Make my rules and habits!
April 5, 2010 11:01 AM   Subscribe

Please share your systems, rules, habits, routines--I want to minimize my repeated small choices.

What kinds of rules and habits do you have to allow you to do the things you want to do, without having to actually make a decision in the moment? I find that if I can make an 'every day' habit, or a 'rule' about how to respond in situations, I don't even have to think about what I should be doing and can just automatically do the pre-decided thing I want to do.

For example: I have a 'no work food' rule--I skip all the food that's brought in to work, including meeting cookies and chips, candy and cookies from coworker, etc. This means I don't even think about it, and thus don't have to keep breaking my sugar habit.

Another example: either my husband or I walk the dog twice every day. We don't even think about whether we should go or not, we just do it and I don't even notice the 20 minutes out of my day.

I want to 'pre-decide' as many things as I can, so I can spend more mental energy on the fun stuff, and so I don't get derailed every time I have a tired day. I am going to try out a rule of 'no internet after 6 PM and on Sat and Sun', and am brainstorming other rules and habits: exercise, housework, gardening, to-dos, pets, meditation, music practise, art/creativity...suggestions and examples from your routines?
posted by lemonade to Grab Bag (58 answers total) 261 users marked this as a favorite
Meal planning works like this for me. Of course, I have to think about it once a week and do all the shopping then. But having a plan, pre-decided for the week's dinners saves me a ton of brain damage at the end of a work day. I hated having to figure out what to make for dinner for my family every afternoon and it's been enormously helpful to make all the decisions for the week ahead on the Saturday before.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:06 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

The two food rules I have are "don't eat when you're not hungry," and "don't eat things you know will make you sick later." So if I see that delicious sugar-filled cake I can either say, "Am I hungry? No," or "Yuck, that will hurt my stomach."
posted by biochemist at 11:11 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have the book for you!
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:11 AM on April 5, 2010

Travel Time < Time at Destination. Any event that shorter than the time it takes to get there will be politely declined. Otherwise we end up sarky.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:11 AM on April 5, 2010 [7 favorites]

In order to facilitate exercising several evenings a week after work, I pack all of my gym clothes for the week into a duffel bag and bring it to work with me on Monday. Then, each evening, I change into my gym clothes at work and put my work clothes from that day into the bag. On Friday, I bring home a duffel bag full of the week's dirty work clothes, which go straight into the laundry. That way, I have no excuse not to work out, and I don't have to go home to change after work, which makes blowing it off to watch TV less likely.
posted by decathecting at 11:11 AM on April 5, 2010 [16 favorites]

I have oatmeal every morning for breakfast, and so do my kids.

I go to the gym on certain mornings, and schedule them in to make sure that I don't plan anything else at those times.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:11 AM on April 5, 2010

Do you have all your bills set to autopay with paperless billing? Even ones that you usually write a check for (rent etc.) can be done automatically online now (the bank will send paper checks for you).
posted by amethysts at 11:12 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Stairs v elevator?

Stairs every time unless it's, like, the Empire State Building or something.
posted by Danf at 11:14 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

I don't know your relationship with music practice, or how much you want/need, but making a short (20-30 min.) practice session my after-work routine works really well for me. I just sit down at the piano very soon after I come in the door, before I get distracted by all the other stuff I have to do that evening. It's mentally challenging, but in a much different way than I've been challenged all day, and it's both all-consuming (no room for rumination) and relaxing.

A good transition between work and home, and I'm guaranteed to get my practicing done.
posted by Knicke at 11:16 AM on April 5, 2010 [5 favorites]

Exercise: make a schedule and do some exercise whenever it calls for it. Otherwise, being tired gives you an excuse.

Getting up: get up at the alarm. Just get up. Don't snooze.

Jumping into potentially cold water when you're camping etc: Always do, immediately.

Making group decisions: Always emphatically state your preference in movie/restaurant/destination etc. Never say: could, might, I don't mind etc. - it reduces ambiguity and, more often than not, you get your way.

Often, after I come up with such a rule and I don't want to follow it on a given day because I'm tired etc., I just think of Kevin Costner's line in Bull Durham: Don't think; it can only hurt the ball club.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:26 AM on April 5, 2010 [11 favorites]

It doesn't work for everyone, but I do this with clothes. When I went to boarding school, I fell in love with the uniform routine - not having to think at all about what to put on in the morning. Because I work in a casual environment, I don't reap the routine benefit of the suit. So I purchased many quality but simple plain color polo shirts and plain color t-shirts. When I get dressed in the morning, I just grab whatever shirt is on top. I never have to think about color combos or what to wear or anything like that.

