The new year is a popular time for making resolutions, setting goals, and trying to be our better selves. Gym memberships skyrocket, catchy self-help books briefly get more attention than dessert-themed cookbooks, Goodwill donation piles gather, and most notably, our “to-do” lists increase expansively.
Good intentions look great on paper and often help us feel temporarily better. However, there can be a discrepancy between well-meaning intentions and intended outcome. If a goal is set too high—as opposed to setting down-to-earth goals, focused on incremental changes—chances are that the goal will not be met, which only increases frustration.
Setting healthy lifestyle goals, such as joining the gym or planning to de-clutter your home, ought to be encouraged—but at the same time, devising effective time management skills can help us reach our goals with less distress, and persevere rather than giving up after a few weeks.
Part of effective time management means admitting and recognizing limitations, such as time, financial hardships, and family commitments. Again, good intentions are great. Even better, though, are smart, pragmatic intentions devised to reach satisfying outcomes. Reasonable, time-tested techniques can be used to make sure that resolutions last, long-term commitments are upheld, and goals are accomplished.
Tip #1: Keep one “master” to-do list, as well as subsequent daily (or weekly) to-do lists with achievable goals. Constantly referring to a long to-do list can be overwhelming, and often creates confusion about which tasks should take priority. Breaking down one to two realistic goals on a daily or weekly basis will mean that these goals can actually be achieved. No matter how busy the day can get, completing simple tasks—such as paying a bill, taking out the trash, or responding to an email—can be done within a matter of minutes. Putting off these easy tasks only means additional tasks get piled on for a later date.
Tip #2: Commit to completing one to two goals before you settle down for the day. This system operates as a self-bribery mechanism: you will not get your reward, such as dinner, a drink, or the latest Netflix crime drama, until you complete your tasks.
Tip #3: Plan on a Cheat Day. A Cheat Day could amount to a full day off from completing tasks, exercise, healthy eating, or operating at full capacity. Cheat Days can serve as a rest day or can be merged into the workday. A day off helps to re-charge and let out any inner-rebellions, such as eating ice cream or laying on the couch binge-watching movies.
Tip #4: Have an accountability buddy: find a partner to reach your goals with, such as an exercise partner, a fellow organizer, or a friend to help work with you on a project. Or, consider joining a group of like-minded people—a writer’s group, a political meetup, a walking club, or something of the sort.
Tip #5: Set up your tools in advance. Place your workout clothes next to your bed (if you work out in the morning) or next to your desk (if you exercise after work). Make your food the night before. Leave books or meditation tools (cushion seat, bell) out the night before in a neat and orderly fashion.
Tip #6: Remain flexible. Goals change. If a goal starts to appear unrealistic or devoid of motivation and passion, consider altering the goal. What is most important is continuing progress. If you realize it is unrealistic or financially unsound to work out five days a week at Crossfit, consider working out three to four days a week by walking, or creating a time-cutting gym routine instead, rather than giving up.
Tip #7: Follow real-life inspirations on social media that match your lifestyle. Chances are there are a plethora of working parents, broke college students, tired professionals, and more that make daily posts with tips, challenges, and stories. Also consider hiding social media posts that may distract you from achieving your goal (i.e. if you are trying to cut back on drinking, at least temporarily hiding posts from heavy drinkers will make it easier for you to stick with your goal).
Tip #8: Plan for unplanned days. Family emergencies, health problems, work debacles, and emotional distress sometimes come unexpectedly, often guiding us off course. Unforeseen setbacks are temporary; there will be days you will not be able to stick to your goals, and days when you will have to make adjustments.
Tip #9: Come clean with your resolutions and goals. Will the outcome of each goal help you to live a healthier and more fulfilling life? Which goals stem from what you think you should be doing rather than what is best for you?
Tip #10: Change and growth are inevitable. What constitutes a goal earlier in the year may change several months down the line. Part of setting resolutions and goals is to ignite change and growth. As we continue to work on reaching our full potential, our needs will change. Rather than being hard on yourself when a goal no longer works, consider that you may have changed and may now be at a different place in your life.