Creatures of Habit

Are we really creatures of habit?  Also, how can I possibly get more done in a day!?

It’s often said that humans are creatures of habit.  Do you believe that?  Humans—highly evolved, highly intelligent, self-possessed beings, relegated to being called ‘creatures of habit’.  How can it be true? 

We moved into a new house last fall.  With a toddler.  And a newborn. 

It was a nice house with a two-car garage.  I was the lucky mom who got to finally park the family car inside.  And for two weeks straight, I couldn’t find my keys every time I needed to go somewhere.  I was borderline late for appointments, nearly in tears, and certainly frazzled.  My friends, our habits determine the outcomes. 


People focused.  Results driven.

Life has a way of bringing us to the breaking point sometimes.  When that happens, it helps to step back and identify the things we can control, and own them, and acknowledge the things we cannot control, and let them go.  As a working mom, there are plenty of things I cannot control, like traffic.  But, if I carefully plan and cultivate habits for that which I can control, the interruptions won’t get to me as much.  I love control, and predictability, in my day and week.  So much.  The truth is, we must work very hard to control everything we can, since we cannot control the human element, and this planning allows us to have greater predictability.

One way that I’ve been able to get a little more predictability in my week is by spending time on Sunday evenings and Monday mornings to plan out my week and making S.M.A.R.T. goals to help me become a better steward of my time.  I can’t do everything, but I can chip away at the big stuff and have more control over what interruptions enter my environment.


What are S.M.A.R.T. goals?

I’m glad you asked—you probably remember hearing them, but can’t quite make out all the letters--Specific-Measurable-Attainable-Realistic-Timebound

  • Specific—Quantifiable, qualifiable, descriptive 
  • Measurable—A number, a date, a mark of completion
  • Attainable—Within your scope of responsibility
  • Realistic—Within your scope of ability
  • Timebound—A date or time for this benchmark to be met (and reasonable at that!)

  Example:  “Make contact with 3 prospective clients by Thursday at 3pm.”


If you’re trying to orient your week, and juggle a lot of professional and personal responsibilities, why not start a habit of orienting these goals in a S.M.A.R.T. way?

And the keys?  They were usually still in the ignition—as it turned out, I was thinking that I’d save future me the hassle of finding her keys!  Now it’s a habit and I don’t have to worry…unless my husband used my car and is ‘helping me’ by putting the keys on the hook! 

What is one thing that you can do today to drive towards a favorable outcome?

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Holly Joy McIlwain is the Leadership Mixologist for Talerico Group.  This translates into helping clients hone strategy, engage employees, and navigate change through executive coaching and group sessions.  She coaches two up and coming little executives at home, toddler Jack and baby James.