular, but strategic, area of the home led to an overall increased sense of order and peace.

What would be your strategic area of attack?  Making your bed?  Immediately putting away your clothes at the end of the day rather than leaving them on the bedroom floor?  Cleaning your desk?  Clearing the kitchen bar?  Cleaning the bathroom counters?  Why not start a family 30-day challenge.  Print out a “Don’t Break the Chain” chart so everyone can get in on the sense of accomplishment.  After a couple of weeks, take note and see if there are any other subtle improvements that are being catalyzed by your project.  I would love to hear about your experiment.  Leave me a comment.

Photo compliments of Doug via Compfight

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4 Responses to Tiny Actions That Make A Huge Difference

  1. Pingback: Strategic Goals | My Pleasant Places

  2. Christine Kamau says:

    How true that Tiny Actions make a huge difference!

    Reminds me of how God told the Israelites that they would overcome their enemies ‘little by little’!

    Developing habits that will eventually turn to be lifestyles will usually involve ‘overcoming some enemies’ in our lives, circumstances, situations etc

    And this requires patience and endurance…..”he that endures to the end shall be saved!”

  3. Kevin Donlin says:

    I LOVE this idea and actually counsel my entrepreneur clients to make their beds every morning. You should hear some of the surprised gasps when I say it, but it’s absolutely true that small changes in your head can add up to big results in your world.

    When a goal is small (“I can do that!”) it builds confidence. When it is visible (“I can see that!”) it builds faith. To reach big, distant goals, you need confidence and faith. That’s why small, visible goals — like making your bed in the morning — can help.

    • Diane says:

      Thanks for commenting, Kevin. I like the confidence/faith connection in your statement. We all like to see our progress, regardless of how small it may be. That’s why I’m such a sucker for any kind of record-keeping from marking a big X on the calendar to ticking a checkbox in a task list to recording my running stats in a spreadsheet. Thanks again for the comment!

I love to read your comments!