Do I Practice What I Preach? (Habits, Maintenance, and Backsliding)

Hazel preaching, maybe about maintenance.

I don’t know what I’m “preaching” about here, but this Jumbotron photo from NAPO2014 cracks me up!

Dear Readers: I hope you enjoy this refreshed post from 2016.


I was helping a long-time virtual coaching client with email maintenance, teaching her about Inbox Zero, and I admitted that mine was currently more like Inbox 200. In fact, as I continued to say, I don’t do anything (maintenance-wise)  every day.

She was relieved to hear it.



Is it backsliding if you skip a day on purpose? Maybe you've just found your sweet spot. Click To Tweet

Clients seem to enjoy it when I admit to shortcomings, I guess because it makes me seem more human. More like them. Which I am, in more ways than not.

Here are some of my written confessions:

So, do I practice what I preach? Yes, and no.

Do I make my bed, do my dishes, and sort my mail into an action file every single day without fail? No.

Do I put things away that I got out to use during the day? Yes. Always? No.

But I do these things more days than not.

Do I think it’s OK to skip a day, or a week? Yes, I do. But it wouldn’t work for everyone. And I don’t think that pointing out loopholes right up front would be helpful. It would be like telling a teenager: “OK, you know the speed limit is 60, right? But if you are careful, and if traffic is light, and if there are no cops around, you can probably get away with going 70.” It might be true, and there might be some students in the class who would keep that concept in mind and not abuse it, but what self-respecting drivers training instructor would actually say that to a student? Do they do it themselves, though? Probably.

Habits make things easier

The point of creating a daily habit is that you don’t have to think, every day, “Am I going to do it today? If not, when am I going to do it?” It’s SO MUCH EASIER to just do it daily. I have a few good habits, and a few bad ones. I am, according to the Four Tendencies quiz in Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before, a Questioner — with a streak of Rebel, which does not help one little bit. So I tend to make things harder on myself than they would be for, say, an Upholder or an Obliger.

Do I practice most of the things I preach most of the time? Yes. Often enough that if you visited my home, or examined my calendar, you would agree I am pretty organized! Can I find my scissors when I need them? Yes. Do I get things done on time? Yes. Can I help others get organized? Absolutely!

Besides, whoever said getting organized and staying that way was easy?

Certainly not me. Case in point:

Find maintenance strategies that work for you

Here are a few examples:

Know this: Backsliding is normal

Everybody takes a day off now and then. And things happen, like illness, travel, and emergencies. And things slide — the house gets messy or you forget an appointment because your system of task and calendar management got interrupted.

It’s not that it was a bad system. If it worked for you before, it can still work for you. Just get back on track easily as soon as you can without beating yourself up about it.

But…is it even considered backsliding if you skip a day on purpose? I don’t think so. I think you may have just found your sweet spot between being orderly, being productive…and just being yourself.

Procrastination and perfectionism

Consider, too, whether you are procrastinating. Procrastination is a resistance to doing the thing…but why? Does it not sound fun? Do you not know how to do it? Have you not broken it down into do-able steps? Are you not convinced it needs doing? Or are you just in the procrastitivity zone?

Are you a perfectionist? Perfection can sometimes be about fear of how others will perceive you. Good enough, most of the time, is good enough. And done, almost always, is better than perfect.

So, if I don’t practice what I preach, at least not to the letter, not all the time, why do I not feel like a failure? It’s because I have systems in place that work for me. And everything has a home. And I know how to get back on track when I need to. And because I believe in myself.

Last confession of the day:

Sometimes, if my house is a mess and I haven’t tidied up before bedtime, I think, “I hope I don’t die tonight!” You know, lest “they” make the mistake of thinking my house is always that way. LOL!

Let me ask you: Do YOU practice what YOU preach?

Does this blog article make you feel better about taking a day off?

Please share with us in the comments below!



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  1. Pam Mirehouse on May 13, 2016 at 10:08 am

    I like the mantra: Progress equals Happiness. We are all works in progress and if we are going in the right direction life does feel pretty good. I agree that we letting our own humanness shine through gives others the courage to be themselves. Why do we tend to apologize when people come to our house when it is not ‘perfect’? That is one of my pet peeves! I want to be the person that is warm, welcoming, and not worried about being perfect!

  2. Janet Barclay on May 13, 2016 at 10:36 am

    Okay, I confess… I give lots of advice on blogging and social media to my clients and followers, but I DON’T always do the things I recommend. What I’m doing is working for me, and although I know I could probably do a few things better, if it comes down to spending an hour tweaking my blog post title or spending that same hour on a client project, it’s a no-brainer which one is the priority.

    • Hazel Thornton on May 14, 2016 at 6:48 am

      It hadn’t occurred to me that maybe I need to hear others confess too. Thanks, Janet! 🙂

  3. Seana G Turner on May 14, 2016 at 6:48 am

    I am pretty good about practicing what I preach, but sometimes when it is just me at home alone, I am tempted to not put everything back right away. Funny that I am more vulnerable to slacking when no one else is home… I guess no one else to be surprised or shocked or hold me accountable!

    • Hazel Thornton on May 15, 2016 at 1:27 pm

      Ha ha…see Julie’s comment and my reply!

