Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Shaping Surroundings for Good Habits

For the last number of years, I've done a series in January that has had something to do with Bible reading and schedules.  

2021- 30-Day Phone Challenge

2020 - Friends share Goals and Routines that Work 

2019 - Friends share Choosing His Words

In the last five years or so, I've read several very good books on habits. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhig, Switch: How Change Happens When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, and Atomic Habits by James Clear. I read a lot of books in a year, and maybe it shows the value of these books that I can remember so much about each one, though some were read quite a few years ago. (This post contains affiliate links.)

But, of course, it is not enough to read a book and agree with what it says. A book on habits has no power unless it changes my habits. 

I know from reading about habits, that change best happens when we make a specific plan to make the good habit "obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying." (from Atomic Habits)

"If you're having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn't you. The problem is your systems. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don't want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change." James Clear in Atomic Habits

Lots of people make goals at the beginning of the new year, including me. And it shouldn't be a surprise that when I make a goal without thinking through how I'm going to make that goal a habit, it flounders by mid-January. 

Since last January, I've been thinking about the changes I want to make and why some of them can't seem to become consistent habits. 

For example, in the last few years, I've been terrible at planning. All kinds of planning. Planning meals. Planning grocery lists. Planning schedules. As the result, I often feel like I'm running behind, not knowing what I'm going to make for dinner tonight. Going grocery shopping only to get home and find I missed a necessary items. Completely forgetting an appointment. 

While I feel like I'm doing relatively well holding together and most people in my life think I'm organized, I know how scattered I feel inside. 

Last January I made it my goal to begin using my planner again. At one time I used my planner often. I covered it with to-do lists, reminders, and random thoughts. But the last few years, the pages have been blank. I knew that if I would begin to consistently write things down, I would feel less disorganized. 

But I had no plan for how I'd actually begin this new habit and nothing changed. 

And that is just one example. I could make great goals, but unless I knew how I was going to incorporate them into my life, nothing would change.

So I've spend the last couple months thinking about my specific routines. I don't have babies anymore. I'm crawling out of the grief fog. My life is fuller than ever, but it has more predictability than in past years. I knew I could find a way to shape my environment to encourage better habits. 

Now is when I start to feel silly. This probably isn't worth sharing on a blog post. And I know it is only January 19 - too soon to tell if this will truly work. But I've been analyzing this for months, it isn't a hasty idea, and I've been slowly making tiny changes, so I think this will last. 

I'm also hesitant to share this because you may not need, or want, to copy me. I'm only giving this as an encouragement to look at your life, consider the changes you want to me, and find ways to shape your environment to make the changes work for you.

One problem I found was that I had things scattered around the house. I read my Bible on the couch, but if I wanted to journal, it was beside my bed. I kept my planner in the kitchen, so if I had an idea before bed, it wasn't handy. 

My bedroom is small and can tend to be the catch-all room. For example, it contains a large bookcase that contains school materials and teacher's manuals. There isn't many options on moving furniture in that space. But a few weeks ago I had an inspiration. By moving the large bookcase in the opposite corner, I was able to squeeze out space for a chair and a small bookshelf. I picked up a lamp at Goodwill and instantly I had a comfortable spot that I couldn't wait to use. 

This comfy spot became what I needed to shape better habits. My Bible, journal, and planner now have a home. I anticipate sitting there each morning and evening to plan my day. Walking in my room became a delight. And my phone is not kept in this space. No longer am I faced with the temptation to check my phone before reading my Bible because I have a lovely place to read my Bible, with no phone in sight.

Ask me in a few months how it is going, but because I've shaped my surrounding to support my goals, I think this will give long-term benefit.

I'd love to hear how you set up your home to encourage good habits.


  1. I love your space in your bedroom. It looks like a delight! I too am trying to get into the habit of using my planner and also journaling at night.

  2. This is such a great idea ! Thanks so much for sharing ! I shall be thinking of you as you sit in your new, comfy space making plans !

  3. I love this and would love to sit there and read my Bible in the morning! Thank you for sharing. Every little encouragement to keep trying little things helps!

  4. I know exactly what you are saying. We had a house fire on Memorial Day 2021 and life became scattered. God gave me great peace and our church folks provided us with an apartment for a couple of months. The apartment was lovely, but there was so much going on in my mind, things to do and plan, that I had such a hard time getting into my daily devotions again. I think that was the most stressful thing about the whole situation. It showed me how weak I had become that I couldn't get myself together enough to get going again with this. My bible was gone, by notes were all gone, my devotional books and study books were all gone. I really felt blindsided and for some reason, those were the things that kept me going before. Well, that has changed and it was due to the prayers of my sisters in Christ. They upheld me and I made a concerted effort to get this so important part of my life up and running again. Praise God! Environment does have an effect on good habits. I just need to overcome and get it together with God's help and the help of the Body of Christ. I'm glad you have a spot now for your good habits to bloom and planning to happen. Thank you for sharing... I thought I was the only one out there who struggled with this. I got some looks at first when sharing this in prayer meeting kinda like I was crazy, but it was a real struggle.

    1. Mrs. Doug,
      I'm so sorry to hear about your house fire. But thanks for sharing this. I'm glad you are finding your way out of the fog.

  5. Such an encouraging and helpful post! It looks like you have the same Bible as me. My One-Year Bible was worn out and on a trip to PA, my sister, mom, and I visited Clay Bookstore (an awesome store) and my sister found a used OY Bible for only $4. God bless you and your children this year! Chris W.

  6. I’m so glad you shared this tip for changing habits. It is exactly what I needed to hear.

  7. I have used the goal planner from Cultivate What Matters, for several years and the planning work that they walk you through has been extremely helpful for setting goals and breaking down into manageable tasks that are spread out across months or the whole year.

    I also keep all of my Bible study materials, journal, prayer books in a bolga basket from Ghana that I can easily move around to study or read.

  8. I relate to all of this! And those new "habits" books are great. The old way of trying to change just by stirring up one's emotions and trying to set one's resolve was a recipe for disappointment!


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