Welcome back from Thanksgiving break-I hope you had a lovely, restful time. Thank you for the responses to the last coaching letter-more feedback on that one than any so far, and great stories about how you modeled gratitude-thank you for sharing.
Coming back from break is a good time to talk about habits and routines, since taking a break from routines is a good way to break them. I’m a fan of James Clear’s work (https://jamesclear.com/ ) and you can click here <http://bit.ly/2jofFc6> for my favorite post. But I take issue with his use of the term habits, since in my experience, all my habits are bad ones. A habit is something that we do without thinking, reflexively, like reaching for another helping of pie, or turning left at 44 towards Hartford when the actual destination is Boston. And habit implies that it will be done automatically, but many of the things that I most need to do are hard to do, and I’m never going to do them automatically.
I am, on the other hand, completely dependent on routines. These, unlike habits, are thoughtful, regular, intentional, and goal-driven. And as a coach, I frequently ask about the routines that have to be in place in order for plans to be accomplished. Personally, I rely on some combination of routine and maintaining routine to keep my life as orderly as possible. For example, I have the app Todoist on my phone, on my iPad, and as an extension on Chrome and Outlook-which I particularly love as I can turn emails into items on my to do list. I use it religiously, organized by due date and project, and it sends me reminders, both unique and recurring.
In the years before I moved to Connecticut, I had several routines in place that stood me in very good stead-a rhythm to taking my kids to school, going to the gym, working, and cooking. But I learned that routines are like tropical rainforest-robust, rich and efficient when undisturbed, but surprisingly fragile when interfered with. Embarrassed as I am to admit this, it took me about a year and a half to establish new routines after moving here. So now I even have routines to get me back into routines that have lapsed.
I tell you all this not to demonstrate how well-organized I am, but more like the opposite. The only way I can get done what I get done is to be disciplined about being disciplined. Because the other thing I have learned is that if you try to clear the small stuff out the way before you take on the really important work, you will get into trouble. I found this out the hard way when I was working on my doctorate while working full time. I kept waiting for things to settle down before working on papers, and as a result came within a hair’s breadth of academic probation at the end of my first year. Cal Newport (best known for his Ted talk on quitting social media <http://bit.ly/2Bp8Yyy> ) writes in Deep Work (which I was reminded of in this brief New Yorker blurb <http://bit.ly/2BoYcZs> ) about how challenging it is to put aside the small stuff (which he calls the shallow work) in order to take on the deep work, which is the high leverage work that produces improvement, and how you have to build routines to do that.
So you, or your coach, should be asking you this question: what routines do you have in place to make sure that you work on the deep work? This is a conversation I am looking forward to having…
Let me know if you have any feedback or need anything else from me.
Isobel Stevenson PhD PCC
Connecticut Center for School Change
151 New Park Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106