This was also one of the side benefits of being a vegan that I didn't think about - my food choices were greatly reduced. It made going out to eat (or choosing where to eat), grocery shopping, etc., a much simpler, less indecisive process.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:29 AM on April 5, 2010

Making group decisions: Always emphatically state your preference in movie/restaurant/destination etc. Never say: could, might, I don't mind etc. - it reduces ambiguity and, more often than not, you get your way.

When I discovered this, it was one of the more liberating things ever. When you're the guy with the emphatically stated preference, you usually spare everyone the agony of the 'i don't know where do you want to go?' routine and you get what you want. It's a win-win.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:30 AM on April 5, 2010 [15 favorites]

When shopping:

If you don't love it, don't buy it. But it's a bargain! It's some fancy designer on 90% clearance! I don't care. Don't buy it.
posted by chatongriffes at 11:31 AM on April 5, 2010 [22 favorites]

I like to tell myself that if I don't go to the gym in the morning, I don't get to have breakfast afterwards.

(On those days when this deal, at 6:45am, is sounding pretty okay to me, I tell myself "Then how about I just get out of bed and put on on my running shoes, and then reevaluate," I almost always end up just going to the gym.)

Also, along the lines of your no work-food rule-- I don't let junk food in my front door. If I'm out at a party or with friends at an event or something, ok. But no bringing cookies, junkfood, or candy into the house. Which also extends to the grocery store-- no buying junk food unless it's to bring to someone else's event.
posted by egeanin at 11:34 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also-- I do all my non-automated bill-paying and filing on the 15th of every month. I have an in-box for all the mail and stuff that doesn't need to be immediately dealt with, but needs to be dealt with within 4 weeks. Then on the 15th, I file, send off, shred, etc all the stuff in that box.
posted by egeanin at 11:35 AM on April 5, 2010

I've used this as answer in another thread but it bears repeating: shop the perimeter of your grocery store -- that's where you'll find the produce, meat and dairy -- and avoid the wasteland of processed junk in the middle.
posted by peacheater at 11:43 AM on April 5, 2010 [6 favorites]

To prevent dirty dishes from getting piled on top of more dirty dishes, my husband and I have the rule that no one is to begin cooking unless the kitchen is spotless. (We are still working on the whole making it spotless AFTER dinner thing, but this is working out well so far.)

I have a similar rule to chatongriffes -- I will never buy anything if I would not pay full price for it. Thus, even if it's a $60 shirt marked down to $5, and even if it fits and it looks "fine", if I wouldn't have been willing to pay the $60 for it, I don't buy it. I suppose there are a few exceptions to this rule when it comes to basics that I know I will use, but for the most part this prevents me from buying things that I then never wear or use. I also do not buy things that I love love love if I cannot picture a time or event when I am going to wear it.
posted by tastybrains at 11:52 AM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]

Laundry gets put away as soon as the dryer buzzes (or, as we often leave the dryer running while we're asleep or out, as soon as we wake up/get home). Before this rule it tended to just get piled higher and higher in a clean clothes pile and we got all of our clothes out of that.
posted by brainmouse at 11:56 AM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

The 5-3-1 game, described here, is another good way to get out of the perpetual "I don't know, where do you want to go?" loop, and works well if you don't start out with a strong preference.

For exercise: make a schedule, and unless you are sick enough to stay home from work, have an injury, or it is a special occasion and there's absolutely no way you can make the time, do something. If you are tired and can't find the motivation to get to the gym, do a few sets of push-ups.

Similar to chatongriffes' rule: if you tend to buy clothes because of their label, try the Sears test. If you saw that exact garment at that exact price at Sears or some other unglamorous department store, under a brand you didn't know, would you still want to buy it?
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:59 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've used this as answer in another thread but it bears repeating: shop the perimeter of your grocery store -- that's where you'll find the produce, meat and dairy -- and avoid the wasteland of processed junk in the middle.

They're getting wise to this in my Wallyworld and putting sales of candy and junk at the end of the grocery aisles. Just saying. :)

I also don't allow junk food in the house - makes it *much* easier not to eat it.

