So you know WHAT you want to do, but have no idea on HOW to do it. You’re not alone.
Most people know what changes they want to make whether it’s improving general health, getting more active or losing weight. The difficult part is making these changes whilst juggling other priorities such as friends, family and work as well as the other realities of life. Sometimes it feels like no matter how many times you try, something keeps getting in the way or stops you before you’ve even started.
It doesn’t need to be this way. This blog post explains my proven formula for turning goals with good intentions into action plans that fit in with you and your life.
Step 1 – Be Specific
I want to lose weight. I want to eat healthier. I want to exercise more.
All great intentions, however they don’t give much guidance on what exactly we can do to get there.
Being specific takes your goal from being an idea in your head into an action plan with details of not just WHAT you want to do, but HOW. Ask yourself the following questions and write it down:
The more detail the better.
Instead of I want to lose weight – I want to lose 5% of my starting body weight or I want to lose half a stone over the next 3 months.
Instead of I want to eat healthier – I want to increase my vegetable intake by adding 2 portions of veg at my evening meal every evening, or to include breakfast at least 4 days this week on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
Instead of I want to exercise more – I want to do a 30 min walk on my lunch break on Monday and Wednesdays for a month.
Step 2 – Make it measurable
Even if you don’t track your goal every day, making it measurable means you can see if you’re actually managing it. It also gives you something to work towards which helps to keep you focused and motivated.
For weight, that could be a weekly weigh in. For eating more veggies, it could be a checklist where you tick off how many portions you managed each day. For exercise, again a checklist can be used or a fitness tracker is another easy way to track your progress.
Step 3 – Make it achievable and realistic
We often get excited when we first start making changes, however we can run the risk of being over ambitious. This can mean we set ourselves goals which are not achievable and is the reason so many people’s goals don’t last.
Start small. Think about what you can manage on your WORST day and start here. Building habits is all about consistency.
Take a step back and think is this achievable for me? Not your friend, your sister or neighbour, but for YOU. Try not to compare yourself to what other people are doing, we all have our own starting point and abilities, as well as different social circumstances, lifestyles, finances and support. Considering these factors is key to ensure your goal is right for you.
It’s not to say you’ll never get there, but making this your first goal isn’t helpful and can end up setting yourself up for failure before you’ve even started.
If losing weight is your goal, losing a stone in a week is not achievable or safe. Losing 5-10% of your starting body weight is a safe and realistic goal with proven health benefits or aiming for half a pound to a pound per week.
If you’ve never been active, going for an hour run may not be a good idea to start off with. Start small and listen to your body. You can always increase later.
Step 4- Set a time frame
There is no point in setting a goal if you’re not going to check that you’ve achieved it.
Shorter time frames are preferable to keep you focused. Also, if you leave it too long, you might waste time trying something that’s not working. 1 week to 3 months is a good time frame for goals.
Step 5- Be independent
It’s great to have social support to keep you on track, but it’s also helpful to have a goal that can be done independently so that you don’t need to rely on anyone else.
If your goal is to go to the gym with your friend, but your friend is unwell and cancels, could you go by yourself? Or is there something else that you could do instead such as a fitness class, a home workout or a solo walk?
If your goal is to eat more veg but your family don’t want to change their diet, is there a way you can add veg to your plate without having to cook different meals?
Step 6- Make it enjoyable
Life is too short to do things we don’t enjoy. You’re much more likely to stick to something that you actually want to do so try to make it fun.
If it’s eating more veg, maybe you can try new recipes or get the kids involved with the cooking? If it’s walking, maybe it’s the chance to destress and chat with a friend, or listen to your favourite podcast?
Some things you will find enjoyable anyway, but others may require some thinking on how you can get yourself looking forward to it. For example you could create a playlist with your favourite songs or save an interesting podcast to pair with a walk.
Step 7 – Evaluate and review
Check in and evaluate. Did you achieve your goal? What worked well? What didn’t work so well?
Once you’ve evaluated it’s time to reflect. It’s important to do this without judgement. We’re not criticising ourselves, it’s about being curious and compassionate to learn more about ourselves to be better. Why did it go well or not so well? What would you keep doing? What would you do differently? Are you ready to move on to another goal or do you need to tweak your current goal and keep working on this for now?
Bringing this all together you get the acronym SMARTIEER (specific, measurable, achievable & realistic, timed, independent, enjoyable, evaluate & review).
Whatever your goal, give it a go writing it out using the SMARTIEER format and add as much detail as possible to take your good intentions into actions that last a lifetime.