This post may contain affiliate links. You can read my affiliate policy here.
How to Be Better Than Before
Derived from the Performance Management Cycle, one of the most powerful corporate change management tools in existence, the Personal Management Cycle sets up a clear and easy to follow framework for maximizing your life with minimal ongoing effort.
By having a process for continous improvement that you can apply to all aspects of your life, you will have the only framework you need to continously be better than before!
Read More: The Performance Management Cycle
The first step in changing for the better is to understand what better is. Sometimes we may already know what we need to do (eat more veggies!). Often though, having a better understanding of something is the very first step to improve our lives.
How many of us have at tossed our pension statement in the rubbish bin unopened as we wouldn’t understand it anyway – raise your hands! Right?
We don’t need to be experts in everything that impacts our lives. What we do need, is to learn enough that we can be comfortable that the plan we are putting in place is right for us.
If we don’t have that comfort, the anxiety or unease we feel for not understanding, or knowing what is right, will never completely go away.
The one possible exception is if you decide to pay someone else to know for you. You can, for example, pay a financial advisor to manage your finances, and if you have a complex financial situation that may be the best plan.
If you are struggling with your weight you may pay for a dietitian. If you want to develop your career you might get a mentor or a coach.
However, you will still want to know enough that you can have a discussion with your advisor or coach. You want to be confident that he or she understands your goals and will help you get there in a way that works for you.
The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.Brian Herbert
There are Many Ways to Learn
There are many different ways to learn, and many experts are putting information out there for free in blogs, podcasts and YouTube videos. A lot more information is available in books that shouldn’t cost you more than a few pounds. Libraries makes books available for free, even online and in apps!
If there is a topic where you need more help, most bloggers and many authors have courses or coaching. This will be a bit pricier but if you’re completely stuck, and you find someone you think would be a great fit to help you, it may be worth it.
Personally, I consume most of my information in audio form – podcasts and audio books. This is for two reasons:
First, I’m an auditory learner. I learn best when someone talks to me or I listen to something. In school, I found it much easier to remember what the teacher said than what I read. You may be the same or you may be completely different – think about it and choose to learn in a way that’s easy for you!
The second reason is that by listening to information I can move while I listen. I listen when I walk, when I garden and sometimes even when I clean or pot around the house. This way, learning is not a sedentary activity that I have to do in a chair or on the sofa and I can incorporate it into my daily life without it taking up a ton of time.
By learning about the topic where you want to improve you will be exposed to new ideas, new ways of looking at things and new ideas of habits and system that may work in your life.
Now it’s time to make a plan!
Making a Plan
At this point we have learned enough to know how we want to change. We don’t need to know everything, but we have some ideas of what to try. What would move us in the right direction.
The next step is to figure out how to incorporate these changes into our daily life.
The plan needs to be sustainable; deciding to spend 2 hours every day at the gym is not sustainable for most people and will therefore not make you more fit long term. Going to the gym for 30 minutes 3 times a week, however, might be both sustainable and help you reach your goal!
The Habitista’s Plan
In my mid-30s I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and I gained a lot of weight in a short time, something that is common for people suffering any type of stress and anxiety.
One day I had enough and decided that I was going to stop this, get my body back, and so I went on a diet. It worked like a charm and I didn’t only stop the rapid weight gain, but I actually lost a lot of the weight.
Yes, if the story had ended there it would have been a success story, but I think you know what happened next. Yep, I got tired of being hungry, tired of exercising for the sake of burning calories. So, the moment I started to feel like I was approaching a weight I was more comfortable with, I gained all the weight right back!
A couple of year later I decided to try again, this time more for health reasons than vanity (even though I have to admit there is some vanity in there as well!).
This time I wanted to do it right, so I started reading about food, about movement and about how people who are not overweight or stuck in yo-yo dieting lives.
I realised I needed to do sustainable changes to my movement and diet.
I started small.
Adding more vegetables to my meals, taking a small walk every day and start drinking my coffee black. It took a long time but slowly, and most important, sustainably, I started losing weight down and I’m now at a healthy weight.
Once you have learned what you need to do, making a sustainable plan, starting with small manageable changes, will put you on the right path.
