Off the Couch

Make your bed and lie in it

Small things matter.  I’m afraid I’ve always been a big fan of making my bed, and on the odd day where I haven’t I generally need to make it right before I get into it.

And I always like it when science makes me right.

“Making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget… …somehow those initial shifts start chain reactions that help other good habits take hold.”  (Click here for the rest of the article)

This is the essence of a “keystone habit.”  Tony and I talked about these habits on the Home and Garden show this week.  (Click here to listen to the interview)

The concept is pretty simple, studies have shown that these keystone habits tend to also cause other changes like ripples spreading out in a pond.  And while there are some individual differences, there are some habits that have been clearly shown to cause ongoing positive changes.

Charles Duhigg in his excellent book “The Power of Habit” describes this as one of the main mechanisms as leveraging the power of “small wins.”  It’s a bit like how one pebble can cause an avalanche, some changes can create a momentum of positive energy which tips of lots of other small changes.  For instance:

  • Regular exercise (even just once a week) is linked with eating better, increased work productivity, less smoking (if the person already smoked), increased patience and less credit card use.
  • Eating dinner together as a family is linked to children having better homework skills, higher grades, greater emotional control and more confidence.
  • Keeping a daily food journal is linked with a 100{1b812f7ed7a77644fff58caf46676f6948311bf403a3d395b7a7f87010507f87} greater weight loss than those in the same diet programme who didn’t keep a journal.

While it’s not clear what the exact underlying mechanism is, this research has been replicated time and time again.

If you want to use the power of keystone habits in your own life then the features they all tend to have in common is that they’re generally something that involves a degree of preparation or organization; they’re regular, ideally daily, routines; and they’re easy to replicate or do the same way each time, so they become a clear repeatable habit.

And if you haven’t done so already today: go make your bed.

Leave a Comment

  • Robyn April 7, 2013, 7:51 am

    So I wake up early, make my bed, brush my teeth, and wait
    for the magic to begin… 🙂

    • Off the Couch: Kyle MacDonald April 7, 2013, 11:23 am

      No, but every little bit counts, day by day…

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