WPT #38: Why Change is Hard

by | Productivity Advice | 12 comments

Every Sunday I follow the same routine. After lunch my daughter takes a nap. I’ll shower and then sit down at my computer to prepare the newsletter for Monday.

Oh wait. Oops.

As I went along in this same pattern last Sunday I remembered that I had (voluntarily) shifted the pep talk and newsletter one day earlier. I even sent you an email letting you know this change would be happening.

As I had this realization (in the shower, of course) I had a little conversation with myself about what it meant. Did I goof? Yes. Was it a big deal? No. 

I decided to just let it go and get back on track with this message I’m writing to you now. My mistake turned out to be the perfect teaching opportunity.


At this time of year I know may of you are thinking about – and already implementing – changes you want to see in your memory keeping. Maybe you want to be more organized, keep up with a long term project, or develop a new skill.

Whatever it is that you want to do is different than what you did last year and it requires a change. But as we saw in my experience, it can be difficult to unlearn previous patterns. And that’s the secret.

In order to form a new habit you must break an old one. 

We all have tried to stop doing things, to stop leaving our supplies out, or procrastinating, or comparing ourselves to others. Stopping something you’re already doing is much harder than starting, which is why so many new year’s resolutions fail.

Getting started with a new habit, routine, or approach is pretty easy, but your muscle memory hasn’t yet recognized this pattern. This makes it all too easy to accidentally revert to your old pattern – and before you know it you’re back to the beginning.

So what can you do? 

In order to make lasting change you must identify both what you’re starting and what you’re stopping, the new habit you’re forming and the one you’re breaking. Here are some examples:

  • To become more organized, you need to start finding homes for each item and stop leaving your supplies out for next time.
  • To become more confident, you need to start celebrating your victories and stop comparing yourself to others.
  • To become more proficient, you need to start actively acquiring knowledge and stop wasting time watching others become proficient.

When you pair these together, you develop a deeper understanding of the root causes and create a stronger momentum towards success. The relatively easier success of the starting will also encourage you to be all the more persistent in the stopping.

What changes are you trying to make this year? 


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  1. Tina Campell

    Well said, I like what you said about organizing too, that it has to have a home for it to work. Thank you for that you are right

  2. Francine Seal

    I think many forget that to change habits, you have to do both parts, stop the undesired and start the desired. And it’s not quite as simple as putting a red flag on the undesired action – actions can’t be physically pinned down. If they could, it would be easier to see where we have just popped that piece of candy in our mouth when we wanted to eat a grape. When we have a habit we become blind to it. So, for that messy desk – we need to have a red flag that pops up when we try to walk away from the mess. Suggestion: determine how much time you have to work on your creative endeavor. Set a time for 5 minutes less than that. START THE TIMER! When the timer goes off, STOP what your doing and CLEAN UP. You gave yourself 5 minutes for clean-up, the timer will remind you what you wanted to do. BTW – for those who hate to leave a layout unfinished, there is a product that I have, I think it’s called page-in-progress, that is a box, with lid, that is 13 x 13. It has a light metal bottom (covered with paper) and magnets that you can place on the unglued embellishments to keep them in place. Then you put the lid on the box and your layout is saved at the point you stopped. When it’s time to work on it again, you don’t have to figure out where you were; it’s right there waiting for you to dive right in again.

  3. michelle

    Jennifer, you are so right. My craft desk is covered so deep right now that i’ve resorted to bringing supplies up to the kitchen table to work on projects. Obviously i can’t find a thing! Lol. I’m one of those who takes stuff out and never puts it back and i hate it! It is a hard habit to break but i’m committing myself this year to get and STAY organized. My creative process demands it! Thanks for the pep talk and the christmas card!!!! That was awesome!!! Xoxo

  4. Tanya Dunkle

    Francine, what a fabulous product idea! Jennifer, that is ever the problem! My biggest barrier is limiting the phone games, and maintaining that daily productivity list with needs (work) AND wants (crafting, Idea surfing, journaling, work outs, and photo work). I am realizing I really need to return to a daily planner…..

  5. Rhonda H

    Francine, I love that idea, also. It is so simple ,(pun intended) I can’t believe I didn’t think of it on my own.I am going to make a sign to keep on my desk to remind myself to do it until it becomes a habit. Thank you for sharing. Will you be taking Jennifer’s “Before Your Story”?

    • Francine Seal

      Rhonda, yes, I probably will take Before Your Story. I can do several of those – about me, about my kids for THEIR kids (i.e. before I was scrapbooking), about my DH before we met – there’s four right there. But I’m pretty sure none of those will really be finished in 2014.

  6. Jeanette Collins

    The one change I’m trying to make a new habit is to complete my projects! I love NEW. I want to be in every NEW class and try every challenge. What I have found is I rarely complete the class, or album, or process. Why, you say? Because something NEW comes out before I had the chance to finish the one I was working on. Sounds so silly writing this out but I know that’s been my pattern. So my “one little word” this year is COMPLETE. I have maybe one more day to sit in front of my December Memories album before I can call it COMPLETEd. And yes, that 5 minute tidy up Francine makes me feel so good when I’m ready to sit at my workspace the next day! Great post Jennifer.

  7. Leticia Vasquez

    I really need to be more organized

  8. Monica

    Very helpful information. I think I often tend to forget the other part of the equation and focus more on the starting part than the stopping. Thank you.

  9. Lorri

    Such good points about organization and not leaving it out until next time, I am so guilty of that and then have the hardest time finding a place to start.
    I need to learn to start fresh each time!

  10. Susan

    Hi Jennifer,

    I just read a new book on habits – it was so interesting! You might love it with your analytical mind. It is full of talk about personal, organizational, and cultural habits and how the way our brain is wired to create habits. Tons of interesting examples. It is called The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I read the prologue in the bookstore and HAD to buy it. I am analytical as well. I thought that it read like a novel not a dry scientific analysis. I love your way of thinking. Have a great day

    • Jennifer Wilson

      Oh cool, thanks for sharing! I will go check it out.


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