And I had to be become very strict with myself and stop buying the candy bar at the check out (it's only one candy bar, once a week, right? Not really, I realized it was one candy bar every time I walked into the store! O.o). It was hard, but once I stopped, it was much easier to "just say no" from then on. And it's helped me keep to my caloric intake for the day.

Oh, and if there's nothing on the TV that you want to watch - turn it off - don't settle for anything... turn it off and do something else. Actually, only turn the TV on if there's a show that you *want* to watch. It's amazing how much time that will clear up. TV is such a time-sucker when you're idly watching it. I don't mind TV, I find it entertaining when the shows I want to watch are on, but yeah, I've zoned out in front of the set for hours before. Since I've started mindful watching, whole chunks of my day have been reclaimed and I've gotten amazing things done... like -- homework. ^_^
posted by patheral at 12:00 PM on April 5, 2010

If impulse buying is an issue for you, make it a rule always to consider opportunity costs.

When strongly tempted to spend $xxx on impulse, ALWAYS ask yourself first, "if I had $xxx to spare, what would be my first choice of thing to spend it on?" If that is not what you are looking at at that moment, it makes it so much easier to resist the purchase.
posted by genesta at 12:08 PM on April 5, 2010 [11 favorites]

I don't buy a week or month Metro pass. If I have to pay each time I take the subway or bus, it is a much greater incentive to walk the 30 blocks instead. YMMV regarding how much this ends up costing you.

Only keep boring, healthy food at work. That way you don't eat mindlessly when you're not hungry. No candy dishes.

What articles of clothing can you only wear as long as [x] is worn with it? For example, I have some t-shirts that I can only wear with certain pants because otherwise they are too short. Get rid of them unless they are so terribly awesome you would cry if anything happened to them. Otherwise, you'll be frustrated in the morning when you can't wear X shirt because Y tank top is in the wash.

My closet is organized from least dressy to most dressy, with zip-up hoodies on one end of the spectrum and professional blazers and dresses on the other. Makes work dressing and non-work dressing much easier.

Don't carry cash with you. You can't buy what you can't pay for.

I have a large stack of papers under some tins on my dresser. These are all Things That May or May Not Be Important. Things from the mail that aren't urgent but that I don't want to throw away yet go there. Every few months I go through it and purge what hasn't been needed or is redundant and separate into folders everything else. This is great in that it saves me time opening mail but gives me a large stack of things to look through when I'm panicking about some bill that went unpaid.

Open your mail as soon as you get it. Throw as much as possible away. Save everything else in the aforementioned pile.

Set up direct deposit at work if you aren't using it already.

I find that the less options available to me, the less time it takes me to do things. Can you purge anything from your life? Take shoes, for example. If you have Gym Shoes, Work Shoes, and Play Shoes, it doesn't take long to figure out what you should be wearing that day. But my work shoes don't match all of my work outfits!, you say. Well, maybe a gradual evolution towards making that goal a reality would be valuable.

Keep as few dishes in your cupboard as possible. This might not be as feasible for some as others, but if you don't have more than three cups you can't have more than three dirty cups at any one time. If you expect that you will be entertaining more than 3, for example, just keep some spares in a space that is not easily accessible and that you will not open daily. It's much easier to keep fewer things clean than it is to wait until the sink is completely littered with gross, crusty plates.
posted by amicamentis at 12:32 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh! Oh! Another thing is that immediately after hearing the date for something that I have to do in the future, it goes in my Google Calendar. No exceptions. No excuses. Date? Calendar. Possible date? Still goes in the calendar. All of my entries in my calendar are automatically set to email me 1 day before hand so I am always up to date on what is happening tomorrow.

You will not even believe that positive impact this has had on my life. I am the most absent minded panicky forgetful person ever, but the stress of missing something important has gone down 1000% since I started following this rule in my life. No more sweaty wild-eyed midnight Google checks to see what's going on the next day. If I didn't get an email, it wasn't on my calendar.
posted by amicamentis at 12:39 PM on April 5, 2010 [8 favorites]

We have a one-towel-per-person rule. Kid1 has a blue towel, kid2 has a green towel, and I have an orange towel. If someone's towel is dirty, they toss it in with a load of laundry that day; otherwise I wash them weekly. (For a while we did the one-plate, one-bowl, one-glass rule too, but everyone's pretty good about cleaning up after themselves so I let that slip.)

