It’s the first week of January. And we all know that means:
Some people make resolutions, others think “it’s just a new calendar” and others choose a theme to focus on. For anyone creating habits or aiming for goals, there is advice around this time of year for doing it efficiently, effectively and fast.
However, I’m not really known for my speed.
On the evening of January 1st, I decided that I needed to get back into the habit of early rising. So the next morning, I woke at 9am. and the next, 8:59am. And the next, at 8:59. yesterday and this morning? 8:35am. Tomorrow morning? 8:30am.
For the purpose of this article, let’s assume all resolutions [weight loss, healthy eating, joining a club, reading more books, watching less TV etc] are covered under the metaphor of waking early.
Now. If tomorrow, I wake at 8:45, I’ll still be pleased.
Because I know that if I have tried to wake up at 7am on the 2nd; I’ve have failed: And slept until 11am every morning since.
Any day I wake before 9:05am, I’m congratulating myself.
And though I’m giving myself until the first weekend of February to reach 7am, I know many people who’ll have tried the 7am from the beginning, but will fail by the 15th.
There are so many articles out there about resolutions; literally on every blog I’ve read. And I’ve noticed some pretty key themes going around:
- Small Increments [Take Baby Steps]
- Know Your Why [Motivation]
- Consistency [Around 30 Days]
- Written Reminders [Progress & Plans]
- Details [Be Precise]
Let’s break this down a little.
1. Small Increments [Take Baby Steps]
Don’t try to wake at 5am from tomorrow if you normally wake at 8. Cut back around 15-30 minutes and keep at that time for at least 3 days, 7 being better. Then take the next step of 15 or 30 minutes earlier. Notice your energy levels and go to bed earlier as necessary.
2. Know Your Why [Motivation]
A common problem with New Years Resolutions, is the lack of reason. Why do you want to lose weight? Is it for the energy levels, the thinner figure, the added strength or so you can run a half-marathon? Know your reasons and really reinforce them. Make sure it’s a goal you’re passionate about reaching, else you’ll trip before the finish line.
3. Consistency [Around 30 Days]
I detail how to apply this below, along with number 5, but it’s important that you keep up the habit for around 4-8 weeks. Some say two weeks, others day 21 days and others say 30. For me, six weeks is best if I hope to have the habit so ingrained that I can miss it for a day and still stay on track, but I’d recommend a minimum of 30 days.
4. Written Reminders [Progress & Plans]
There’s no point having this goal if you don’t think about it. If you aren’t being constantly reminded and motivated; you won’t act in accordance. I also find that writing down current progress can be a brilliant reminder of how far I’ve come.. If you’ve completed the tasks in the pas, it’s a sign that it’ll be easier. “I did three weeks last time, what’s one week in comparison?”
5. Details [Be Precise]
The second most common flaw in resolution-making is a lack of precision. If you’re goal is to lose 15 pounds in 6 months, and you lay out steps (run for 30 mins twice a week and swim 20 lengths each Saturday); you’ll be able to track your progress. Adding a time-limit is brillant, as you can work out your weekly/monthly goals and if you don’t meet them, can act (up your running to three times a week). You’ll also feel the results clearly and are much more likely to succeed compared to someone whose goal is “lose weight”.
Now. I’ve been doing this less than a week; and it’s both harder and easier than I’d first expected. By 9:15am, I’m awake and glad of it. I feel refreshed, regardless of little/poor sleep because it’s quiet, calm and I know I’ve nothing pressing to do until 9:30. However, those first thirty minutes even are a blur of yawns and “shall-i-return-to-bed” thoughts. At the moment, I’m gaining no time, as it takes 30 minutes to wake. But a) that will lessen and b) even so, waking at 7 will give me the time from 7:30 onwards to get ahead/chill/work etc.
This time next week, I need to wake up at 7:15am to get to University for a lecture. The original plan was to aim for 7:15 on the 31stJan; decreasing my waking time by 30 minutes a week.
Due to this knowledge, and the knowledge that I’d have to get up at 8:30 today and tomorrow for work; I’ve skipped ahead.
Having said that, if next Wednesday I wake at 8:30am [instead of my original goal] I will still be thrilled. And I’ll keep it at 8:30 until the weekend, when it’ll switch to 8:15am.
Along side this habit I have four goals, which I’ve planned to complete in 6 months. I split them into segments and I try to do something toward them EVERY DAY. This is key. In order to complete a goal, once must do something on a REGULAR basis.
Let’s look at an example:
I want a job.
On Monday, I edited/updated my CV and sent it off to my cousin and a friend for constructive criticism. On Tuesday I checked the University job website and the experiment database [they pay for you to participate]. Today I worked on my eBook. These things take between 2 and 20 minutes to complete; and they get me closer to my goal.
I also want to teach [this blog is one method of doing that]. I broke that goal down to * upscale my blog and * get comfortable speaking in public.
So. I’ve been working on blog posts daily; anything from a title to a paragraph to three separate posts. Even publishing a blog I wrote a week ago counts towards this goal.
Secondly, I’ve offered to give a short workshop on new years habits, based on the ideas I’ll talk about in the Habits series I’m working on for this blog. I’ll be doing that next week to the Spiritual Society at Sussex. These are people I’ve given a talk to before, so it’s slightly less nerve-wracking.
And that step, I can cut down to:
- prepare answer sheets
- prepare rough guide – intro first, then questions or should I ask for what they want to start?, include a couple examples [my getting job one above maybe?]
- clearly demonstrate the process with habits, goals and themes
- questions to plant in the audience by stooges [e.g. The president of the society can pretend to ask me a really difficult, unplanned question, which I’ve planned an answer to; to get others asking difficult questions which will challenge me]
- compile a list of resources for them to find more details [4-hours work week, Zen Habits etc.
- compile a feedback form so I can implement good and improve bad points into a longer, maybe income-generating workshop later in the year.
And I can do each of those steps on one or over a couple of days. The rough guide may take a couple as I’ll set aside a single ay to edit/read-through/tweak/show the president etc.
These are just examples of how to handle the new year; what are you up to? Any tips or hints for my own plans? Have you given or attended a talk/workshop and found certain things useful? Let me know by leaving a comments.
P.S. I’m currently working on an eBook and two new series’ for this blog; one about Early Rising and a second about Habits in general. Thank you for being patient with me as I prepare these posts for you and please let me know if there are any topics you specifically want help with.