Google Productivity Pad: Why Productive People Make Their Beds

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Why Productive People Make Their Beds

Do you make your bed everyday? You probably did when you were a kid and your mom constantly reminded you. Then you went to college and reveling in your new found freedom you decided you were going to leave your bed a mess... or you started waking up at 8:05 for your 8:00 class. That was probably the end of any kind of bed making routine for you.

Messy bed, messy life
When I talk to people who are going through difficult times and want to be achieving more balance in life I ask them if they make their beds everyday. They always say no. Now, it isn't that having a messy bed is the cause of a messy, out of control life. It is actually usually the opposite.

Consider our example above: the kid moves away from college, schedules a heavy class load, takes on a part time job, makes new friends who like to stay out late, joins the scifi club, and has a whole load of new responsibilities, including trying to decided what to do with the rest of his life. Soon he starts waking up late and the first thing to go is making his bed.

He's rushing out the door just to make it to part of his first class, there is no time to make his bed. It does not really matter thought, because well, it doesn't effect anyone else (except maybe his roommate), his mother will never know, and he is  just going to mess it up again later.

Here are three reasons that you will be more productive if you choose not to be like that college student and make your bed everyday.

Keystone habit
Have you ever heard of a keystone habit? Sounds important doesn't it?

A keystone habit is a little habit that is easy to do, but by doing it it allows the person to develop many larger habits easier, often as natural outgrowth of the keystone habit. This is true for both good and bad habits.

Consider our college student friend for a moment. He stops making his bed because he is getting up late. This contributes not only to a poor sleeping schedule but also to a subconscious sense of disorganization and lack of control in his life. Conversely the dedication it would take to wake up a few minutes earlier so that his bed could be made each day would make a huge difference in his ability to make other positive habits.

Paves the way for a morning routine
As a keystone habit, making your bed can lead the way to a whole slew of good habits that can make up a morning routine. Or vice versa, choosing not to make your bed can lead to losing those habits and replacing them with negative ones. In the past I have talked about the importance of being a morning person, and how to become one.
Sometimes the negative examples are the easiest to see. Our college student friend has formed a number of bad habits as he has been off on his own. As he chooses not to make his bed he begins to get up later and later, soon this contributes to other bad habits. He no longer brushes his teeth, he doesn't eat breakfast, he stops biking to school and begins driving, he starts driving too fast and becomes very frustrated with other drivers.

In contrast however by simply working at forming the habit of making his bed the college student can begin the process of developing many other positive habits. Once he has made the decision he must naturally make small change that will allow that decision to take place: he will need to get up a little earlier, in order do that he will need to go to bed a little earlier, therefore he will need to not stay out as late, etc, etc.

Resolves a commitment first thing
Besides the natural outflow from wanting to make your bed such as small time adjustments, there are mental benefits as well to beginning the day be keeping a commitment. See your brain subconsciously keeps track of all the commitments you have made to do things, the more of those that you don't do the more it wears on you. At the same time, the more commitments that you keep the better you feel and the more likely that you are to keep other commitments.

Because most people have been trained to make their beds as a matter of proper behavior and an expectation of their mother, most have a subconscious commitment to doing it. That is one reason that it works so well as a keystone habit, it resolves a commitment almost immediately upon waking up. To start your day with the resolution of a commitment mentally prepares you for the rest of the day.

There may be many aspects of your life that are out of your direct control. That can give a very overwhelming feeling. But you can make your bed every day and resolve that commitment to yourself. Even if you have no bed you can straighten your sleeping area and feel a sense that you have control of at least the first thing that day.

I know you may not like this advice that I have given. But just because you do not like something does not mean that it is not true. In fact it probably means it is true because if it weren't you would just ignore it, but instead it makes you a little upset and you feel a little anger inside. Well, I challenge you to try this for a week and see if what I have said is not true. Accept the challenge in the comments below or by tweeting at me and then report back in seven days (click here to tweet).

I believe you can change, have more control in your life, and be more productive. Just remember, live better.

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