All you need for this system is a piece of paper and a pencil - an eraser might be handy! Mark 3 columns on your piece of paper with the headings A, B, and C. The hardest part about this is the explanation. The columns are used as follows:
- A - everything you would do without anyone prompting you, things that are easy and on which you are self-motivated.
- B - things you need to help to do from a schedule, plan, or person.
- C - things you are putting aside for now.
Under B you might have things like: wash the windows, get check-ups at the doctor, and practice piano.
Be honest now about what goes under column C. It can be an eye-opener. Maybe your teen is putting aside personal hygiene for instance, or maybe you are putting aside exercise, or time with your partner.
It gets interesting when you realize the balance between the different columns. For instance if you have a lot of items in column A, or a few items that you are very highly self-motivated to spend hours and hours on, it will be hard to accomplish the items in column B. If you have everyday stuff like washing the dishes under B, you are probably struggling with routines and expending a lot of energy on making sure you do things that really need to be good habits. Things in column B take energy and we can only have a certain number of things there. If your teen needs someone to get them out of bed in the morning, or your 6 year old argues about brushing their teeth every day, there is going to be no energy left over for other stuff in column B.
The most effective way to use this system I have found is to make sure you put the highest priority items that are not currently being done the way they need to in column B. The goal is to establish a habit for some of these items and thus make them easy so that they move to column A. If necessary, deliberately put some tasks aside in column C for now. For instance, if you have a sick family member, or a lot of visitors for the holidays, some items may be moved to column C temporarily. You might put cooking in column C while someone is sick and needs extra care (just eat easy food for a few days), or put laundry and cleaning in C while relatives are visiting. If you are feeding your family a lot of prepared 'junk' food it could be because you've put cooking in column C. Do you want to leave it there or move it to column B? Are there some things in column B that another family member could take care of and free you up to put more things in your B column? Could a family member who is relying on you to prompt and enforce them doing things in column B manage without your input if they had a schedule or plan?
Don't let time with your partner stay in column C if that is where it currently is, move this to column B by making a plan. Good habits can reduce stress for everybody. Have fun with the ABC survival system, or if you don't need this right now please let me know your secret!
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