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January might be the hardest time to start a new routine

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

January might be the hardest time to start a new routine

Scott Miker

In my Toastmasters meeting yesterday we discussed New Years resolutions.  When one of the accounting professionals was asked about goals for 2016 she quickly said that the accounting profession has their busiest time at the beginning of the year so she doesn’t worry about goals until spring. 

She also mentioned that the cold weather in Cleveland is very unmotivating and she gets motivated once the weather gets a little better and the days become a little longer.

But for some reason we put off setting goals the last couple months of the year because January seems like the perfect time to start.  The holidays are over and we start to get back to our routines. 

But sometimes it seems like all I can do in January is work to get back to my routines not start new ones.  So if January is so difficult to start new routines what are some ways to overcome the January slump?

There are several ways to use January to your advantage.  The first is to start extremely small. 

Yesterday I was having a conversation with a friend who joined a gym to get in shape.  He was saying how much he didn’t want to go the to the gym after work.  I asked him what he does when he is there and he proceeded to tell me about his two-hour workout. 

If we haven’t worked out in months, a two-hour workout is setting us up for failure.  Instead try something smaller.  There is a process that I call setting the minimum.  This process keeps workouts extremely short until you develop the habits to sustain the routine.  The point is that having very small goals initially helps to keep the new habit not to see instant results.  Push results off and focus on the process in order to develop the habits necessary to improve.

The other way to use January to your advantage is to remain flexible.  Because it’s such a difficult time to set new goals, give yourself some flexibility.  Don’t become too rigid in your attempts to reach your goals.  If you start to dread going to the gym, shorten the routine.  Don’t be afraid to cut out elements that you dislike.  You can always add them back in at a later time.

January can be an awful time to start a new routine and strive for a new goal.  But it also presents a new beginning that can help us refocus after a hectic holiday season. 

In order to make the most of this month, remember to start small and remain flexible.  Starting small makes it easier to keep going and remaining flexible allows you to adapt to changes that will inevitably come your way.  Instead of focusing on results in January and getting there as quickly as possible, use January solely to work on the process.  The process you take to reach your goals is the most important aspect in the beginning.  Once you feel comfortable with the new process you can then work to improve the process in order to see the results you desire.  Focusing on results too early will only lead to frustration and ultimately failure.