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Creature of habit

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By Carolyn Ten Broeck, Editor

No exaggeration, I get close to 400 emails daily through the editor address; another 200 in my main personal account. With over 600 emails each day, I often overlook something or file something in a trash folder that's not really garbage.

Monday morning as I sifted through the 1,200 work emails since Friday, the above graphic caught my eye and rather than send it automatically to trash, I read it.

The accompanying press release concerned wasting money at the gas pump and stated that many people are because they're creatures of habit – patronizing the same gas station because it's what they always do.

My first thought was that I certainly fit that bill.

More than 95 percent of the time, I purchase gasoline at the same location in Williston. It's not so much loyalty to a brand. It's not necessarily convenience. Let's face it, with seven or eight stations within the city limits, they're all fairly convenient.

So why do I fuel up at the same location?

Because it's become part of a routine.

And that got me to thinking about other things that I do from habit, without much thought.

The list grew longer and longer the more I thought, bringing me to the realization that this type of behavior is what catapults people into the doldrums of life.

I'm not talking about hitting the bathroom first thing in the morning or brushing your teeth before bed.(And really are you brushing the full three minutes that dentists recommend?)

It's the other by-rote activities we're all prone to do, whether we admit them or not.

Example: I'm a slave to my work email. A little red bubble pops up on my computer to notify me of a new message, and I almost always drop what I'm doing to see what it is. Why?

Time management specialists advise we check our work email three to six times a day. In my business, dependent on email, that number isn't enough.

But once deadline has passed and I know I can't fit in any more ads and news, I should stop and check it half an hour before I leave for the day. Ha! Nope, like Pavlov's dog, I'm conditioned to look every time the red bubble appears. I spend a good chunk of my work day reading/deleting/responding to email. By day's end, I feel like I've accomplished a lot but truth is, I'm still behind with other tasks.

I just checked my phone and I have 191 unread emails in my red bubble. Obviously, I don't care that Chili's is offering free salsa and chips or Carter's has a 60 percent off online sale. Eventually I'll clear them out but not until it's time – according to my self-imposed schedule.

Daily, I walk in the door at home and after rubbing Dobby's belly a full minute, and giving the hubs a brief peck, I fill the coffee maker and head to the closet where I change clothes and throw the work clothes onto a nearby chair. They don't get hung up or thrown in the wash until Saturday – another one of my habits.

With the coffee in hand, I grab my iPad and retreat to the sunroom for 30 minutes to "decompress" before starting dinner. Sometimes I have a doughnut with the coffee. Sometimes it's a cookie.

This is why I am fat. Instead of riding my bike, practicing yoga or walking the block to decompress, I'm stuffing myself with sweets. Habit. Bad one.

Weekends are worse. If I don't have work responsibilities, I lollygag for two hours over coffee before setting out for the weekend chores. Every. Single. Weekend.

When en route to Georgia, I eat the same fast foods, purchase gas at the same stations and take breaks at the same rest areas. All habits and not really something I think about. Just do.

I shop the same stores and eat at the same restaurants. Varying from routine can be upsetting and disappointing. But am I missing out on something bigger, better, cheaper by not breaking habits?

When I think where I buy gas is habit, I am forced to admit that there are many other things in my life that need a change.

Those changes may save me money. They may open up doors to bigger and better. They may make me lose weight. They may make me a happier well-rounded person.

But right now, I can't think anymore about it.

Since I've been writing this, six emails have popped up in my red bubble. And they're screaming to be opened.