Starting at 12:45 this (Sunday) afternoon I have the next 7 (that’s SEVEN) days alone in my home. My children and husband are off to camp until late Saturday night. In 21+ years of marriage and 17+ years of mothering I have never been alone in my own home for more than a coupe of days, if that.

Initially I was going to accompany the crew to the camp, but my foot injury requires physiotherapy three times a week and I have a great deal of work to get caught up on and, truthfully, I just really need some downtime. I have a significant life change coming up in September (which I will soon write about) and I am feeling like this requires both mental and physical preparation.

So what to do with 168 hours to myself? I have started a list that is already at 150 hours at least!

          • Finish all contract work
          • clean out the junk room sun room and convert to office for me
          • clean the house!
          • go to a movie with my friend
          • start my new strength-focused training plan 3x
          • go for a long bike ride
          • swim x 2
          • go to physio
          • ice my foot 3 x a day
          • get the dog groomed
          • find the missing library item
          • have a glass of wine with friends on the front porch (any takers?)
          • get a handle on my schedule for the fall
          • sit quietly and not be interrupted
          • talk on the phone and not be interrupted
          • go to the bathroom and not have any one needing to ask me questions that simply CANNOT wait until I am done.
          • eat well
          • go to bed early
          • organize my iTunes library

There are a lot of things on this list, but all of them are things that will make me feel happy and more grounded and prepared for the fall. I am going to have a completely different type of schedule and I need to lay the ground work to form habits that will keep me on track. There are new routines that need to be established and some old ones that need to be broken (like staying up way to late!)

To be a  “creature of habit” is really to be a “responder to cues”;
habits are simply our brain’s way of chunking information into a process, making it an unconscious act so that less brain focus is required to complete it. Think about when you learned how to drive: remember how awkward it was and how much mental effort it took? Now, have you in the last year ended up missing a turn off or headed towards the office when you meant to go somewhere else? This is because some specific cue (like heading down a road that leads to the office) triggered the mental process your brain uses every time you go down that road to get to work. So instead of consciously thinking about the direction, you have time to mull over what needs to get done or listen to the radio or figure out what you are going to have for lunch. The key is to figure out what the cue is and if you don’t actually need to go to work that day, then disrupt the cue. This can be as simple as saying out loud, “I am going to drive up 6th ave to go to the mall and not up 8th ave to go to work”.

Figuring out what cues are already established can help you to break habits that you don’t want. If you always start eating junk food at 9:30 at night take a step back and look at what else you are doing at that time. Do you walk through the kitchen into the family room and turn on the TV? This could be the cue that sends the message to your brain that it is time to eat junk food. So simply deciding to use willpower to keep from eating while watching TV may not be successful. If you really want to stop eating junk food at night change the cue; don’t walk through the kitchen to the family room and turn on the TV. Instead go into the sitting room and read for a few minutes or have a bath or call a friend. If you take away the cue then the automatic program your brain has for eating junk food at 9:30 pm never gets activated.

I have an automatic program that I want to disrupt. When my alarm sounds in the morning, I turn it off and roll over and wish I had more time to sleep. I am never able to actually fall asleep so I am not benefitting at all from lying in bed longer and it is actually quite negative because I lose valuable time that I could be getting something done. I am going to do an experiment this week. I can’t change the cue of needing being woken up at a certain time, but I am going to change the type of cue. I have an app called Sleep Cycle that I have not used in quite a while. Instead of a specific alarm ring, it had a gentle vibration and soothing chime that gets progressively louder. It uses a 30 minute window and is activated by movement (signalling a lighter sleep phase) I am going to see if I can form a more healthy habit of getting up as soon as my (new) alarm goes off instead of immediately rolling over and wishing for more sleep.

I am going to write out a calendar this week of when I am going to do each of my work outs and when I am going to do my office work and my goal is to follow it. To do the workout at the prescribed time and to sit down and do my work from x hour to x hour and then stop. I am guilty of often waiting until I “feel” like doing something and sometimes I don’t ever feel like it and so I miss a work out or work piles up and then I have to do a marathon session to get caught up.

I was listening to one of my favourite podcasts on Friday: Stuff You Should Know. Josh and Chuck, the hosts of the podcast, were talking about goals and whether or not goals are helpful.  I found a lot in it that related to habits as many habits are created due to  a desire to achieve a goal. Chuck and Josh brought up a really interesting side note that resonated with me. Many times goals are not successful due to procrastination–people can get overwhelmed about the thought of starting the process of achieving a goal and never begin.  It is important not to get overwhelmed by the whole huge process and thus paralyzed–just start doing something. As Josh said, “Just dive in..somewhere…anywhere”. Once a person starts a task she is much more likely to keep going to complete it. This seems rather obvious on the surface, but so many people fail to achieve their goals or to create a new habit because they never begin the process. So this week I am going to begin things when the calendar says to begin in the hopes of avoiding being paralyzed by procrastination. I am going to work when I am supposed to work and not wait for inspiration. I don’t actually need inspiration or to feel like it–the work can get done with me not feeling like doing it, but it certainly can’t get done without me starting it! Am I the only one that things like this? It seems so well, “d’uh” when I write it down, but I fail to start things all the time! This week I am going to “just do it” to steal a phrase and in the process form cues that will trigger good habits!

What habits do you want to break?

Is there something I should be doing during this week alone that I haven’t thought of???

Do you want to join me on my porch for a glass of wine this week?

What cues have you identified that lead to your good or bad habits?

(example good: I pack my work out bag the night before and have my clothes on my chair. As soon as I get up I put on those clothes. example bad: I open up my lap top to check email one last time at 9:45 and then the next thing I know it is midnight!)

Note: something is definitely different in a quiet house. This is the first blog post I have EVER WRITTEN in one sitting! Maybe I shall try and write one every day this week.