Make Your Bed! For Productivity, Profit and Peace

At the risk of sounding childish or lazy (maybe both?) I'll just be honest: I hate making my bed. Rather, I used to hate making my bed. Why should I bother? I often reasoned. I'm just going to get right back into it later, and no one except my immediate family will see it (and as it turns out, they are stuck with me and my covers-tossed-in-disarray). But something I read last week in Charles Duhigg's "The Power of Habit" changed my mind. According to Duhigg, making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity and stronger skills at sticking with a budget. It has also been suggested that making your bed boosts happiness. My interest was piqued. Happiness? Yes, I'll take it. Productivity? Yep, I'll take that too. Sticking to a budget? Sounds good to me.

Gretchen Rubin, author of the bestselling book "The Happiness Project", explains that making the bed was "the number one most impactful change that people brought up over and over" as she researched her book on inspiring happiness. Can an act that takes three minutes (yes, I timed it) really make that much of a difference in your life?

Apparently, making your bed (and other feel-good tasks like exercising and cooking your own food) is something called a keystone habit. Keystone habits are those routines that, if you can identify them, spill over to other habits. According to Duhigg, changing or cultivating keystone habits "helps other habits to flourish by creating new structures, and they establish cultures where change becomes contagious." A keystone habit is essentially a catalyst for other good habits.

I figured that I was the perfect test case for the Make Your Bed to Achieve Happiness Theory (reminder: I never make my bed) and that it was worth a try. So far I've made by bed for 10 days in a row. And here's what I've noticed: Making my bed inspires me to get my kids to make their beds. Which inspires me to get them to clean their rooms. Which inspires me to do the laundry, the dishes, and to pick up abandoned stuffed animals, dropped underwear (theirs! not mine), and newspapers-turned-light-sabers as I corral my two toddlers out the door to school. I look at my watch to see that it is 8am and the house is an unusual shade of clean before coffee. I'm smiling.

Karen Miller, wife, mother, Zen priest, and author of "Hand Wash Cold" and "Momma Zen", explains: "the state of your bed is the state of your head." I think she is on to something. When I leave my bed in a heap, I leave the bedroom feeling defeated by my bed, my alarm clock, and my general sleepy mood. I'm groggy and reluctant to get the day started. My internal voice sounds a bit like the strewn covers, "Noooooo morning! Gooooo awaaaaaay!"

But when I look at my freshly made bed, I have to admit it: I smile a little. I feel just a bit more motivated. Productive, even. I leave the room saying, "Goodbye beautiful little den of tranquility that I have created with my bare hands!" And I'm ready to tackle the day — crush it, even.

But sticking to a budget? That part is still up for debate. I just bought some adorable grey and white chevron pillows with hot pink trim for my freshly made bed. I can't leave that beautiful bed half-dressed, can I?

(Image: Matt's Well Curated Collection/Small Cool 2012)

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