It happens to most of us. As a new year begins we are full of good resolutions. We want to lose weight, quit smoking, do more exercise, eat a healthier diet, be more productive at work, strike a better life-work balance, you name it.
No wonder we end up feeling overwhelmed and as soon as the “new” of the new year wears off we forget about all of our good intents. Luckily, there are a few good habits that can help us stay on track with whatever project we want to embark on.
Here are my favourite ones.
1) Start small. Every thousand-mile journey starts with a single step. Be clear about your direction and then set things in motion, one step at a time. Do not expect to achieve everything at once. Rather find ways to enjoy the journey.
2) Take baby steps. Get in the practice of doing them regularly and consistently. If you plan to go on a diet, for example, take two little actions such as drinking more water and going for a 15-minute walk every day. Once these activities have become an established part of your routine, move on and introduce another baby step into your day.
3) Set a timer. Whatever your aim, setting a short amount of time and committing to work exclusively on the task on hand can truly do wonders. No email, no Facebook, no Twitter, no TV, no phone, no interruption, nothing. Just you and your task. The time you set can be as short as 15 minutes, but make sure you do it every day for as long as it takes for complete the task. There is no point at working at your project five hours flat out and then feel so burnt out that you do not want to work at your project at all the following day. Eventually, when this has become a habit in your routine, you can decide to increase (slightly) the amount of time you devote to your task. You can apply this technique whether you need to work at a project you find difficult to tackle, or to get into the habit of doing something healthier, like getting some exercise, meditating, having a break to re-charge your batteries, cook a healthy meal, get in touch with family and friends, or even revise for exams.
4) Find a buddy. I have never liked going to the gym. No matter how good my intentions at getting fit and losing weight, I just can’t make myself go through the hassle of going to the gym. Some years ago, however, I made a deal with a friend of mine. So we decided that if she was willing to come with me, then I was willing to commit to making the effort. I was at the gym at 8 o’clock in the morning every day for a few months! (in fact, being out of the house so early was already an achievement in itself for me!). Knowing that I was doing this with someone else was the key ingredient to keeping me motivated. The same can be done for studying, revising, or writing up. Just find a friend or a colleague to share the journey with. You’ll both get the benefits.
5) Do the most important things in the first two hours of your day. As simple as that. It took me a very long time to put this into practice. There is always the tendency of doing the easiest stuff first. In the past, I used to spend a lot of time on practicalities first thing in the morning: answering emails, filling in expense claims, sorting out my lecture notes, and so on. By the time I sat down to do some of the other (admittedly more important) stuff, it was almost time to pack and go home. Eventually, I learnt to set my priorities right and to leave the unimportant stuff for the last hour of the day.
6) Celebrate your success, big or small. Let’s face it, we are so busy trying to get more and more done that we often do not take the time to acknowledge what we have achieved already. This can leave us with a sense of exhaustion and the feeling that the bar has been raised once again. Acknowledging and celebrating our achievements gives us a sense of completion and motivates us to move forward with increased energy.
7) Finally, if putting into practice the advice I have shared with you still proves too difficult, you may want to consider finding a mentor. Research shows that students who do best are those who have teachers interested in them. I believe this is true of anyone. I have always performed far better in anything I was doing every time I knew someone else cared. Having a mentor can be an extremely useful resource to help you move forward.
So, now, what were your new-year resolutions this year, and how many of them have you accomplished so far? Which techniques have worked best for you to help you achieve your intentions? Share them with us. We’d love to hear from you!