Once you have learned what you need to know, and made a plan for how to do it, you need to actually do it. Just start. Now.
It’s very easy to get stuck in the learning or planning phase:
Reading one more book.
Listen to one more podcast.
Deciding which will have more impact; quitting milk in your coffee or stop drinking wine on weekdays.
What I’m going to tell you is that you don’t need to have the perfect plan. As long as the steps you’re taking will lead you towards your goal, it doesn’t matter if it’s the perfect step.
One learns from books and example only that certain things can be done. Actual learning requires that you do those things.Frank Herbert
Even a small or slightly sideways step will take you towards your goal. Standing still however,will take you nowhere. Not acting can even take you further away from your goal if you are currently heading in another direction.
Not Acting Can Take You Further From Your Goals
I described previously how I had stopped dieting and started gaining back my weight. As I started reading, learning and planning how to get on the right track I continued to gain weight.
Every day I didn’t start using what I had learned, every day I didn’t act on my plans, took me further and further away from my goal of a healthy weight.
To act is simple, but it’s not always easy. Taking that step to actually make a change may be the most difficult part of this entire process but I promise you that it is worth it. Take your time to learn and plan but then act. Like a very famous sports brand says – Just Do it!
You did it. Great! Now do it again.
Make it Effortless
We want to make things work effortlessly. Or at least with so little effort that we can continue doing them, year in and year out, without it taking up too much of our precious time and energy.
To accomplish this we need to create habits and systems that takes willpower out of the equation. To not having to rely on willpower every time we are doing something, we need to create habits that can take over and make the action we want to repeat at least semi-automatic.
When I write this blog, I don’t only write when I feel like it, as then I doubt very much would get written if I just waited for inspiration! Instead, I set up a system of writing every Saturday morning so that it’s out of the way.
I can start he weekend feeling like I’ve accomplished something and set me up for a great weekend.
There is a ton of great research, books and blogs on habit creations and I have dedicated a section to it in this blog if you want to go deeper to really set yourself up for success but a good place to start is answering these questions:
What is the smallest step that you can take that will still lead you towards your goal?
When will you do it?
What will be a good trigger?
What is your reward?
How will you make sure you do it again and again?
The final, and crucial piece of the Personal Management Cycle is the review.
It’s easy to think about habits as “set and forget” and that can work quite well with a direct debit that makes sure that you save very month. Some habits, however, still require some action from your end, like flossing or eating your veggies.
It’s easy to give up when you hit a bump in the road if you don’t have a review system that’s certain to get you back on track.
Even your direct debit savings will need an occasional review to make sure you are on track for your goals. This can easily be accomplished by something so simple as setting up a yearly reminder in your online calendar, but when it comes to the habit of cycling to work that we have been working on, a yearly reminder may not be enough.
There are different ways of tracking how we are doing, and I suggest you try a few to find what works for you.
For some people it will be to put a gold star on a wall calendar. For me, I like to track my habits in my phone.
Try the free printable habit tracker below!
There are a lot of different habit trackers out there. The one I use on my android phone is simply called “habits” and it allows me to enter a habit I want to create and then do a checkmark for every day I do the habit.
I have the habit tracker on the front page of my screen, making it the first place I go when I pick up my phone for “no good reason” i.e. to check social media or my email.
Here I enter the habits I’m currently working on and in addition to track my habits it also serves as a reminder every time I pick up the phone and see the app on the home page.
When a habit becomes so ingrained it is part of my identity, I usually remove it from the habit tracker. I no longer need to monitor this habit so vigilantly, but it’s a good habit to check your archived habits. You can keep a list of habits you feel you have concurred, just to check in to see you haven’t’ slipped back.
The important thing to remember when starting your habits is to not try too much at a time.
Decide what you want to work on.
Break it down to the smallest possible habit and decide how you will track it.
Start with tracking one or two habits until the tracking becomes a habit (and possibly also a trigger to remember to do things!) and then add on more.
We are not trying to change everything at once, we are changing one small thing at a time, building an easy way of life where you will have the peace of mind that the important things are taken care of.
Join The Habitista newsletter and share what you are working on with the Habitista comunity!