Consistency = Success In Organizing, Golf and Life

Today we again welcome the phenomenal Monica Ricci as a guest author on Unclutterer. She’s the organizing adviser for Office Depot and Beazer Homes, and you may have seen her on HGTV’s Mission Organization. A professional organizer hailing from Atlanta, I’m happy to call her a friend and to have her share her uncluttering wisdom with our readers.

Some time in the late 80s, my first husband taught me to golf, and I discovered something countless people already knew: Golf is hard! In fact, it’s the most difficult sport I’ve ever learned, with the possible exception of hang gliding, but that’s a whole other (horrible scraped-and-bloody-legs) story that maybe I’ll tell sometime after I’ve had too much to drink. But I digress…

What Joe taught me about golf is that to be a successful golfer, you have to learn a bunch of new skills and combine them properly to get the results you want. Your stance, your grip, your head position, your back swing, your swing, and follow-through all have to be just right to get the ball to go where you want it to. If one of those skills isn’t right, the ball will hook, slice, or burn some worms. In short, you get a less than desirable result. To be a good golfer, it’s important to learn proper fundamentals and combine them well, so that when you practice, you’re practicing good habits rather than deeply ingraining BAD habits.

The same is true in life and organizing. Your success is deeply dependent on the habits you create over time. The way you manage your time is a habit, and all the daily routines you’ve developed to manage your life and your work are all just habits. If you look objectively at the state of any area of your life from the condition of your home, office, or car, to your relationships, your finances, or your health and fitness, what you see are the results of your habits. If you love what you see, then do more of whatever you’re doing!

On the other hand, if what you see isn’t so terrific, sorry to say, that’s also the result of your habits. If your habits haven’t created the life and results you want, it’s time to change them. Here’s how to make a change in three simple steps…

  1. Pay Attention In The Moment. If you mentally “check-in” with what you do on a daily basis in the midst of your routines, you’ll notice that you do things without even realizing it. Some of those ingrained habits are positive (putting the cap back on the toothpaste or putting the seat down without even thinking) while some others aren’t so great (throwing the mail on the kitchen counter and ignoring it for a few days, trying to throw together meals on the fly, writing phone messages on scraps of paper that you end up losing, trying to keep up with multiple calendars).
  2. Choose a Different Thought In The Moment. Once you notice what you’re doing, you’re halfway there! Your thoughts created those habitual behaviors, and therefore your thoughts can create new ones. For example, change your thinking from: “I’ll just put this here for now and handle it later” to “I’ll take a minute and handle this now.” Change “I’ll remember that appointment in my head” to “I’ll add that to my calendar now so I don’t have to remember it.”You’ll be AMAZED at how powerful this one specific change is! As long as you just pay attention to yourself, you’ll be able to hear those thoughts that precede the ineffective behavior.
  3. Choose A Different Behavior In The Moment. Habits are the behaviors generated by thoughts. If you change your thoughts, you can change your behaviors. This is where your power lives. You can change your thinking (which is GREAT!) but unless you ACT on that change, your results will stay the same.

The secret sequence to change a habit is:

  1. Pay attention.
  2. Choose a new thought.
  3. Act on that new thought.
  4. Repeat.

Once you apply that sequence to a few of your negative habits a handful of times, your new behavior will begin to be the new “default” — you’ll replace your old habits with powerful new ones, which will create a totally new result in your life.

12 Comments for “Consistency = Success In Organizing, Golf and Life”

  1. posted by Catherine Cantieri, Sorted on

    Beautiful post, and so timely! I’ve been listening to some coaching calls, and one of them draws big parallels between golfing and succeeding in business. Also, I just released a free eBook (available from my site) on how to unleash your creative productivity through developing consistent habits. It’s called “How to Harness a Hobgoblin.” 🙂

  2. posted by Martin on

    Thank you for this. This is one of the most useful bits of advice I’ve seen recently. It’s a cognitive behavioural approach that I can attest works.

    It occurred to me just yesterday that I carried an empty pop can with me for nearly an hour so that I could recycle it as opposed to dropping it in the many trash cans I encountered. That’s the end result of what this espouses.

    Realize that I have traditionally just trashed it, think that I could (and in fact, want) to do something better, then do it.

    10 years ago I tossed everything. These days, it’s unthinkable to me.

    Excellent advice. The key is mindfulness!!

  3. posted by Kate on

    This was a fabulous column. Thank you.
    I’m living too much of my life in an absent-minded default to habit. The most difficult step is learning how to be “mindful” when I’m tired, or ill, or distracted, or stressed – that doesn’t leave a lot of clear-minded time!

    The weeks when I put my mindfulness down on paper are the weeks when I’m thrilled with my success. I am now trying to actually schedule my mindfulness – certain time of the day and the week when I sit down and seek some clear-mindedness to pre-plan the next day or week – work, chores, relaxation – so that I build good habits for the rest of the time when I cruise along on auto-pilate just trying to get through the week.

    Thanks you again!

  4. posted by Kate on

    Um… auto-pilot. Another tired day… *grin*

  5. posted by Mark on

    Insightful post that, better than I could, puts into words a lot of my thinking as a regular (lousy) golfer and GTD aficionado. Golf is my time to reflect at the higher level horizons and free-range over possibilities that I wouldn’t otherwise.

    All the preparation in the world won’t make-up for poor focus “at contact”, or, as you put it, “in the moment”.

    Productivity, life and organization–like a golf swing–have far too many components to monitor continually, so =good technique must become habit=. Forming such habits demands intentionality, clarity and regular reflection.

  6. posted by Daryl [WhiteHatBlackBox] on

    Great post! Being aware of what you do is definitely on the path to doing the things you want to do. I agree that it is a good thing to become aware of the automatic things you don’t want to do. That way you can stop and change.

    What do you think about being aware of the positive things you do? You may feel good when you realize you’re automatically doing the things you want to do. On the other hand, you spend time thinking “hey, I’m doing something good” when you could spending that time to do other good things.

  7. posted by Linda on

    WOW…thank you!

  8. posted by Taylor at Household Management 101 on

    Great post. I have had great results once I really started thinking about some of my habits a bit more, and really focusing, in baby steps, in moving in a more positive direction. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like much progress is being made when we slowly change habits, but those positive changes build up, like drops of water eventually can become huge oceans given enough time and consistency.

    I am personally a big fan of Kaizen, taking small incremental steps to change habits and reach goals, because it for me is the best way to actually accomplish them without falling back into my old habit (at least too many time 🙂

  9. posted by [email protected] on

    Burnin’ worms! That is awesome – not the act, the saying. I am still chuckling.
    Luckily I can laugh at myself – I am burnin’ worms all the time!
    Great post!

  10. posted by Jenni at My Web of Life on

    What a fantastic post! Well put and extremely helpful! I’m in the process of working to declutter and simplify my home. I’ve attempted this in the past, have burned out, and inevitable failed. This time I’m working on mastering small habits that will hopefully stick and eventually tranform our home into a state of zen. After reading your post, I’ll just visualize it as a smooth, green golf course instead!
    Thanks again for your great tips!

  11. posted by Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome on

    And just like the frustration we feel when playing golf, it’s worth working on our habits because when it all comes together, the success is amazing and the ball goes exactly where we meant it to.

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