Day Four: Structure, Checking Out, Motivation and Accountability

So yesterday, I was planning to keep trying to enforce daily “check-outs” — the big sister to the essential morning check-in. Yesterday evening, I came up with a few ideas to structure my check-out and try to make it easier for me to incorporate it into a daily routine:

Checking Out – Structure

  • Set a specific time every night.
  • Associate it with an established part of my routine: brushing teeth or getting changed for bed.
  • Set a timer.
  • Ask myself some questions:
    • What was the easiest part of keeping promises to myself today?
    • What was the hardest?
    • Can I foresee anything that will cause problems tomorrow — things like office lunches, after-work meetings, social engagements?
    • Do I have a strategy to manage those potential hazards?
  • Take it easy on myself: it’s not about having a perfect day, but knowing what went well and what went badly.
Structure, meet chaos - Moxie Parker, the podcat.
If I want to consult the avatar of ANTI-structure, I can always talk to my cat. You may hear jingling from time to time in the background of this podcast. That’s her. Motivation and accountability are not her thing.

This works reasonably well.

I’m a bit surprised at how much this bit of structure drove my check-out last night… it gave me a goal (the questions) and a time limit (the timer), and I think tying it to a must-do part of my routine (I’m never not going to brush my teeth) is an extra kick in the pants to make sure I get it done.

Tying it to a structure habit like tooth-brushing or turning the lights off is also a good way to make checking out a habit in and of itself, instead of “another thing I gotta do” before crashing.

Structure vs. motivation

My instinct, from a steady diet of “rebel hero” culture, is that structure is anti-motivational. After some early flailings, I’m finding the opposite — a little structure is helping me out with my accountability, motivation and sobriety.