I came home last Tuesday a little lost. As I had gone about my day in the gray drizzle that defines winter in Virginia a little piece of me wandered away and didn’t make it back. I was melancholy, frustrated, tired and questioning. It was January and I felt bombarded with newness. It’s a fresh start! Make something of it! Time to get in shape for bikini season. It’s a whole new year. You have all this time to do something with yourself. I know what I’ll do, I’ll pull the covers over my head until the month is over. Take that January.
But you can’t do that in real life, at least not for long (I’ll admit to spending a few hours curled up with my imaginary pity party friends). But I was stuck. I had Goals for this year and now, to use a sports term, I was choking. Not the dramatic in the moment choking of big league games. Nope, I was everyday choking by choosing the easy way out, the errands, the chores, the “stress relief” time; anything, but facing those Goals.
The good thing though? It IS January and though I lost two weeks I have a whole year. In fact I have as many years as I want (and God provides) to see these dreams come true, but it’s going to take work and a lot of it. So how to get unstuck? I needed to take smaller bites and have a better understanding of myself. Here are 4 things I thought of to help me stay on track and hopefully they will help you too, whether you’re building a business like me or trying to lose those extra Christmas cookies (ok, again like me).
Make Daily To-Do Lists: Sit down on the weekend and make a brief list of goals or tasks for each day. It might seem elementary, but this usually helps me understand exactly what needs to be done and gives me a schedule so I don’t waste time, or make excuses, because I don’t have anything planned. C.J. Hayden in her book Get Clients Now! A 28-Day Marketing Program for Professional, Consultants and Coaches suggests organizing your tasks by priority (A-C) and finishing your A-list items first.
Understand your Habits – I hope to eventually write a whole piece on this topic, but for now I’ll just apply the general idea here. With a little bit of trial and error you can figure out if your behavior is due to a habit and then you can modify the actions and rewards that are part of a habit loop (cue – action – reward) as explained by Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. For example, your habit might be that you come home from work (cue) and snack while watching T.V. (action) to fill yourself up (reward), but you’re trying to restrict your calories and the snacking is blowing your diet. To stop that habit you might find that waiting until after dinner to turn the T.V. on will help you not to snack. It’s not a fool-proof method and may take some time to discover your cues, is it coming home or turning on the T.V. that cues snacking? At the very least you’ll have to do a detailed analysis of your own actions and what you perceive as rewards, always good things to understand. As for myself, since I am trying to start a business by working after my 9-5 job I need to break the habit that tells my brain that coming home means the work day is over.
Have Measurable Goals and Dead Lines: Both elements here, measurable and finite, help to ensure goals are met. Measurable goals give you the ability to watch your progress. How close to meeting the goal are you? 50%? 20? Being able to mark your progress will help to motivate you to keep going. Setting realistic deadlines for yourself is also important. This means you are going to have to do something now to accomplish the goal in time. Following C.J. Hayden’s advice I made 4 goals. A one month goal, a six month goal and a year goal, all with set dates. The final goal is my big shiny “in a perfect world” goal. I set a two year time limit for this goal, but will reassess once progress on the others has been made.
Make an Action Plan: I really like action plans because they call for you to be strategic in your plan to reach your – measurable and finite – goals. As an example, we’ll use this since it’s the most common new year’s resolution, let’s say you are trying to lose weight. How many ways are there to lose weight? Well if you skip fad diets there really are only two tried-and-true methods: eat less and exercise. So break these down into smaller pieces. Eating less can be: cut out added sugar, eating more vegetables, eating healthier snacks, C.J Hayden describes these as “Success ingredients”. Then make a daily plan to accomplish these smaller goals. Choose at least one daily/weekly task which will help prepare you to succeed, say shopping once a week and only eating what you bought during that trip. Then choose 5-7 tasks which will keep you on track, dump all your change out of your wallet so you can’t use the vending machine, spend half an hour each day cataloguing your food consumption, etc. You can tailor these to items that work for you whether it’s calling a motivational buddy or eating all the veggies on your plate first. You then get to add a “dessert” item. These are items that will help you feel good about yourself or will help prepare you to succeed. Good options for desserts are getting 8 hours of sleep (to help keep your self-control – which is limited – at its peak), pray or meditate about your goals for 15 minutes, buy yourself flowers if that motivates you. By the end of this action plan exercise you should have several (I have 11) things you can do daily/weekly to help yourself stay on track.
Lastly, if you are feeling unmotivated, frustrated or self-conscious DO SOMETHING to meet your goals. Take a walk or do some yoga (my go-tos) and then do one of your action items. For me it was putting my butt down in a chair and writing this. You will be one step closer to your goal and though it may take 1,000 more, at least you will be moving forward.
Do you have a goal for this year? I would love to hear about it in the comments! What is your action plan for reaching your goal? How do you motivate yourself? Maybe your methods will help someone else.