If you’re like most people, the first thing you do in the beginning of a new year is make a resolution and swear to stick to it.
But, chances are, lurking in the back of your mind will be the ghosts of resolutions past – the ones that never survived to see Groundhog Day.
Why are New Year’s resolutions notorious for falling flat? Well, most ill-fated resolutions either require free time or proclaim to create it, and the realities of a jam – packed schedule are usually no match for these good intentions.
So while the goal may sound simple, actually trying to accomplish it can be discouraging, so the goal eventually falls by the wayside.
But if you’ve made one of these popular promises to set aside time for something important – whether it’s working out, volunteering or spending more time with loved ones – you don’t have to accept the fate that your resolution will quickly run aground.
Just follow these 10 steps for fitting a new activity into an already busy lifestyle, and you’ll be sure to achieve success.
If you want this year to be different from the years before, you have to set clearly defined objectives. With your goals and this plan for achieving them, nothing is impossible.
Step 1: Name It and Claim It
Just as jumping on an unfamiliar highway without a map can take you miles out of your way, trying to achieve a goal without a plan will inevitably cost you time down the road. So first write down exactly what you want to achieve and how you plan to do it.
To make any type of gain, you have to make a plan to get there. Otherwise you’re just going in several different directions and not working toward that goal.
If your goal is to exercise more, then decide when, where and how often you want to work out. You might determine that you want to go to the gym 3 times a week after work for 45 minutes. Next, break the goal down into increments that feel achievable. Perhaps you’ll start by going to the gym just once in a week and giving yourself two more weeks to build up to three times a week.
To prevent the goal from becoming exaggerated or forgotten, post it where you can look at it often.
When we don’t document our goals, we forget what we were really focusing on.
At this stage, you should also spread the news by telling someone about your goal. Once you tell someone you’re going to do something, it’s easier to stick to it because they’re expecting you to do it. Now is also the time to ask your loved ones for support and flexibility as you adopt a new schedule.
Step 2: Come Clean
The funny thing about New Year’s resolutions is that they tend to repeat themselves. Chances are you’ve tried to reach this year’s goal many times before. To get a different result this year, take some time to think about why you haven’t been able to stick to the goal in previous years.
Take a few moments and come clean with weaknesses of the past. Think about why you haven’t succeeded, what has pulled you off track, or why the goal has been so overwhelming. When it comes to fitness, don’t ignore your exercise history just because you’re ashamed of failed attempts.
There’s a lot of important information buried inside of you about what kinds of things motivate you and what kinds of things just do not work. Doing a mental inventory will prevent you from wasting time with strategies or activities that don’t suit who you are or what you like to do.
Step 3: Do Your Homework
Oftentimes, getting started on a task is difficult because we over-estimate how much the task will require, and we become overwhelmed before we ever begin. You may have been putting off exercise because you didn’t think you had the time it would take to achieve measurable gains.
Yet fitness experts point out that exercise done even in small increments can be effective. It’s important to debunk the myth that exercise must be done in one-hour blocks. You can intersperse 5-minute efforts at an elevated heart rate throughout your day to accumulate 30 minutes.
Spend an evening or Sunday afternoon on the internet or in a bookstore to research what your goal really requires. If you plan to start hitting the gym, I recommend looking into time efficient training methods that best suit your fitness needs, such as walking and interval training. I have programs to do just that and begin to give you hope.
Step 4: Reach Out And Touch Someone
Fitness experts can’t stress enough the value of having a reliable exercise buddy or a friend with a similar fitness goal, and this suggestion applies to any undertaking. I think it’s extremely important to have a support system. It’s also nice if that person is going through the same program as you, because then you can identify with each other.
Connecting with someone who shares your goal will improve your motivation and introduce accountability, thus ensuring that you make time for the goal even when you’re tempted to let it slide. If you don’t know someone equally motivated, look for a related online support group, a local exercise club or an interest group devoted to whatever it is you set out to accomplish.
In the Body By Mj programs, we have private communities dedicated to the support you need to succeed.
Step 5: Give Your Space A Makeover
Free moments will still seem few and far between, but once you make small changes in organization, you’ll start to notice extra time here and there. Spend part of the weekend surveying the places where you spend most of your time. If you don’t already have them, create spaces devoted to the items you need most often.