Bedsheets get stripped every Saturday morning; when I do laundry, I slip the fitted and flat sheets inside a pillowcase, so everyone just grabs a pillowcase-set to replace the dirty sheets with clean ones.
posted by headnsouth at 12:49 PM on April 5, 2010 [5 favorites]

Oh, amicamentis just reminded me about scheduling/organizing. I have two teenagers who use paper planners for school, I have outlook at work and a paper planner in my bag, we have old-school phones so no handheld electronic calendars, and a big calendar in the kitchen that nobody looks at. So I have gotten into the habit of using facebook to make sure everyone knows what's on the calendar. I send my boys a facebook message each Monday listing everything that's going on that week. They may not write it in their planners, but they read it and usually remember, and that's a start!
posted by headnsouth at 12:56 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I walk everywhere unless it is torrential rain, less than 10 degrees, or dangerously icy. To make this easier, I do two things: I always carry a small umbrella, and I don't wear any shoes I can't walk a few miles in. (I have found attractive shoes that I am able to walk in).
I pre-address and stamp my entire year’s worth of envelopes for bills that don’t come with envelopes. I put a post-it with the month on each one.
If it makes sense, I schedule routines on certain days of the week. For example, I exfoliate twice a week, so I do that on Mondays and Thursdays. Every Monday I trim my nails. I didn’t go crazy and write up a calendar all at once, but every once in a while I’ll introduce something new to this schedule. It’s hard for me to manage with big things (like cleaning the fridge), but if it’s something I can work into my daily routine, like during a shower, it’s easy enough to do.
posted by beyond_pink at 1:10 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Always park in the first available parking spot you see. The walking is good for you.
posted by kidsleepy at 1:24 PM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Another thing-- the two minutes it generally takes for my shower to warm up after I turn it on is when I take care of plucking my eyebrows. I'm too cheap to pay for waxing, and without daily attn they would gradually take over my face. I never think of it except during this short time period every day.

Other friends I know use the 30 seconds to 2 mins (depends on your water heater's abilities) to either: get the coffee machine going, make the bed, or do a quick set of bathroom-floor pushups. Whatever short chore you need doing, it's a good challenge of how fast you can get it done before the steam shows up.
posted by egeanin at 1:28 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think I got this done from Getting Things Done: If you can do something in two minutes, don't bother putting it on a to-do list, just do it. You'll be surprised how much you can do in two minutes.
Along similar lines, 15 minute pick-ups of the living room help tremendously if you're not naturally organized.
posted by peacheater at 1:28 PM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]

As a stay at home dad for 4 years, I have found that following Douglas Adams' advice has served me well -- always carry a towel.
posted by ducktape at 1:41 PM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Don't walk anywhere empty-handed.
We learned this in archaeology field school, but it applies anywhere.
Before you go somewhere, even across your apartment, think of what you should bring there or what is near you that actually belongs there.

In the morning when I get up to go to the shower, I usually find some crap along the way that needs to be put into the closet while I am going, etc. Same for when you leave the house- do I have anything to be done that is on the way to anywhere else? Can I drop the tailoring at the place by the subway? Can I pick up greens on my way home from work?
This minimizes chores (well, you are always doing them, but they are always part of something else) and stops things from building up and becoming big messes.
posted by rmless at 1:45 PM on April 5, 2010 [11 favorites]

Maybe not exactly what you're looking for, but I have found that "flipping a coin" is a good way of forcing a decision on something you're really ambivalent about; Chinese or Mexican for dinner, go to the store now or later, watch CSI: Miami or CSI: New York. For one thing, when you flip the coin, and as it's in the air, if you find yourself thinking, "I hope it comes down heads because I really want Chinese food" then go with that thought. For another, if you follow the toss and it turns out the Mexican food is gross, you can blame the coin rather than yourself for a bad choice.
posted by The otter lady at 1:48 PM on April 5, 2010 [7 favorites]

Ways to curb impulse purchases: I want to buy something but I suspect that it's really an unnecessary impulse purchase, I don't put it in my cart or carry it around the store. I put it back on the shelf. If I still think I want to buy it when I'm finished shopping (and I want to walk all the way back to wherever it is in the store), then I can get it. Almost every time, by the time I'm done shopping I realize I'm just as happy without Unnecessary Item X and I don't go back for it. A more stringent approach is to go to the store with a list and just refuse to buy anything not on the list, but that's too restrictive for me.

