Most of my habits are innocent enough, even helpful. I brush my teeth at least twice a day and clean the dryer’s lint screen after every load. Yay, me!
But sometimes habits control me. “Autopilot,” I call it, because that sounds so much better than “not thinking.”
For example, consider my “office habit.” Brent’s and my desks are set up in opposite corners of our computer room, which is actually a spare bedroom. I had done most of my work there, day in and day out, for two years or so. Every time I needed to throw something away, I would roll my chair back and to the left, lean way over and attempt a bank shot off the south wall, into the wastebasket by Brent’s desk in that corner. (I missed about half the time, but then it’s a little bitty wastebasket.) Being a bit of a perfectionist, plus using lots of little reminder notes to myself, I had plenty of drafts and expired reminders to throw away. The roll / lean / bank shot sequence became a habit.
Then one day we happened to be in a Container Store in north Dallas, and I noticed these really cute wastebaskets woven of newspaper. A brilliant idea began to take shape. Maybe I could have… my own wastebasket! Beside my own desk! Think of the time it would save! And what could be more perfect than a really cute one woven of newspaper? Minutes later, the deal was done.
When we got home, I sat down at my desk hugging my prize, and reached for my scissors to cut off the hangtag. The next step, of course, was to throw away the hangtag. So then, with my new wastebasket in my lap, I rolled my chair back and to the left, leaned way over and started to attempt a bank shot off the south wall…
Stopping myself just in time, I looked down into the empty basket in my lap, said “Oh,” and dropped the hangtag into the very receptacle from which it had come.
I am happy to report that it took very little time for my habit to change. These days I drop those drafts and expired reminders into the newspaper basket without a thought. Wrappers, bits of junk mail — in they go.
Now, if I could only remember to turn left when I’m heading toward town, rather than my usual right turn out of the neighborhood. Remember, it’s called “Autopilot”…
Thanks for reading,