“I’ll do it tomorrow, next Monday, next month…” Yes, we do wish to … (exercise more, eat better, etc) but life is so busy that it is hard to accomplish everything we want in one day. So, we postpone it (once more). The problem is that procrastination can become a (bad) habit, impeding you from achieving your best. Why does it happen so often? Do we lack drive to move forward or are we just overwhelmed by the change?
More often than not, the problem lies in planning. Without a clear plan of action, chances are that you won’t get anywhere. The question is “how can you create a plan that is both easy to follow and effective?” Probably, that’s where many people get confused and overwhelmed. How can you act if you are not sure of what to do? This uncertain situation leads to paralysis and consequent procrastination.
Step 1. Determine your Long-term goal
This should be an easy one. You must already know what you want to achieve but if you are struggling to define your fitness goals, here is a little help. Ask yourself the following questions:
· Do you want to change your body composition? Say lose weight, gain muscle, tone up
· Do you want to feel a certain way? More confident, happier, healthier
· Do you want to improve performance? Run a marathon, improve your swimming, play soccer
Once you have stipulated your long-term goal, determine its variables. What do you need to do in order to get the expected outcome?.
Weight loss is an easy example. To lose weight, you will need to exercise regularly and modify your diet.
However, if your goal is to feel confident in a bikini, ask yourself what is impeding you from feeling confident now and what are the changes you need to do in order to feel the way you desire. Only after you know what it takes, you can start working on it.
Step 2. Break it down into tasks
The next step is to break down your goal into small manageable behaviours. By behaviour, I mean a small, concrete task that is totally under your control and don’t depend on other people’s actions or on the environment. An example of a good behaviour goal is “to eat one fruit per day.” An example of a poor one is “to ask my husband to take me to the gym.” This is not suitable because you are relying on your husband to perform the task (going to the gym).
Step 3. Choose one simple task to start with
You don’t have to know all the steps at first. Trying to change too many things at once is overwhelming. Just pick one single behaviour to work on. Choose the one you are most comfortable with to increase your odds to succeed.
Step 4. Define the specifics
Now is the time to make your chosen behaviour as concrete as possible by determining its details.
For example, if exercising regularly is the task of choice then use the questions below.
· How many times can you exercise per week? Be realistic, otherwise your plan won’t work
· What kind of activities are you willing to do? Yoga, walking, dance class
· Where are you going to exercise? At home, gym, park
· With whom are you exercising? Alone, with a friend, with a personal trainer
Step 5. Make it achievable
Shrink your goal until you get something you know you can handle.
For instance, if attending yoga classes three times per week is still too challenging, aim for less. There is no shame on that. Make your change so small that you are 100% confident you can manage it. This may mean switching from regular to diet soda (rather than giving up soda completely) or parking the car far away from the store entrance to make you walk more (rather than joining a gym).
Small changes increase your confidence level, empowering you to pursue bigger challenges. Besides, doing something is always better than doing nothing. Moreover, tiny changes can be incorporated immediately, putting an end to the bad habit of procrastinating.
Most people try to change too many things at once, and end up not changing at all. Did you know that when people try to change one habit at a time, they have 85% chance of succeeding? However, if they try to implement two new habits at once, the success rate falls to 35%. Three habits and you have less than 10% chance of being successful!
The bottom line is: stick to a single behaviour first. Practice this behaviour for a month before attempting a new one. The initial goal is to transform the behaviour into a positive habit that will become automatic. You know what they say; a habit is hard to break.