Building new habits is hard. Sticking with them through the holidays is even harder. Travel, family gatherings, lots of tempting food, and a break from your regular schedule can make sticking with your goals feel impossible. But with some planning and foresight, you can continue your self-improvement through the holidays.
It’s not easy, but it can be done. Here’s how to start preparing yourself for the holidays so your self-improvement goals don’t fall by the wayside.
Manage Your Expectations
This is crucial. It’s easy to get discouraged when you aren’t progressing toward your goals. But just because you’ve stalled — or even taken a step backward — for a short period doesn’t mean you’ve failed. There are always ups and downs in the self-improvement process, and the holidays tend to be difficult.
That’s just how it is. And when you adjust your expectations to account for that, it’ll be much easier to keep from getting discouraged. Understand that you probably aren’t going to continue losing weight, or working out more, or spending a ton of time journaling. That’s totally fine. Just maintaining your weight, or focusing on recovery from exercise, or some occasional reflection, is a totally reasonable goal.
Do the best you can, and be happy with it. Accept the fact that you’re going to slow down, or maybe even stall out. Remember that self-improvement is a lifelong goal.
Condense Your Goal
Once you’ve realized that maintaining your status in your quest for self-improvement is a perfectly acceptable goal over the holiday season, you can start thinking about how you’ll do that. As with so many things, it starts with some quick goal-setting.
Set a goal or two for the holiday season that you think you can meet. Maybe it’s to spend ten minutes each day on learning a new programming language, instead of the hour you usually dedicate. Or to keep a shortened food journal instead of a detailed food log. Whatever your goal, set a smaller version of it for the holiday season.
As an example, one of my current projects is writing a book. I won’t be able to spend much time writing over the holiday season, so I plan on continuing the process by reading related articles when I have time. If I find that I have enough time to sit down and write for a while, I’ll do it. But just accruing more knowledge is perfectly acceptable.
Plan and Schedule
Everyone’s self-improvement goals are different, but the best way to meet them, regardless of what they are, is to plan. Whether that’s setting aside a certain amount of time each week to work on your goals, or making a habit of taking advantage of your mornings, or anything else, a plan is crucial. The same is true over the holidays when free time is scarce and routine is non-existent.
Once you’ve done that, decide on how you want to approach it. Dedicate some time before breakfast to your self-improvement. Or a few minutes right before bed. Whatever you decide, put it in writing so you’re more likely to remember it and stick with it. Even a Post-It on your desk will help you commit.
Follow this plan with a schedule. A fixed time (or a time block) will help you memorize the mini-goal. You can also add a “contingency time” to the schedule to deal with the unexpected during the holidays.
Even a rough plan will work instead of no plan at all. “I’ll read at least 20 pages at least twice a week” could work if you’re trying to read more. Just be honest with yourself if your goal is specific enough to motivate you.
Set Up Reminders
It’s easy to forget things over the holiday season. Fortunately, there are all sorts of tech tools you can use to remind yourself to keep working on your self-improvement. I’m a big fan of Habitica, as it reminds me daily to do the things I’m trying to develop as habits. You can use Reminders on your iPhone, or an alarm app on your tablet. Google Calendar’s reminders are awesome, too.
You might think that you’ll be able to remember to work on your goals, especially if they’re already things you love doing, but it’s easy to have them slip from your mind. It’s super easy to set up a reminder, so don’t skip this step.
Share Your Commitments
No matter who you’re spending time with over the holidays, let them know that you’re working on some specific goals and that you plan on continuing to pursue them. Tell them that you’ll be taking a few minutes away to continue your self-improvement once in a while. They’ll almost certainly be understanding and supportive.
You could even ask them to keep you honest — tell them to inquire about your goals from time to time over the holidays, and you’ll have some extra accountability to motivate you!
Live in the Moment
Self-improvement goals are about the future. Don’t let that stop you from living in the moment. The holidays are the perfect time to find a balance between your future goals and the joy of the present.
Slow down. Manage your expectations and condense your goals. Don’t think of it as a hiatus but as an easier way to come back on track after the holidays.
Share Your Plans and Successes
Continuing your self-improvement over the holidays isn’t easy, but it can be done. A lot of us here at MakeUseOf will be striving to work toward our goals while we’re spending time with family, and we want to hear how it goes for you, too!
How do you plan on continuing your self-improvement over the holidays? What do you find especially difficult? Have you had success in the past? Share your plans, tips, and successes in the comments below!
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