Why Changing Your Habits Is the Best Advice for Working Moms

Want to think less? Examine your habits. Here's how.

Habits are a changing grace
Getty Images/miakievy

Us working moms have a lot on our mind.  There are these “things” that we need to get done, worry about, or avoid.  That list of “things” to-do constantly pulls us forward.  We think about these“things” so often that we tend to think ourselves into exhaustion.

Wouldn’t it be great if most of these “things” were done with very little thought?  And even better, we get the “things” we want finished and it happens right away?

  Sounds to be good to be true, right?

It doesn’t have to be.

You can make this dream come true by working on your habits.  The right set of unique habits can be a saving grace for working moms.

I love a finding a shortcut, don’t you?  You are on the case to find ways to save time and energy and lower your stress level.  What you are really searching for is new habits; something you can do that works well for you and your family which allows you to spend little time thinking about the "thing" that you're doing. 

If you are looking to make significant changes to your working mother lifestyle start by investigating your good and bad habits.  Although there is some great advice on About’s working mom page and other places on the net following advice is only a temporary fix.  Taking a hard look at what you habitually do, examine what is working and what is not, is the right place to start if you want to make significant changes.

 

Here's how to start working on your habits. 

List Your Habits That Affect Your Working Mother Lifestyle

A habit is something you do with little to no thought.  What are the things that you do day-to-day that involve working motherhood?  Let’s start the list.  To get the juice flowing, answer these questions:

  1. What are your morning routines?
  2. How do you start your day personally and professionally?  Meaning do you wake up before everyone else?  Do you write in a journal?  Do you wake up late?  At work, do you check emails first thing?  Do you check your calendar?
  3. How do you spend your lunch break every day?
  4. What do you do in the afternoon to give yourself a mental break?
  5. How do you end your work day?
  6. What happens when you pick the kids up from daycare?  Or if your kids are already home, how do you greet them?
  7. What is dinner time like?
  8. What is the kids bedtime routine?  What is your bedtime routine?

Examine this list and look for what is working for you (your good habits) and what is not (your bad habits).  Then it's time to answer the big question is, which habits do you want to change? 

The next question you’re probably asking is how are you going to change these habits?

To answer this question we need to understand what makes up a habit.  Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power Of Habit” shared what he learned from MIT researchers.  They explained that there are three parts to a habit.   To help explain a habit let’s dissect a bad habit most working moms have:  We say yes when we should really say no.

 

The First Part of a Habit: The Cue

A cue is what sets off the habit.  In this example the cue will be a co-worker asks for your help on a project at the last minute. 

The Second Part of a Habit:  The Routine

The routine is your reaction to the cue.

In this example your routine may be that you may freeze up, your hold your breath hoping she won’t ask for your help, or look angry because you’re getting interrupted.  Then when she asks for help you think of all the other things you need to do but then figure out how you can squeeze in helping her out.  Then, regardless of all these assumed behaviors, you suffer from the disease to please and say “yes” to her request.

The Third Part of a Habit: The Reward

Hard to think there’s a reward for this habit, but there are a few.  Your reward for this habit is appearing helpful, a team player, or a good friend.

  Your reward is that when you make someone happy you believe it makes you happy.  But this is the problem, or the disease to please, where just because you make someone else happy it doesn’t always leave you feeling content. Instead it leaves you feeling tired, maybe used, or worse resentful.

How to Change the Habit

One of Duhigg suggestions on changing habits is to figure out the craving you’re after when you perform this habit.  In order to find this out you need to try on different routines to experience a different rewards.  There's no commitment to any of the different routines that would hinder your progress.  Your goal is to try as many different routines as possible.  Expect that this will take some time.

Different routines could be:

  • Say that you need to think about it.
  • Say that you need to check your workload or calendar first. 
  • Say yes but set some boundaries like a time or task limit.
  • Say yes but state when you'll be able to help, regardless of her deadline.
  • Check your performance map or career goals and see if saying yes would help your career.
  • Trust your gut and decide to say no right away because it just doesn’t feel right.

After you try these different routines, ask yourself how that felt.  You do this in search of that desire you're after when acting out this habit.  Perhaps you were unaware of the disease to please and from trying these different routines you realize this has been the driving force behind saying yes instead of no.

Are you ready to start checking out your habits?  I hope so!  It's the secret sauce to that work/life balance goal most working moms crave.