It’s hard to believe that summer is nearly over and so many of us have already sent our kids back to school or are gearing up for it in the next couple of weeks. As hard as it is to say goodbye to summer, there is something so exciting about the beginning of a new school year. New school supplies, new classes, new subjects, new routines, and sometimes even new friends. It’s a fresh start and a clean slate. And, as a result, I’ve heard it been said that “September is the new January” in terms of setting goals and creating new habits.
In Gretchen Rubin’s book, Better Than Before, she discusses the “Strategy of the Clean Slate” and the power it has to help us create new habits. She states…
“Any beginning is a time of special power for habit creation, and at certain times we experience a clean slate, in which circumstances change in a way that makes a fresh start possible – if we’re alert for the opportunity.”
It makes sense to me. When we started school a few weeks ago, I knew there were some “kinks” in our routine that we needed to iron out. I decided to use the start of the new school year to implement these new changes.
Here’s what we did…
First, identify the issue and contributing factors.
Rarely will problems randomly resolve themselves. Most likely, we have to diligently seek out change. And it starts with identifying the issues. The biggest change I wanted to make this year was with our morning routine. I have a chronic issue with lateness and it’s especially bad in the morning. This year, I was determined to make lasting changes to help us stay on time. The biggest contributing factors are, one, that I’m not a morning person (and therefore need more time to fully wake up and start moving in the morning) and, two, I had to decide what I could realistically get done in the morning.
Second, figure out a plan to stay on track.
Once the problem and contributing factors are identified, it’s time to figure out a way to solve the problem. The solution to my problem was pretty easy to figure out. I needed to wake up earlier (no snoozing!) to allow for a slower start and I had to either cut a few chores in the morning or enlist some help.
Third, get the help you need.
Sometimes we need help with our new habits and routines. It might be a workout partner, or hiring a house cleaner, or finding a babysitter to read with the kids while you run errands. For my problem, I decided to ask for help. Or, more specifically, I assigned the kids with breakfast dish duty. They clean up the dishes, load the dishwasher and clean the table. They were a little resistant to this change at first. But I made sure to praise them and point out how they were helping me. And, as added incentive, I raised their allowance. In general, I think we underestimate how much our children, and other family members and friends, want to help us or are willing to help us. As an added bonus, it teaches the kids to be “a part of the team” and, ultimately, they like having a role to play.
Finally, seize the opportunity.
I think what stands out the most to me in the quote above is: “if we’re alert for the opportunity.” How often have I missed the chance for change by missing the opportunity of a clean slate – either with a move, or a new school year, or with a new job? They say that timing is everything. If so, realizing the chance to act is key. Since my problem was related to our school year, making the change in May wouldn’t have made as much sense as making the change in September. There’s not much hope for lasting change at the end of the school year. Instead, I seized the opportunity to make small changes to our routine when everything was new and there were so many other changes happening at the same time.
We’re three weeks into our new school year and I’m happy to report that we’ve started on time every morning!