Ensure your New Year goals last beyond January 2nd with these top tips from Hilly Janes, author of Latte or Cappuccino?: 125 Decisions That Will Change Your Life
Ensure your New Year goals last beyond January 2nd with these top tips
If you are trying to break a bad habit, like drinking too much in the evenings or never getting around to tidying up, a clear, specific goal is more likely to work than I really will go easy on the wine. For example, Ill limit myself to a small glass of wine with dinner twice a week or Ill set aside Saturday mornings to clean the house. Choose one goal, rather than a few, as it is much easier to focus our efforts on achieving one thing at a time, rather than tackling a couple at once. Research by scientists at both the University of Exeter and the University of Minnesota have found that when we switch between different tasks it takes us longer to complete each one.
If youre having trouble deciding on your goal for 2013, use this as a way to decide. Or if you have chosen, this will reinforce it in your mind as the right thing to do. You might be saving money by not buying cigarettes or that morning latte, so work out how much youll save a week, a month, a year? Or how many calories youll save by cutting out the morning pastry or dollop of mayo, and how much weight loss this equates to in the long run. Maybe youll save petrol by taking up cycling, or save on your phone bill by making the effort to see your friends more. Make the list and keep it somewhere obvious, like your bedside table or on the fridge, to remind you each day why youre putting in the hard work!
This will make achieving it much easier! If its a significant challenge youre taking on, such as quitting smoking or saving a sum of money, devise a plan for how to tackle it. But make it realistic, appreciate that it will take time and dont be overly ambitious. Start off small, eg. cutting back by 1 cigarette a day, and gradually build it up over time. Going to the effort of drawing up a plan, no matter how basic it may seem, will ensure that youre more likely to stick to it.
Enlist support from friends or a family member, who can motivate you when youre having an off day. They can remind you of the reasons why youre undertaking the challenge, even if its not always what you want to hear. If your goal is to spend more time with your friends or socialize more, tell them about it so they can organize nights out too. If youre trying to lose weight, join a weight-loss or fitness group. Meeting people who are working towards a similar goal will be motivating and add a social element, making it more enjoyable. You can also harness social media to get the word out even further, and doesnt matter how many followers you have! Posting updates will encourage you to stick to your goal, rather than have to publicly confess that you fell off the wagon this week.
This might just be your diary or a calendar, but find a way to keep track of your progress. There are loads of apps and websites you can use to set, monitor and share your goals, and if you have a smartphone its easy to keep track of your progress on the move. The NHS has a website for monitoring alcohol intake, perfect for when you cant work out how many units are in those cocktails.
If you slip up, dont make it a reason to give up altogether. Odds are that you wont stick to the plan 100% of the time, sometimes its just not possible. Impromptu drinks or dinner, a last minute meeting that will scupper your after work plans, a surprise bill or expense that you havent budgeted for, can all throw us slightly off course. But you can use this as an incentive to get right back on track. Make up for it by being extra good at the weekend, but dont feel guilty for too long otherwise you wont be able to face slipping up again. In the grand scheme of how much youve already achieved, one bad day doesnt amount to much!
Weekends can be the dieters worst enemy. Dinners out or in the pub, big lazy breakfasts, popcorn and sweets at the cinema, afternoons in coffee shops And even if your goal isnt to eat healthier, weekends often end up being costly in other ways. But you dont have to fall into these traps and undo your hard work. If youre trying to shift those Christmas pounds, you can still enjoy yourself without slipping up. Did you know that green olives are much healthier than black, garlic bread is better than bruschetta, an Indian takeaway is generally better than Chinese, and a cooked breakfast done properly is healthier than continental? If youre trying to save the pennies, shop at local weekend markets instead of the supermarket, where the produce will be fresher and normally cheaper. And instead of treating yourself to those shoes you dont really need, do something instead. Meet a friend or get some fresh air on a good walk. Youll definitely feel better for it, and your bank balance will thank you afterwards
Sticking to a New Year resolution isnt meant to be easy. If it was, we wouldnt all be dreading trying to tackle them. But you can make things easier for yourself. If youre dieting or trying to get healthier, dont get caught out by misleading nutritional information. Learn a bit more about the foods you think are healthy, you might be surprised. For example, cereal is thought of as a good breakfast option, but most cereals contain huge amounts of sugar. Swap it for a healthy boiled egg with soldiers instead. When reading the labels, go for the low option rather than the light. Light versions can still pack in the calories because they are only required to be 30% lower than standard products in one food value (salt, sugar etc).
Its easy to become so preoccupied with sticking to your goal and staying on track that we can end up letting it take over. Its important to take your mind off it when you can, and this will ease the pressure. Why not arrange to meet friends, get out of the house and try somewhere or something new? If youre trying to save money, use the time you would be spending in the shops reading that book youve had by your bed for a year. Trying to quit smoking? Meet up with your mates that dont smoke, or go to places you cant smoke, so youre also preventing the opportunity for slip-ups to arise. Youre more likely to give up early if youre making too many sacrifices or not enjoying yourself anymore. done
Sometimes it seems like that overall goal is a very long way off. So occasionally you need a reward that motivates you to be good in the week, something to look forward to and aim for. Maybe that means a day off from the gym on a Friday, a night in front of the TV with your partner instead of scrubbing the bath, or a Starbucks latte. But be careful, dont go too far and make that treats 3 slices of cake or a pair of Jimmy Choos. Sometimes all it takes is a little something to keep us going and make it all worthwhile.