  4. Andi Willis on May 14, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    Great advice! Last week I had a TV crew coming to shoot some segments and we were going to shoot in 4 different areas of my home. Was everything ready to go with no work? Absolutely not!!! But since I have systems in place the tidying went much quicker than even I anticipated.

  5. Julie Stobbe on May 14, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    I am very good at practising what I preach until I am the only one at home then I let things be more relaxed because I am not setting an example for anyone. I do agree that setting habits and routines make thing happen almost automatically and take a lot less energy and time then when you need to figure out what to do each time something occurs.

    • Hazel Thornton on May 15, 2016 at 11:01 am

      My most recent example of identifying with this was the last time I had a houseguest. Things were spotless (guest had her own quarters to mess up as she chose, but common areas kept tidy). A day after she left I looked around (common areas) and thought, “What happened here?” LOL!

  6. Sabrina Quairoli on May 22, 2016 at 3:56 am

    I have a smaller home so I keep things neat and put things away after I use them and prefer to do the one in two out method when possible. These habits have kept me from cluttering up the home when I just don’t have the time to clean. I too change systems and realize that certain systems don’t work. I think the important point is that i learn what works for me and my family so I don’t judge myself if I need to change a system. Thanks for sharing, Hazel!

    • Hazel Thornton on May 23, 2016 at 6:30 am

      Sounds like you have found your sweet spot, Sabrina!

  7. Linda Samuels on January 15, 2024 at 2:11 pm

    I practice what I preach. However, what I “preach” isn’t about being perfect. It’s about recognizing we’re human, we are making progress, and we might backslide occasionally. Things happen. We have great intentions and then boom, a stressful life emergency happens, making it hard to keep up with all the chores. Or, we go through the holidays with lots of parties and extra treats. The scale doesn’t look so great after over-indulging.

    Does it mean we can’t get back to a more organized living space or that we can’t drop those extra pounds? Of course not. We didn’t fail. We experienced a time when our focus temporarily shifted. And that’s OK. The key is being able to return to what was working. You can reset anytime, and today is a great day to begin.

  8. Julie Bestry on January 15, 2024 at 11:48 pm

    I practice what I preach, because PRACTICE IS NOT PERFECTION. We practice a musical instrument because we haven’t mastered it yet; the same with a foreign language or yoga. People practice religions because faith (and faith traditions) cannot be hewed to 100% perfectly (or there’s no faith involved, just following instructions.

    Like you, I have systems. I’m organized. The only time I misplace something (and it’s momentary) is when I’m not being mindful and get interrupted, like when I’m talking on the phone and end the call because the doorbell rings or I’ve stubbed my toe, and the urgency takes presence over the systemic and orderly. But that’s rare. But there are some things I purposely pile up (like the discarded envelopes and junk mail) because I open my mail in front of the TV, and sometimes snack there, and prefer to toss all of the junk at once. Does it sometimes (rarely) stay there a second day? Sure. But the system ensures that I won’t let it pile higher.

    I’m an Obliger; the problem being an obliger when you live alone is that it’s awfully easy to not worry about not living up to other’s expectations when nobody is around to expect anything. If I were an Upholder, I’d be tidier. I’m organized, but I also don’t fret about an unmade bed; I’m organized, but I don’t care if I leave my (rinsed) dishes in the sink for a bit before putting them in the dishwasher.

    But I have learned that it’s easy for me to backslide, not on household things, where I have no pressure, but the very things as an upholder I should care about. Like blogging? I know that if I skip a week, it’s so much harder to get back into my rhythm, so I make a rule to only skip on weeks where there are Monday holidays…and then I didn’t skip on Christmas, New Year’s, and MLK Day, because I knew that if I skipped at the start of the year, it would be tougher to hew to the plan. Human brains are wonky that way.

    I preach what a practice, know that it’s very much a practice and not a perfection.

  9. Jonda Sue Beattie on January 16, 2024 at 4:05 pm

    I practice what I preach. And I preach “good enough” is just fine. I have my daily habits and schedules that I love to follow because it just happens, and I don’t have to agonize over when I plan on doing tasks. I like to plan everything, but we all know life happens. I always feel like if I have a plan, I can easily move to a plan B or C or….
    I share my backslides with clients when appropriate and then tell them what I learned from them and how I adjusted.

  10. Janet Schiesl on January 18, 2024 at 4:10 pm

    Such an honest post, and I practice what I preach. Do I feel better about taking a day off? sometimes. I like things to be a certain way in my house and my routine makes me happy. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Jill Katz on January 21, 2024 at 7:48 am

    This blog post made me laugh – so thank you. A good laugh is always a good thing! I love the flexibility of this post. Different things work for different people with different brains and tendencies (I am an obliger & questioner, an interesting combo). I agree that experimenting by using strategies such as rules, mantras, and systems are the key to finding your sweet spot. An awareness of procrastination and sitting with the discomfort to see why those feelings are coming up is a great tip. I am not one of those organizers that has always been organized since the age of 3 and so I find this post extremely relatable. Well done!

    • Hazel Thornton on January 24, 2024 at 9:55 am

      Agreed — a good laugh is always a good thing! I’m glad you enjoyed the post and chimed in, Jill!

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