If I'm stopping by the grocery store for just an item or two, I don't get a basket (not even the kind you carry). Having to carry everything in my hands keeps me from picking up extra stuff I don't really need.

Seconding Don't Buy It If You Don't Love It.

Re: exercise--I agree that having your exercise clothes all laid out or packed and ready to go really helps keep you on track with exercise. But I'm surprised no one has mentioned the value of external pressures--having a standing date with a friend to exercise has gotten me out of bed more than once. I don't want to be the one who says "Eh, let's just skip this morning"! Along the same lines: I don't skip exercise classes that I already paid for.
posted by aka burlap at 1:51 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I air the beds as soon as I get up. If the sink isn't clean, I always stop to clean it. If hand towels are getting scrungy, I put out fresh ones. I never leave my own possessions lying around, I always put them away. And so on. In May, I'll add another chore to the list of chores I *always* do. (The list comes from "How Clean Is Your House"?) The object is to do the chores as I go along so I don't notice I'm doing them.

If I'm wearing something that needs to be hand-washed, I wash it when I take it off at night. I pack my lunch as soon as I get in, and it has to include 5 different fruits and vegetables, one of which is a frozen juice box which will provide refrigeration services the next day. I also dump out my handbag, throw any garbage away, and replenish or replace any supplies I'll need for the next day such as meds, tissues, etc. I wipe down my shoes with a baby-wipe when I get in so dirt doesn't build up between polishes, and I also wipe down my handbag for the same reasons and because handbags are a very underrated method of toting bacteria around, yuk. I have an OHIO policy with my mail, and anything with my name and address on it gets shredded right away and the rest recycled. Any money I spent gets entered into the computer as soon as I come home from the store, and the receipts are then shredded unless I anticipate returning an item.

The moment I unwrap a gift I write a thank-you letter and I reorder stationery and stamps as soon as they start to run out.

When I borrow library books I set a reminder both on the due date and for the day before the due date.

If it's daylight and I'm outside, I wear sunglasses. I don't care about bystanders saying "but it's clooooudy" or "but it's wiiiiinter, why are you such a poser?" It's easier to just put the damn sunglasses on and forget about them than it is to do Horatio Caine impressions and pay The Who to follow me around.
posted by tel3path at 2:10 PM on April 5, 2010 [8 favorites]

Before you buy something, ask yourself: if a friend gave you a gift, would you prefer it be what you're buying, or the money you would be paying.
posted by fizzzzzzzzzzzy at 3:00 PM on April 5, 2010 [16 favorites]

Eating healthy starts with buying healthy. I always eat something before going to the local health food store. In other words, don't shop for food when hungry. Read the labels. If something contains corn syrup in the ingredients, or wheat/sugar as one of the first ingredients, don'g buy it. Don't buy the stuff right by the registers, it's usually addictive items with high markup. Remember that sugar is almost as addictive as heroin ( ) and that calcium in milk is non-digestible by humans.Don't buy fried crunchy stuff (yes, chips).

Impulse buys: Before buying it, return to your workplace and calculate how many hours you work for the widget. Then calculate how many hours a year you plan on using it and get the price per hour you'd be paying. Works great with things like cars (how many hours do you drive?), widgets, electronics, clothes etc. Never buy it in the store. Always spend some time away from the thing; helps you calm down and recover from the buyer fever.

Exercise: Find a sporty activity you love and never ever exercise again. Just play, do what brings you the most joy. For me that's dancing, yoga, sparring, running on the beach. Find something you look forward to and enjoy every second of.
posted by andreinla at 3:11 PM on April 5, 2010

I refuse invitations from flakey friends who haven't worked out a definite plan for the event/excursion. Maybe I seem pretty un-fun to them, but I don't have to deal with any "omg it's closed lets stand around until we'll willing to settle for/think up plan B."
posted by cowbellemoo at 3:41 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you prefer a little more flexibility to your coin-flipping method (which is, by the way, brilliant), carry around a twelve-sided die. Not only will it allow more granularity and CLASS into your decision-making, if you play your cards right it will drop you into a roiling ocean of wholly immoral geek sex. Win/win/win, I say.
posted by waxbanks at 3:48 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

"the two minutes it generally takes for my shower to warm up after I turn it on" -- that's when I floss. Now the dentist loves me. :)

I hate flossing, but I'm usually not awake enough to talk myself out of it at that hour.
posted by epersonae at 4:51 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Pizza: Never more than one slice. Cookies: never more than two. Steak: Never more than 1/2.

