When it comes to New Year resolutions we often set ourselves up to fail by devising strict, yet often vague, goals such as: “I’m going to lose weight this year”, or “In 2019, I’m finally going to exercise more”.
Instead, we should be setting goals that are “Smart”. So look again at those resolutions you made at the start of the year and run each of them through this checklist: is it specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound? Above all else it’s crucial to be realistic about your goals. “Otherwise they’ll be impossible to keep,” says Jess Henley, a psychotherapist. “Instead of vowing to go to the gym every day, choose twice or three times a week.”
What we often forget is that goals don’t have to be rigid – we can add to them as time goes by, but only “once you’ve settled into your new routine and it’s working without stressing you out,” advises Henley.
Below you’ll find five common resolutions, and the tricks to make them stick.
If your goal is to eat healthier in 2019, then you need to get organised. Clear your cupboards of all temptations. This is especially important if you are trying to lose weight. That’s not to say you can’t have a treat – in fact, having a cheat meal each week when you’re on a diet will help you stick to a healthy eating plan – but removing easy to reach temptations will help.
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” says Kate Ibbotson, founder of A Tidy Mind and creator of Tidy Habits. Ibbotson suggests putting pen to paper and setting aside some time each week to plot out a weekly meal plan. Include supplements too, so you remember to take them. If you’re not a planner, download My Fitness Pal (iTunes and Android, free), so you can record your food intake as you go. You’ll soon start to spot patterns in your eating that you may want to tweak.
Before you step into a pair of trainers, it’s worth really thinking about why you want to exercise more. “Whether your goal is to lose weight, run a marathon, or get rid of that niggling back pain, stop, think and ask yourself why that’s important to you,” says Luke Worthington, human movement and elite performance specialist. “It could be that you want to take part in the father-and-son relay at school sports day, reduce your disease risk or look your very best for your wedding day. Putting an emotional context around your goal and then writing that down is what will drive you all the way to success,” he adds.
Exercise shouldn’t be a chore. If you love dancing, dance! If you enjoy running, get out and run. The endorphin high and energy boost you’ll get from doing exercise you love will help you stick to a plan. To ensure you do actually get out and exercise, why not commit to a race, such as a 10k or assault course, that requires you to train? Sign up with a friend and you’re even more likely to stick with it.
Do you often run out of time to exercise, never have healthy food in the cupboards, or forget to take your supplements? Then getting organised could be a worthwhile goal. Ibbotson recommends a brain dump. “Your mind is having ideas, not holding them, so trying to keep all your thoughts ‘up there’ is a recipe for being overwhelmed and disorganised. Declutter your mind by ‘brain dumping’ your ideas, notes, and information. The key is collating things in one place. Cloud-based apps such as Evernote (for Apple) or OneNote (for Android) work brilliantly.”
Ibbotson is also a fan of a dedicated hub of organisation. “Your ‘command station’ should include a place for sorting post, an action tray for those things you can’t deal with immediately, a charging station for devices, a calendar or planner, and somewhere to make notes, such as a whiteboard.”
Sleeping better each night means you’ll be more energised for the day. We all know that making the bedroom a tech-free zone aids sleep, so get yourself a traditional alarm clock. Creating a truly relaxing space, with blackout curtains, comfy bedding and a good book, will help too.
Stress is another sleep killer, so ensure that before you hit the hay you have as few unfinished tasks as possible. “Open post, tidy the house, prepare food for the following day, empty the dishwasher, pack your bag and lay out your clothes. Your tomorrow self will thank you for it,” says Ibbotson. If you do have any unfinished tasks, jot them down in a notepad kept on your bedside cabinet, so they’re out of your mind but not forgotten. Keep any supplements and a water bottle by your bed too, so you remember to take them.
Carve out ‘me time’
Putting yourself first and allowing me time will make you a nicer and more relaxed person all round,” says Henley, who adds that being relaxed breeds calmness in others.
Rather than combining your me time with exercise that can feel like a chore, Henley suggests setting aside a moment each week to do something you truly enjoy.