With governments around the world asking people to stay home during this unprecedented time, many of us have to adapt and discipline ourselves during our time indoors. But we’re also provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reset, refocus, and reprioritize our personal and professional goals.
Currently I am also working from home, in a small village in Fukushima, Japan. While it has been frustrating as an English teacher not to be teaching in school, it hasn’t stopped me from creating study materials that the students can use at home.
In addition, I have set myself two personal goals during this time. The first is to get into good physical shape through healthier eating and exercise every day. The second is to improve my Japanese language skills with the aim of passing the Japanese Language Proficiency Test in December.
I have found it to be helpful to focus on these goals to ensure that my days are productive. Then, when things do return to normal, I can look back on this time and know that I used it as best I could.
It Starts with Daily Habits
Our daily habits for the most part define who we are. Every day, I ask myself whether I am building a routine that helps me become a little bit better at life. Below are six of the most important things that have helped me master my daily habits. I hope they will help you achieve your goals too.
1. Small Changes = Long Term Results
I have often become engulfed in the initial excitement of starting something new, then failed because I tried to change too much at once. However, I have found that new habits are more likely to become part of my daily lifestyle if I start by making small, gradual changes.
This gradual approach helps ensure that new habits settle in and become almost automatic before the next step is introduced. Moreover, I am more likely to continue with them after the inevitable off day. The smaller the task, the less resistance there is to getting back on that horse.
For example, when starting a new exercise regime, commit to a realistic workout and training frequency. It is all about creating a solid foundation to build upon. It is far better to commit to working out three days a week than five, and then not being able to do it.
Ultimately, for most people, consistency will be the determining factor whether you achieve your goals or not. Smaller changes that one sticks to will make the biggest difference in your life in the long run.
2. Set a Schedule
The best way to become consistent in anything is to do it at the same time every single day. Find the time slot in your day that will work best for any given task, based on your own personal lifestyle.
Studying Japanese has become a firm part of my mornings over the past three weeks, and by studying at the same time every day I have been able to develop consistent progress with my studies for the first time. The dedicated “study time” has also helped me feel more focused when the hour arrives.
Creating a general daily schedule on a whiteboard also has helped me manage my time more productively while I’ve been at home. The beauty of a schedule on a whiteboard is that it is very easy to change ー as and when I come up with new ideas.
The aim is to find the right time that you can do a given task every day. It is also important to remember that whatever time you decide on can change and can keep changing until you find the best time that suits your lifestyle.
3. Track Your Progress
Tracking your progress helps provide a visual representation of what has been achieved so far. In addition, the very action of logging or marking off a task as you complete it gives a sense of accomplishment that becomes motivation for the rest of the day.
Depending on the task, how you track is completely up to you. Printing off a monthly calendar from the internet is a great starting point.
For tracking my workouts, I have a whiteboard in my bedroom where I note every workout. If I miss a day, then I have a glaring blank space staring back at me, which then motivates me into making up for it the following day. I also use an iPhone app to track each workout. The app I use is called “Strong.” It has been a priceless tool for me as I have logged over 700 workouts with it over the course of many years.
Ultimately, whether you use a calendar, notebook, or app, track a little or a lot, it’s a matter of trial and error until you find the one that works best for you.
4. Accountability Partners
While you don’t have to declare your new habits or goals to the world, telling one person that you trust can go a long way in keeping you accountable to achieving your goal. And that someone may prove to be the difference during those times when you need a bit of extra encouragement.
One option is to choose someone who has the same goal as you. This way you can keep each other accountable. Another method is to make use of the many apps out there which allow you and your friends to keep track of each other.
With my Japanese studies, I have been using an iPhone app called “Habit Share,” which allows friends who are studying Japanese to tick off each day that we study. When one of us ticks off that day as complete, the app then sends a notification to the rest of us in the group to let them know. Interestingly, what usually happens is one of us will study first and mark it on the app. Then within the next half an hour the others are usually inspired to study so that they can tick off their progress on the app too.
5. Plan Ahead
Planning ahead helps us map out exactly what needs to be done for a given task. When there is a clear picture of what is needed, we are more likely to do it.
With my goal of getting into shape, planning out my meals for the following day has helped immensely. Instead of waiting until I am hungry and just going for the most convenient option, I reach for the pre-planned healthy option that will help me achieve my goals.
For some of my activities, such as studying Japanese, I have found a planned ritual before starting to be helpful. For example, make a cup of coffee, put all devices on “do not disturb,” and clear my workspace so that there are no distractions before studying. Interestingly, it is not necessarily the caffeine that helps me focus, but rather the ritual of making the coffee that puts me in that all-important study mode.
It can be very tempting to buy every gadget and gizmo when embarking on a new habit, when in reality we don’t need them at the start.
When I started running for the first time, I bought myself some nice jogging bottoms, new trainers and a cool looking hoody. This did give me a short-lived boost in motivation, but all I really needed was a pair of running shoes. For long-term motivation, it would have been much better to set targets, such as running three times a week for a month, and if I succeeded, to then reward myself with one of these other products.
Rewarding ourselves for progress is a great way to motivate ourselves for being consistent. It also gives more meaning to all of these extra things that we buy.
Whatever vision we have for ourselves, we can achieve it. It just takes time, consistency, and effort. In my case, I know if I carry on with my current progress, I will be in better shape and will be able to speak better Japanese when things return to normal. Knowing this gives me the motivation I need to continue.
None of us know how long it will be before the world will return to normal, but, if we use this time wisely, then we will return to the world as a better version of ourselves — and hopefully inspire others around us along the way too.
Now that we know what to do, let’s get started.
Author: Senol Hasan