When I finish a bottle of water, it gets refilled and put in the refrigerator. I take out a refrigerator bottle and put it in the freezer and I take the one that has been in the freezer to drink. At the end of the day, I don't put the last bottle in the freezer. It goes in after I've had my coffee in the morning--I like them slightly frozen, not solid.

I make a pot of tea everyday. My husband takes some in a thermos to drink, the rest I drink at some point either hot or cold.

When the kitchen trash is ready to go out there is always enough room on top for the bathroom trash as well.

When I am washing up the coffee pot, the dregs get diluted with a full pot and either indoor potted out outdoor potted plants get watered-- coffee is a good fertilizer.

All the animals get their flea control on the first of the month. If I am in my gardening clothes and I am sitting on the porch, the dog gets brushed.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:03 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you make enough food to have dinner and a lunch or two of leftovers, portion out the lunches first. This avoids the thing where you go to get seconds and take enough that there isn't a full lunch worth there so hey might as well finish this off right?

epersonae: Your flossing technique is awesome.
posted by mendel at 5:35 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I used to have a habit of waiting to do things until the time was a round number - eg: I'll start washing dishes at 7:15. But then I'd get distracted by whatever I was doing, look up at the clock, notice it was 7:21 and think "Hm, I'll just start at 7:30 then." If you do this, make it a rule to go ahead and just start, whatever it is, instead of dawdling and inevitably wasting a ton of time.
posted by estlin at 7:18 PM on April 5, 2010 [5 favorites]

The moment I get home and shut the door behind me I always, always, always take a moment to put my keys back in my purse. No matter how badly I have to go to the bathroom.
posted by corey flood at 7:42 PM on April 5, 2010

If you have a dishwasher, always put your dirty dish in in it when you're done with it. It saves the time of having to load the dishwasher later. Just run it when it's full. I do this with my kid's dirty bibs too. When he's done eating, I throw the bib in the washing machine. I do this with his clothes too, as he goes through a few costume changes a day.
posted by lexicakes at 8:57 PM on April 5, 2010

Middle-of-the-night sex is always worth it. No matter how tired you are.
posted by belau at 9:09 PM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]

I drive 200-230 miles a week. I stop for gas every Sunday after grocery shopping, even though I could still drive another 80-100 miles on the tank. Now, the only time I ever think about where/when to stop and buy gas is on a road trip.
posted by crazycanuck at 10:23 PM on April 5, 2010

Always buy pink toothbrushes. I don't know why I started doing it, but it has saved me some stress from option paralysis.
posted by Widepath at 11:14 PM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

-Dirty clothes, inside out. Clean clothes, outside out.
-Laundry: Fold the clean clothes as soon as they have dried.
-Dishes: Cleared from any surface that isn't the kitchen sink, then washed and dried before bedtime. Mornings are already hassle enough, no need to add grody leftovers to it.
-I sleep better when I am active so minimum of 40 mins 3x/week/125bpm+ exercise. Bonus: used in conjuction with the 'take the stairs' trick, this enables me to still be able to breathe when I reach that last one.
-Key hooks nearish the door- walk in, hang 'em up.
-Pleasanter grocery shopping: magnetized lined notepad hung on the refrigerator door, along with a pencil to which I superglued a magnet. We write down whatever we've just used up and/or upcoming recipe ingredients. By developing this habit I've made remarkably fewer unnecessary/tempting surprise purchases.
-Replace toothbrushes quarterly.
-Do at least one nice thing/day for a loved one. Do at least one nice thing each day for someone I don't know. Do one nice thing each day for myself.
-Flashlight and tire gauge in the car glovebox, always.
-Agree on a code word ahead of time so at family gatherings/social events we who know it can gracefully say 'hey, want to go outside with me to see if there are any stars out tonight?'. It raises the bat signal without having to say 'your aunt won't stop talking at me about the cat hair sweater she's proudly working on'.
-Savings: set up an auto transfer of x dollars from each paycheck to go automatically into a savings account. Name the account whatever your savings goal is (mine is currently called 'Vacation spending money''. For me the naming gives the goal a face. Post-vacation the savings account will be renamed 'Kitchen Floor Replacement'.
-Begin income tax prep before April 15th. Extra bonus points for filing early.
-Replace cosmetic products every 4-6 months.
-Keep a small notebook in your handbag, if you use one. Great idea? Jot it down, keep your bursts of genius in one place.
-During periodic bouts of depression I make myself take one picture of something, anything, outside my home. Try to stay engaged until I actually feel better.
Housework or organization: Commit to a 15 minute time window. Do 15 minutes worth. Stop. Go back to it for 15 minutes tomrrow.
posted by mcbeth at 11:40 PM on April 5, 2010 [14 favorites]

