5 Ways Making Your Bed Will Make You a Better Person

Full disclosure, I am a reformed bed maker. I never made my bed as a kid, teenager, college student, newlywed or mother. Ok. I made my bed after washing my sheets, but beyond that or having company over, never. I would think, I’m so busy, there isn’t enough time, no one will know the difference. Then I dated a guy for several years who was probably best described as OCD. I learned a lot from this guy including, how to do perfect laundry (hint: hang everything immediately), how to make the perfect margarita (hint: fresh lime juice) and how to make your bed every day. Actually it wasn’t literally how to make your bed but more so the habit of making your bed. I began to appreciate the Zen of making your bed and, eventually, it became my habit as well.5 Ways making your bed will make you a better person

At least once a week, I leave the house before my husband is out of bed. When I arrive home, if the bed is not made, I feel let down. So no wonder that meeting didn’t go well. I immediately repair the situation and make the bed. Whew. Relief. As my husband says, the shui is back, as in feng shui. Feng shui is an eastern philosophy of positive energy flow. Regardless of what some Taoist said 3,000 years ago, a made bed feels better.

So here they are. The rationale behind making your bed everyday:

1. Productivity. Charles Duhigg’s, The Power of Habit says “Making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget.” This has been true for me. I am more productive when my bed is made. There is a sense of satisfaction that if I can make my bed, I can get all sorts of things accomplished. It’s the added advantage that it’s normally accomplished first thing in the morning and sets the rest of your day up for success.

2. Head. Karen Miller in an article called Your Bed is Your Head, says “Transform your reality. Face what appears in front of you. Do what needs to be done. Make peace with the world you inhabit. Take one minute—this minute right now—to enfold your day in dignity. Tuck in the sheets, straighten the covers and fluff the pillows.” I get this. Here is one of the largest objects in your life and it is at peace. There is space. Make your bed to clear out your head. It allows you to address those things that need to be tended to.

3. Chain reaction. Small habits start a chain reaction of big transformation. Duhigg says, “Small wins are exactly what they sound like, and are part of how keystone habits create widespread changes.” Keystone habits beget other habits so if you eat a nutritious smoothie in the morning, you skip going to Starbucks, you read a book instead of watching TV and on and on. It’s like lighting a fuse to momentum. I write better when my bed is made. I feel like exercising, eating better, working harder, being better. So a two minute task can do all that? Let’s do a temperature check. Is your bed made right now? What is the chain reaction either way?

4. Impact. In Gretchen Rubin‘s blog Make Your Bed, she says,” Especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed, picking one little task to improve your situation, and doing it regularly, can help you regain a sense of self-mastery. Making your bed is a good place to start, and tackling one easy daily step is a good way to energize yourself for tougher situations.” It seems so small. So mundane. It’s almost like it builds resilience. Hmmm. Instead of having a V-8, make your bed.

5. What is. When I first married my husband, I struggled with trying to get him to make the bed. He frequently slept later than I and my expectation was that last one out of the bed makes it. Well, this was not a priority for him. I held a lot of resentment if he didn’t make the bed. I’ve let that go. As Byron Katie posits “Love what is“. I can spend all day wishing and praying or nagging and cajoling or I can let go and love what is. Find the joy in tasks like making the bed. There are plenty of other tasks that my husband does so ‘what is’ might be me making the bed. ‘What is’ are the two minutes in my life to embrace the simple elegance of making the bed. Set yourself free and love what is.

My kids, as young adults, still don’t make their beds. And I’m not about to twist their arms. The minute they head back to college or their apartment from vacation, I head up to their rooms to make their beds. I don’t know if there can be better energy or chi by proxy through my efforts but I sleep so much better knowing that in the bedrooms above me, there is order and space. Do you make your bed on a regular basis?

Radishes for breakfast

Willpower is a finite resource.  I’ve been reading “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg at the suggestion of Cindy Lamir from Impact Business Coaches.  It’s amazing what researchers will do to college undergraduates.  In one study, they had two groups of participants.  The first group was put in a room with a bowl of radishes and a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies and they were told to eat  all the cookies they wanted but ignore the radishes (easy enough) for 5 minutes. The second group was told to eat all the radishes they wanted and ignore the cookies, so they spent 5 minutes resisting the warm cookies.  Afterwards they were given a difficult puzzle to solve.  The cookie folks spent an average of 19 minutes trying to solve the puzzle, the radish folks (in addition to being grumpy) gave up after 8 minutes.  The radish folks had spent their willpower.

In another study with two groups of participants, one group was given an altruistic  reason to resist eating warm chocolate chip cookies for 5 minutes and treated with respect. The other group was treated rudely and told to resist the cookies.  The group that was treated with respect out performed the other group when given a cognitive test.  The disrespected group had spent their willpower.

All of this involves your prefrontal cortex which, as I described in my post “The Big Lie”, is a small stage with room for maybe three actors. Unless you can make something a habit and, therefore, moved off the stage, you will be exhausting your resources.    So how can you get the best results from your prefrontal cortex and optimize all those radish inducing moments?  Here are 5 steps:

1. The early bird.  Your best work is in the morning.  Your tank is full.  The stage is clean and there plenty of resources available.  If you need to deal with a difficult situation (perhaps reprimanding an employee or talking to your ex) do it in the morning.  If you are going to be creating (writing your novel, painting a master piece, or developing a new project) the early bird gets the worm and better results.

2. Unplug.  The last thing you want to do is spend time on email, voice-mail, social media or sit around the water cooler.  This seems counter intuitive – doesn’t everyone spend the first hour at work cleaning out their inbox and putting out fires?  You are going to need to turn it off to do your best work.  Putting out fires will only deplete your fuel tank and leave less resources for your creative best.

3. Focus.  Set the timer for one hour and focus on your masterpiece.  If you can’t possibly handle an hour, then start slow with 15 or 30 minutes .  There are apps for this as well.  Check out the link for some apps that are available to keep the distractions from your desktop at bay.  Anywhere from 60 to 90 minute chunks are optimum for flow.  Try for one chunk per day and then move up as your schedule (and distractions) permit.

4. Break. Take a break after your chunk of flow has been completed.  Powering through on for 2 hours or 10 will diminish your abilities.  Your prefrontal cortex only has so much in the tank and it needs some time to recoup.  If it’s not possible to go for a walk, talk with a colleague or call your mother; kill some time doing menial tasks like cleaning out your inbox or clearing off your desk.  Just be sure to step away from your masterpiece.

5. Return.  Get back into the project only after you have completed steps #2 thru #4.  Remember that as the day wears on, you are expending precious resources and that your best work is likely behind you.  This is true so long as you can stay away from the radishes and rude folks.  If you are starting a diet, upset with your cable company or just found out you bounced a check…walk away from the project.  If you can’t do your best work with all of your resources and a stage with one actor on it – leave it for another day.

So now you are thinking – but I won’t get anything done.  You can get things done and the quality of your work will be far superior if you just plan ahead.  Take care of your prefrontal cortex to maximize your results.  Stay away from the radishes for breakfast.

What would you do?