I think being organized is probably the most difficult thing for people to do because they’re not used to disciplining themselves. Most busy people get in the habit of tossing important things aside, and then they forget where they stored them and they waste an awful lot of time trying to find them.
For example if you’re a busy mom with a toddler, you want to keep your gym bag in your car so you can adapt to your son’s unpredictable schedule or fit in a workout if free time arises unexpectedly. The more prepared you are, the more likely you are to go to the gym.
Step 6: Trim Around The Edges
You’ll discover even more free time if you take your discipline one step further. Think about what distracts you the most – such as email or your cell phone – and devote a few days to practice cutting back on those diversions. If your goal is to take evening walks, start coming home from work and changing into your workout clothes without checking your messages first.
Don’t consider yourself “Home” until you’ve taken your walk.
I recommend creating some rules for using your cell phone. In a perfect world, no one brings a cell phone to a work out. But if turning off your phone won’t be feasible during your new activity, at least develop guidelines for which calls you’ll take and how long you’ll talk. Stick to those guidelines at designated times during the week.
Step 7: Commit To A Calendar
When was the last time you penciled in “spend time with the kids” on your calendar? Sometimes the most important things are the ones we fail to schedule. I think this happens because some people don’t like the idea of being trapped in a calendar or on a schedule. However, if you don’t schedule the important activity, then that’s the thing that’s going to get sacrificed in a time crunch.
Also consider that setting time aside for an activity doesn’t mean you can’t be spontaneous. For example, your busy lifestyle might require that you schedule personal time with each of your children, but the content of that time can be quite flexible depending on what your child’s needs are and what you feel in the mood for.
Experts agree it’s essential to invest in a reliable calendar – whether it’s an old fashioned paper calendar or a digital one – and to be willing to schedule “appointments” with yourself or loved ones
Step 8: Ante Up!
To jump start your new schedule, commit yourself to the new activity for at least one hour. Think of this large block of time as an initial investment. If your goal is to start working out, schedule an appointment with a personal trainer to get help in drawing up an exercise plan.
You’ll need to have done the earlier steps, however, because you’ll get the most out of your time with your trainer, if you can bring your calendar, state your clearly defined goal, and be honest about what distracts you and why you failed to stick to an exercise schedule in the past. Seeing a trainer doesn’t have to go on into infinity, but it’s an excellent way to get started with specific exercises that are tailored to your needs.
I offer online coaching programs, as a great alternative to fill in the gap and ease the frustration of trying to find a quality and affordable trainer locally.
Even if your goal is to spend more quality time with your children, an initial time investment will make it easier to achieve success. Make a list of all the activities you have in mind, ask for your children’s input, obtain a calendar of kid-friendly community events, and start a file with coupons and maps to avoid wasting time in the future.
Step 9: Reward Yourself
As your prepare to do the new activity for one whole week in accordance with your goal, think about what kind of reward you might require along the way. Are you the kind of person who needs such incentives? When will you know you’ve truly adapted your schedule to fit the new activity and how will you celebrate?
You might decide to buy yourself some new gym shoes after you successfully hit the gym 3 times per week for an entire month. Fitness experts agree that knowing yourself and what motivates you is the best way to develop a reward schedule.
Just be sure to document your reward schedule so it remains concrete – you always know what you’re working toward – and don’t reward yourself so often that the perks lose their significance.
Step 10: Try It! – You’ll Like It!
You’ve arrived at the point where there’s nothing left to do except put your new schedule to the test. No matter how many doubts remain or how difficult it has been to find time in your schedule, you’re sure to feel fantastic after you get a taste of achieving an important personal goal that you’ve long been putting off.
If your goal is fitness-related, you’ll be hooked when you feel the rush of endorphins that comes after a workout. When people start to work out regularly, they become addicted to that good feeling that they get afterward. So when people are having a problem with their commitment to exercise, I always get them to think about how much better they’ll feel when they’re done.
No matter what personal goals you’ve set, you’ll see the benefits of adapting your schedule to take time out to do something you truly value. In most, if not all cases, you’ll find that if you’re happy and you’re doing the things that are important to you, you’re going to be so much more efficient in your job and your life.
Got questions? Leave a comment! Let’s chat.
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