This may be more anxious than ordered, but right before bed I always check that the doors are locked (even if I'm pretty sure I locked them before), and before I leave for work in the morning I always check that I unplugged the curling iron (even if I think I already did it). I may be duplicating my work, but at least I'm not getting out of bed 15 minutes later to double check, or turning around after I've left the house to relieve the anxiety of possibly starting a fire. Now *that's* inefficient.
posted by nowmorethannever at 12:15 AM on April 6, 2010

Socializing: Always say yes to any invitation presented to you unless there is some definitive reason why you won't or can't (e.g., already have plans, fear for your safety)

This policy basically helps me from being an introvert and fends off depression.
posted by miasma at 5:13 AM on April 6, 2010 [14 favorites]

Some food rules I use.

I count out my fruit/veg intake every day. I aim for 5-6, but I must achieve at least 4. Many times, I don't have 4 by the end of the day, which means I have to make up the difference (often with fruit for dessert and a V8 for drink with dinner).

Because fruit juice is very high in sugar I only drink it out of 4 oz. glasses.

I use small size dinner plates for all of my meals unless we are having company, since that helps me keep my portions more reasonable.

If I am still hungry after dinner I allow myself unlimited extra portions of vegetables.
posted by mintchip at 9:10 AM on April 6, 2010

Another one: I clean off my desk at the end of the work day.
posted by mintchip at 9:11 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

When a new issue of a magazine I subscribe to comes into the house, the previous one gets tossed. No keeping back issues.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:25 AM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

I use a checklist to get me through the morning: 1. take meds; 2. shower; 3. make bed; 4. brush teeth; 5. make coffee; etc.
posted by feelinggood at 6:48 PM on April 6, 2010

Low carb evening meals every day - no pasta, potatoes, bread, rice etc. This not only helps us keep our weight down, it also means that we need to eat a substantial portion of veg or salad instead just to feel reasonably satisfied.
posted by tomcooke at 11:33 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

My wife and I purchase EVERYTHING on our credit card. We pay it EVERY month. We get lots of free flights.
posted by jasondigitized at 8:20 AM on April 7, 2010

If I need to take something the next time I leave the house, I put it by the DOOR!

For annual tasks, like changing smoke detector batteries, pick a statutory holiday, so it'll be easier to remember.
posted by storybored at 11:55 AM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Habits are easiest to set if they're everyday things.

I often order whatever the waiter or waitress had last. I ask for whatever beer is in the closest tap to me, or ask for the nearest beer in the cooler. I park in the first space that's open. I do dishes while I cook. I eat at the same restaurant every day for lunch, unless someone suggests someplace else or asks me to suggest someplace else. At that same restaurant, I always tend to order "whatever they have extra of", which makes them happy, and requires no further choice from me.

When I wake up, I do about five minutes of exercise. And if I'm watching tv or playing a videogame, it's usually from an exercise bike. The only other way I've kept an exercise habit is to make it a social outing.

At the end of the work day, I write down everything I need to remember for the morning, and then forget as much about my day as I can when I go home. I brought in an extra-large glass for water, and now, I drink more water. I keep a ton of relatively healthy snacks in my desk.

At this point, I feel really, really crazily compulsive, but it works for me.

That said, my favorite habit to date? Any time I'm lucky enough to get a raise, since I don't live at subsistence, I take half of the extra income and dump it straight to retirement savings. Before that habit, I couldn't bring myself to put anything into retirement, because it meant living on less money than I was living on before. If you make the change when you have slightly more money coming in, it's trivial; you're still getting a raise, but you're also able to easily save much more money.

I've probably failed at a load more habits that failed to take, but those are what's working for me now that comes to mind.
posted by talldean at 8:26 PM on April 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

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