There’s Still Time To Achieve Your 2017 Goals
With six months of the year to go, here’s how to make it count
As any convent seamstress will tell you, good habits are hard to make. But the headspace of a summer holiday often gives us pause, a moment to recharge and reboot our systems. It generally takes a couple of days to wind down, and by days three and four, you’re in the sweet spot. But in these always-on-the-go times of short attention spans, you might get a little antsy and restless by days five and six. That’s OK. Harness that.
It’s good for us to be a little bored, to let our minds wander, to get lost in thought. That’s why we often come up with good ideas in the shower or on a long drive home. Or when lying by the pool, supposedly relaxing.
If you find yourself conducting a life audit while away on holiday, here are five practical and achievable ways to reset for the rest of the year when you get back home.
01. Fitness: become a cross trainer
Few things make you want to get in better shape than spending a week in swim shorts. But don’t beat yourself up for not going to the gym three times a week. Instead, apply the Seinfeld Principle to exercise. Mr Jerry Seinfeld makes sure he writes jokes every day of the year without fail by marking off each day on a massive wall calendar.
The same principle can be used for exercise. Commit to doing something attainable every day for a week – say, 30 push-ups, 30 crunches, 30 squat lunges and a one-minute plank. That’s about four minutes of exercise. Cross off each day. Then just keep going. Your only job is not to break the chain of crosses. Daily action builds habits. Small improvements accumulate into large improvements.
02. Friendship: block-book Thursday nights
Life is busy and none of us sees our friends enough. Yet survey after survey shows how important meaningful human connections are to our health and happiness. The opposite is also true. Disconnection and loneliness hit men harder than women and can have serious consequences. We need the buddy system.
We are connected to more people than at any time in human history, thanks to social media, yet we are superficial voyeurs, lazily keeping in touch with a scrolling forefinger. Writing “Happy Birthday” on someone’s Facebook page when Facebook has prompted you to, or hearting an Instagram post are the life-support machines of friendship. They keep it alive, but mechanically. Bullet-proof your emotional wellbeing by giving face-to-face time to your friendships. Let these words be your end-of-year mantra: make plans, turn up. Make Thursday nights dinner party nights. Phone four friends and get the next month booked up with #thirstythursdays. Do it today.
03. Frame of mind: bookend your day with EGS
We could all do with being happier. EGS is short for enjoyment, gratitude and satisfaction. Get yourself a notebook (this Thom Browne one will do nicely) and put it on your bedside table. Each night before you go to sleep, write down something that you have enjoyed, for which you are grateful and that gave you some satisfaction. Some days they could be big things, other days they will be tiny: an article you enjoyed reading, a coffee a colleague made for you, a walk somewhere green with your dog.
The following morning, read through your EGS from the day before. The process of deliberately reflecting and actively putting pen to paper is a more positive end to the day than drifting off in front of an episode of House Of Cards. And rereading what you’ve written the night before is a better start to a new day than reflex-punching your alarm clock.
Before long you will naturally begin to look for and find more pleasure in the day-to-day things that would previously have gone unnoticed and underappreciated. It’s a simple but effective way to alter your mindset to focus more on the positive and dwell less on the negative. Over time, this habit, which takes just minutes, can head off bouts of depression and anxiety.
04. Finances: make savings on autopilot
Conduct a similar audit of how much money you spend that you could save. Study your outgoings (handy banking apps such as Monzo do this for you) and tot up the regulars. Do you need that daily cappuccino and croissant? How about riding a bike to work instead of catching the train? Could you reduce the cost of your cable TV package? Maybe the cleaner could come once a fortnight instead of every week. All these savings add up.
Whatever you think you can save, set up a weekly direct debit from your bank account into an account that you cannot access so easily and just let it mount up. If you tuck away just £75/$100 a week, by the end of the year you will have saved £3,900/$5,200. Which is enough to spend New Year in the sun, and then some. You see, this holiday just paid for itself.
05. Free time: use it, don’t lose it
Time is the ultimate luxury. We never seem to have enough of it. Yet we can lose hours playing Call Of Duty or binge-watching Netflix. And we endlessly scroll on our phones, obsessively checking our social media feeds. Modern life is full of insidious time-sucks that drive us to distraction and leave little opportunity to pursue anything more productive and fulfilling.
While you’re away, conduct an honest appraisal of how much time you waste each day, each week. Then pick just one thing you’d really like to do, something you’ve always wanted to do, and resolve to make it happen. Start playing the guitar again, learn Spanish, join a book club. Maybe it’s even something as meditative as cooking dinner each night rather than peeling the cellophane off a ready meal. Give yourself a screen break for at least half of the evening when you get in from work and commit to doing something more uplifting. You’ll feel better for it.