If you are interested in amping-up your personal and professional productivity, increasing your sense of accomplishment, and sleeping more soundly, then there is one simple, 30 second task you can do everyday that will make a difference.
Make your bed.
Before you start explaining all the reasons why it’s nonsense, or how you don’t have time, read this article. Because this tiny little tweak to your day, a small habit that can be learned and internalized with minimal effort, can make a big difference.
First, let’s talk about habits. Most of life is made up of habitual activities. But, for the most part, they arose with little forethought or planning. Good habits are powerful, and forming them is critical., Because of that, habit formation is a rich area of study. Along the way, that area of study and promulgation has been siezed upon by odd bedfellows. The medical profession certainly studies this in depth.
The other group is made up of “life and work-hackers” in Silicon Valley–those folks with boatloads of money to spend on cryogenic chambers, rare coffee beans, yak butter, and funding of space shots. They also spend their extra time launching podcasts and writing inspirational books for you to imitate their behavior and methods. That burgeoning podcast industry has mined some information that is quite applicable to those of us with less disposable income and a more pressing need to gain productivity. Within that crop of people are two very important voices on habits and using them to your advantage.
One such voice is James Clear, and you can hear him in multiple interviews, read his website and blog, or subscribe to his newsletter. His book, Atomic Habits, will be out in October, 2018.
The other habit expert certainly worth reading is Charles Duhigg. His book, The Power of Habit, is a very useful primer on getting rid of bad habits and creating new ones that better support your commitments and goals. Habits like waking up early, exercising, and making healthier food choices have multiple benefits for both your health and your productivity. But along with providing a manual for how to enter the world of conscious habit formation, Duhigg also carves out a new territory and provides several terms of art of define it.
One of his most interesting bits of habit jargon is the concept of a “cornerstone habit”. This is, like the cornerstone of a building, something that creates the footprint, style and integrity of your day, your work, your life – whatever the arena in question may be. The value of generating and sticking to cornerstone habits is that they set you up for success. Get the cornerstone right and you have set a virtuous cycle in motion that is well-positioned to gain significant momentum. That momentum can act like a wave that carries your forward from success to success.
One major argument in favor of bed-making is that it is such a cornerstone habit. When you start your day with the simple act of adding order to the bedroom, you lay the groundwork for a day that includes a succession of completions. Having accomplished that basic task, laying the cornerstone firmly in place, you have etched a point in the “win” column for the day. You’re ahead, and you haven’t even showered yet!
There are several additional benefits to making your bed. For myself I use making my bed as part of my basic hygiene for my home. It is the one room within the house that is generally in an orderly state. This makes me feel peaceful when I enter the bedroom.
Other rooms in the house, while not dirty or massively messy, contain lots of symbols of incompletion. There are unfiled papers and various objects on my desk, a computer desktop almost certainly in the state of mid-something.
The living room has remote controls in haphazard placement, dog and cat beds that are never “made” in any sense that might mean, and the kitchen likely has plates or glasses drying in the sink, a randomly placed tea towel and any number of objects that ought to have hidden homes but seem always to gravitate to a counter-top. (For more on kitchens and plates read this article from last year).
But not the bedroom. It is neat, orderly, welcoming and as seemingly untouched every time I enter it as right after cleaning the house. Clothing are put away, the bedside table holds books ready for pre-slumber reads, and the bed is as pristine as if it were a hotel room, excepting its lack of a pillow-top chocolate.
This may seem a bit peculiar to those of you who encounter a rumpled, slept-in bed every night. But it has benefits even for those who don’t value it in the exact way that I do. Yes, it is a cornerstone habit that starts off your day with power and momentum. But it also has an advantage at the other end of the day.
Lots of my clients tell me they suffer from various symptoms associated with poor work-life balance. One of the symptoms raised the most frequently is insomnia and sleep deprivation (they aren’t always related). Now, that’s not all that surprising when you consider the source: Leaders of high-growth startups that are pulled in a million directions and never “catch up” to all there is demanding their attention. Their sense of responsibility and hurry brings with it a racing mind, a background anxiety and either sleeplessness or lack of sleep from a habit of continually extending the “working day”.
Because I am a poor sleeper and because my clients have a significant need to solve the sleep puzzle, I have done a fair bit of scouring of the research on it. There is plenty to read and learn and a lot of scientific findings prescribing specific behavior changes to tackle the issue. Some of those recommendations relate to the conditions of the bedroom. Having a tidy, ordered room – including a made bed to climb into – reduces anxiety and allows your mind to shut down more easily.
For more insight into the nature of sleep and how to get more and better of it, I strongly recommend one of the best books on the subject, Why We Sleep, written by Matthew Walker, PhD. But I digress.
Here’s the bottom line about making your bed:
- It is a cornerstone habit that sets you up for a successful day.
- Doing it will allow you to start the day having already “crossed something off your list”.
- Making your bed contributes to having a restful sleep, and so waking up refreshed.
For an investment of 30 seconds, this one little habit has a pretty great payoff! Make your Bed!