January is the time when everyone is so gung ho. We’re encouraged to share our word of the year, big goals, intentions, plans, and make all kinds of commitment.
Then, as the month rolls on, motivation fades like a piece of fabric left out in the sun too long. By February, most people are back to their original habits, quietly forgetting to update their social media streams that were so brimming with success in the first few days of the new year.
(You can listen to this podcast by clicking the “play” button below, or you can keep reading).
I’m not going to talk today about how to choose better goals or even if you should create resolutions. I want to share my tips on systems for success for year-round change.
The first step is ignoring the calendar. You can begin new habits, changes, and goals any day, any time. Do not wait for Monday, the new month, new moon, new year. There’s a proverb that I love: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” Chances are your biggest goals are ones that, 20 years ago, would have been cake. Since we haven’t yet invented time travel, start today.
By adopting this mentality you take some of the pressure off and stop feeling guilt and shame for “wasting time” and instead get started on changing the future instead of the past.
The second step is to stop changing so much at once. Have you ever met someone who is new at the gym and taking all the classes, while also starting the Whole 30 diet, just signed up for online dating, and decided to go back to college? I can nearly guarantee 30 days will bring a breakdown of epic proportions. We resist change, it’s what we do. Too much of it at once and mental instability can throw us from all our progress.
The third step is to decide how much accountability you want. Listen, you do not have to share with Facebook every time you break a sweat, cook dinner, or read a book. While important, too often we replace real accountability with shouting into the void.
If you didn’t post day 6 of your newest 30-day challenge, who would ask you about it? If no one is holding you accountable, then consider a different method. This could be sharing with a therapist or coach, asking a single friend to check in with you, or tracking with your partner. One easy way to do this on social media is to create a private Facebook group and invite an accountability friend to join. Keep it closed but have that space to share how you’re doing without broadcasting it to everyone.
What I’m saying is: I don’t need to see all my friends sweating.
The fourth step to keeping your motivation and achieving your goals is actually the most important, but without steps 1-3 you’re less likely to succeed. At this point you should accept that you can begin a change at any point, you’re ready to adopt change slowly instead of all at once, and you have a few, specific, people who are willing to hold you accountable.
Now, you need a system. Exactly what system you create will depend on your goals, so I’m going to give you 2 examples.
Goal #1 – I want to have a cleaner house and not spend half my weekend digging out from a pile of dirty dishes and clothes.
System suggestions: set a timer for 20 minutes every night at 9pm or before bed. Use this time to put away clean dishes and load up the dishwasher. If there’s time leftover wipe down the kitchen counters and clear off your dining table. Every morning, take dirty clothes to the laundry or at least collect them into a basket/bag for later. The day before trash is collected, empty every trash can in your house. If you live in a place with a dumpster, then choose one day a week to do this task. Empty the kitchen trash more frequently if you can smell it more than 2 feet away.
Goal #2 – I need to blog more consistently instead of leaving months between posts and apologizing to my audience.
System suggestions: set up time each week to write content, even if it’s not perfect. Start a bank of topics and ideas and add to it every day, even if it’s just 5 minutes. Look for a virtual assistant who can take the written copy and post it for $15/hour so there’s some accountability and fewer excuses.
Now, I’ll be sharing system suggestions on the podcast pretty often, and the number 1 thing I hear back in comments is, “that won’t work for me because…” and I have 2 challenges for you. First, give it a try. If someone else is successful in a goal that you have for yourself, then you owe it to yourself to see if what they do will work for you. Don’t dismiss suggestions out of hand, because usually systems work for many people. Second, if you give it a try and things aren’t perfect, then adapt the system to your needs. Try different things. Don’t give it all up.
Creating a system for your new habit or goal gives you a framework for success and helps set new behaviors in place, and without it you will be relying on the natural ebb and flow of motivation.
Motivation may vary; systems increase success.