Explosive Habits and Routines
Last night, my wife and I were watching an episode of Carpool Karaoke with James Corden and special guest Billie Eilish. As Eilish recounted her childhood fascination with music, Corden asked her a question that caught my attention. He said, “You had a rule when you were growing up. You’re parents couldn’t make you go to bed if you were making music.” She responds, “Yup…in any form. If we were playing the piano, or the guitar, or ukulele.” Corden then ask if there was ever a time when her parents stopped her from making music because she was just “messing around.” She that her parents never did.
The Eilish music creativity rule is striking on several different levels. When I think about the number of times my kids try to procrastinate on their way to bed, I know this rule would have resulted in thousands of hours making music and perhaps some cranky children. But the part that impacted me the most was power of this learning routine. The Eilish parents are both musicians themselves and I imagine them seeing a passion for music in their children and then deciding to put rules and routines in place to nurture that passion. The result is explosive—two children who are world famous musicians.
Before I jump right into my own reflections on 2020. It might be helpful to explain why I’m framing this post as a discussion of routines and not just goals or New Year’s resolutions. The answer is simple. Only thinking about goals fails to account for the implementation or changes that will occur as a result of your goals. It also falls short of considering the complexity of your life and its all of its potential and limitations.
For example, a few weeks ago I set a goal in 2020 to read 40 books this year. 40 books may not seem like a lot but when I evaluate the importance of reading and when I consider, realistically, the amount of time that I have to read during a typical week, it seemed to fit. These type of of implementation considerations are really important to actually meeting the goals you set out. Thinking about goals in terms of the habits and routines helps us think across the whole system of our lives and make forward progress. As 2020 starts, these are a few of goals and routines I’ve been thinking about.
Brush Your Teeth
Recently, a friend of mine shared a story about an inspiring quote on leadership from his four year-old daughter. He was talking with his kids about leadership just before bedtime and he asked them to answer the question, “What do great leaders do?” He prompted his four year-old daughter by asking her to finish the sentence, “Great leaders ____________” Without hesitation one of his daughters said, “Great leaders brush their teeth.” They shared a laugh together but afterward he reflected on a nugget of truth in that statement. Great leaders do brush their teeth–they do the small things well.
Sometimes when I think about leadership, I imagine someone standing on a stage or at the front of the crowd but I don’t typically think about them keeping their desks organized or making their bed. I need to change my mindset in this regard because great leaders do make their bed. They don’t just do the big things right, they do the little things right too. Admiral William H. McRaven made this point famously in his commencement address to the University of Texas graduates saying “…if you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”
One area where I could do the little things better, at home and school, is my file management and desk organization. After a day of teaching my desk looks like a tornado hit it. This year, I want to take at least 15 minutes to clean off the top of my desk and make sure that everything is looks good for the next day. I want to dedicate some of this time to organizing digital files on my computer and in my cloud storage spaces. I got this idea from Todd Finley’s list of 10 Habits of Highly Successful Teachers.
One of my daughter’s favourite t-shirts says, “Monday has been cancelled. Go back to bed.” I laugh every time she wears it because it sums up the typical Monday morning blues so well. In spite of being massively unpopular, Monday is a key set-up day in the work week. One habit can that can make a difference in your week is making the most of your Mondays.
Personally, this means that I make sure that Saturday or Sunday is a rest day so that I don’t enter the week exhausted. It also means spending a little bit of time on Sunday looking my weekly schedule so that I’m prepared for the week ahead. This year, I want to make a habit of showing up to work early–especially on Monday–so that I’m positioned to make the most of my week.
This post is getting longer than usual, I’m going to make it into two parts. To be continued…