Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Goals, Routines and Microresolutions: The Challenges of Behaviour Change, Part 1


Last January I kicked off the year by announcing my (admittedly ambitious) plans for "10 Routines in 2014" and although I gave you a brief update on how I was doing with my morning routine in late February, I never reported back on my progress after that! 

Seeing as how it's the start of a new year still January I thought it would be a good idea to take stock of where I'm at and assess the areas where I still need to make some changes to meet my goals. It's actually been quite a while since I reviewed this full list of routines, which is probably not a good sign. Surprisingly, though, I did make significant accomplishments in most of these ten areas, even if I didn't get all the way to where I initially intended!

So, here's an update on all ten routines, plus my insights learned along the way and ideas on how I might want to tweak things over the rest of this year.

1. Morning routine: I was doing really well with consistently getting up at 7 a.m.  for a while, and then somewhere along the line things just fell apart. I'm still really struggling with this area. I just am NOT a morning person and dread getting out of bed in the morning! Interestingly enough, though, once I've actually gotten out of bed I have been very consistent with doing a morning meditation, which was the one brand new thing I added to my life at the beginning of 2014 (currently it's 15 minutes long as that seems to be a length I can stick with over the long haul). 

2.  Email routines: I set specific times to check my email during the day (9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3:45 p.m.) and also was hoping to find the system that works best for me to help keep my inbox cleared out. I have to admit that I still check my email too frequently (although less than I used to). I am much better about keeping things cleared out of my inbox, though, thanks to some aggressive unsubscribing from many different lists. My goal for this year is to keep email to an hour a day max during the week (half an hour in the morning and half an hour between the 2 afternoon time slots). I may spend more time on Saturday reading email if I feel so inclined. I'd like to make Sundays cyber-free as often as possible this year, too.  

3. Lunchtime routine: My goal was to consistently take an hour and a half break from 11:30 to 1 p.m. This has definitely required some tweaking to figure out what works best. I was initially using this time to connect with my son (who comes home for lunch from 11:30 to 12:00), eat my lunch and go for a 30-40 minute walk. These days my son usually brings his girlfriend home for lunch :) so I get a very quick update on his day and that's about it! I've also found I really prefer my walk as part of my afternoon exercise routine, so I moved it there instead and now take about 20-30 minutes at lunchtime to do some restorative activities like acupressure and alternate-nostril breathing so I feel refreshed for the afternoon.

4. Afternoon exercise routine: My goal was to get back to doing strength training consistently twice a week. The plan was to go to a hot yoga class at 4 p.m. one afternoon a week, do strength training 2 days a week, and devote the remaining days to a home yoga practice. I fell off the bandwagon on this one and was NOT consistent at all with my strength training (or even yoga classes!) The good news is I reassessed my whole routine as it clearly wasn't working for me. A couple of months ago I discovered High Intensity Interval Training and both hubby and I have committed to doing these 12-16 minute workouts 4 times a week (plus one 90 minute hot yoga class a week on a non-HIIT day). These are my favourite ones because she gives lots of good ideas for modifications if you need them. I've also discovered a great shoulder rehab routine that I've been adding on to the end of my workouts so I can finally get my shoulders 100% healthy again. I've been really consistent with my exercise routine so far this year, so it seems to be working out a lot better than last year's plan - hurray! My other fitness goal is to do 25 pushups by the end of the year. I'm currently struggling with less than half of that, so it's going to take some focus to get there, but I REALLY want my upper body strength back!
5. Bedtime routine: Getting to bed at a reasonable time has always been a challenge for our household full of night owls. My goal was for us all to start getting ready for bed at 10 p.m. (including getting anything ready for the next day like clothes, permission slips, etc) and all be in our beds by 10:30 p.m. That gives us all half an hour to read or have "quiet" time before lights out at 11 p.m. I started out okay with this goal, got inconsistent again part way through the year, and have gotten a lot better again in the past couple of months (in Part 2 of this post I'll share one of the things that has really helped!) I actually adjusted the times back a bit, too, so now the goal is to be in bed at 10 p.m. with lights out at 10:30.

6. Writing routines: I intended to get better at scheduling in specific larger chunks of time for writing as I was only getting done about one third of the writing I wanted to prior to the start of 2014. This goal largely went by the wayside, and it may well stay on the back burner for 2015, too! It looks like I may schedule 2 half days a week for writing at this point (I potentially have some big life changes coming up in the next couple of months - I can't share anything about them right now but as soon as I'm able to, I will!)

7. Cleaning routines: Oh dear. That's about all I can say with regards to this one. Still trying to figure out how to make this easier and more streamlined! My major goal this year is to hand over more of the household tasks to my two teenagers. In addition, I'm thinking about assigning us all specific chores each day so they have a hope of getting done. I'm also on another decluttering rampage, because the less stuff we have, the easier it is to keep the house clean.

8. Business routines: This was one of the big surprises for 2014; in February I decided to take a business development course with Mark Silver which ended up taking me off in different directions than I originally intended! It lasted several months and was very intense. This year I am focusing on developing my leadership skills; I'm currently working through FranklinCovey's Online Leadership courses (purchased with a super awesome Groupon deal!) and will start a free course through called Better Leader, Richer Life in a couple of weeks.

9. Financial routines: We made the decision to go back to good old-fashioned paper, pencil and calculator to manage our finances in 2014. After a couple of years of using ineffectively, the simple paper plan worked out MUCH better for us. We had also planned to do the 52 Week Savings Challenge to reboot our savings account. Part way through the year we switched to a "Pay Yourself First" system which was very successful for us (I'll be sharing more about this in a future post). I feel like we've got a pretty solid money management system going right now; this was definitely one of our big successes for the year! This year will be mostly about maintaining what we've got in place.

10. Weekly planning routine:  My final goal was to set time aside on Sunday evenings to plan out my entire week. Alas, this ended up being very "hit or miss", more miss than hit unfortunately. When I do actually get the planning done on the weekend, the whole week goes SO much smoother, so this is another goal I have to figure out WHY I continue to struggle with, so I can get it accomplished much more consistently. 

While there were obviously a few areas where I didn't come close to what I set out to do, I did make some solid progress in others. More importantly, I think, I got really interested in WHY it's so hard to make behaviour changes and ended up reading several books on this topic. There was one book in particular that I read in December that I found very insightful and useful. Since then, I've already used it to make a couple of significant changes relatively effortlessly. I'll be sharing more about that in Part 2 of this post next week! 

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