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Habits and Charts

on June 14, 2014

The past two weeks have been a little crazy–we are definitely in summer mode in our house, but some other things have crept in that take up my time as well.  In addition to the daily drive to swim lessons and our visits to the public library, children’s museum, and play dates with friends (see this post to see how we manage all the FUN of summer), I have added in still working some from home each day and teaching a university class for the month of June.  Add to that prepping for an unexpected but very welcome house guest for the next week–and I was feeling a bit overwhelmed.

I had projects I knew I wanted to tackle before July hit, but June was almost half over!  So, in addition to all of the above, I wanted to cross a few things off my big to-do list.  And, I was able to accomplish a few–sorting through my digital photos (every time I do this I swear I won’t let it get this bad again-look for a post soon regarding this problem), cleaning the carpets in our high traffic areas (I do this with a home machine a few times a year), purging a few areas in the house, deep cleaning the shower/tub, and so on.  Nothing too major, but added up that equals time and energy I wasn’t sure I would have.  And, I didn’t want to be doing them when we had a visitor!  To help me get through this past week, I started out making a list of EVERYTHING I wanted to get done this week (right down to painting my toe nails and baking corn muffins) and separated them out into what I could get done each day.  This helped immensely.  Instead of stressing out over my internal to-do list, I had everything on paper and at least a plan to get everything done each day.  And, when it didn’t get done for whatever reason, it just got moved to the next day.  Now I am sitting pretty with only a few things to accomplish before I head off for the day’s activities.

I feel really, really good about all that I was able to accomplish this week–and made sure I still had time to do fun things with the kiddo and my hubby.  But with all of this busy activity (which really isn’t that much different than our life during the school year except I have a munchkin by my side most of the day), our daily routines once again made their way to the bottom of the list of important things to tackle.  There are things I want to be sure I do every single day (and my daughter too), and I know I have to do them consistently for them to become habits.  But, the consistently thing is where I fall all kinds of apart.  I will have one really good day where I do all of my desired daily habits, and then a stretch of 4-7 days where barely any of them get done–because life gets in my way.  Or, maybe I let life (and sleepiness) get in my way.

I want to make changes in my lifestyle and health, and I know that I have to start somewhere, so I am here to write that my goal for the week is to tackle my habits!  I want to go at least 5 days of the next week performing all (or pretty darn close to all) of my habits.  And one of my habits is making sure my daughter is accomplishing her daily habits.  (Some people might call these chores, but our list is a bit more than that–so we’ll go with habits.)

I had been thinking our daily routines needed a bit of an overhaul anyway.  There were some habits I wanted to get in place for myself and my daughter this year and with her first year of elementary school and my new job, it just never happened.  Summer is the perfect time to turn these routines into habits!  (I hope!)  To help us accomplish our (my) habit goals, I overhauled our habit trackers (chore charts…) to fit more with what we really wanted to accomplish each and every day.

The first thing I did was spend about a month thinking about what habits and routines I wanted to establish during the summer and wanted to keep for the whole year through.  Taking this time to really evaluate what was import for us to accomplish on a daily basis was key in making sure I didn’t just make another chore chart that we didn’t use.  I think we are on our third or fourth version, and hopefully the time spent evaluating priorities will pay off in the long run.

For my habits/routines, it is all about the daily acts.  There are certain things I want to be sure that I do daily, and left to my own devices I usually think about them when I am driving in my car or after I get in bed, because that is when my brain has a chance to rest and those back burner thoughts pop into my brain.  These two times are very unhelpful in actually accomplishing these habits, so I need a visual reminder.  I do very well with lists and checking things off, so I decided to make a habit tracker that not only includes my daily goals but also my weekly/monthly cleaning routine and any other tasks that need accomplished for work/home.  I designed it in Word using a table and laminated the little guy so it is reusable.  I am using a wet erase marker to keep track of what I accomplish each day.  It is on a pretty clipboard that I have decided to keep by my bed for now so that I have to look at the thing before I go to bed (which will be easier now that there isn’t a pile of books on top of it).  I do still use some on phone apps to help track some long range projects as well or as reminders for errands/special tasks when I’m not right in front of my habit tracker.  I keep trying to figure out how to fit it my laminated tracker into my small ARC planner I keep in my purse, but the font would be TINY and I like the idea of the list being near my bed so I can look at it before lights out.

This is my new habit tacker.  It gives me much more room to add in items for the week.

This is my new habit tacker. It gives me much more room to add in items for the week.

I have waffled between a daily tracker and a weekly tracker for my daughter.  We’ve tried both.  I’ve gone the magnet route and the dry erase route.  Nothing has really worked, because honestly we don’t use it consistently enough.  For this summer, we are back to a  daily tracking system with magnets that she moves to show what she has accomplished each day.  Most of these are daily items like making the bed, brushing teeth, feeding the cats, reading, etc.  Some are her chores she does as needed like putting away clothes and dishes, vacuuming the kitchen, etc.  At the end of the day (or sometimes as she accomplishes a task), she moves her magnet to the done side.  I am hoping to make the habit tracker part of our nightly routine so that we can make sure everything has been done.  If it is part of our nightly routine, it will be easier to think during the day about what needs to be accomplished to move each magnet–I hope.  The magnet pictures and board are recycled from our original “chore chart” that I made a few years ago.  I found the metal board on clearance at Walmart, and I paired it with small round magnets with adhesive on them attached to pictures printed on card stock.  She simply moves her magnet to done when the habit/chore is done.

Kiddo picked out the pictures for the magnets from clip art.

Kiddo picked out the pictures for the magnets from clip art.

I am really hoping these two new habit trackers will help us accomplish some of our daily goals.  I know that completing these daily habits will definitely help us keep more on top of things and lead a healthier lifestyle.  And, since I have shared my goal of habit tracking with all of you, I now have to follow through!

How do you keep track of your daily goals?  Is there a system you have tried to put in place that just continues to fail?  What have you done to solve the problem?

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