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By Robin Smith
?Updated 3:00 PM ET, Mon Mar 14, 2016
You’re still not ready to tackle the dishes in the sink, the laundry on your floor, or the leaves or weeds in your yard. You can’t bring yourself to get back into your routine and stick to your plan. You’ve been avoiding INSERT TASK HERE for too long and it’s time to DO something about it! Does any of this ring a bell? This quick read is not going to be on The Science Behind Motivation (or what blocks it), or How We Become Stuck in Dysfunctional Habits. No, no. Those will show up in future posts I assure you. This article will give you some practical tips on how to jump start the energetic, positive, goal-oriented individual that has been with you this entire time.

I want you to take sometime for yourself right now. Go ahead, get rid of any other distractions. I’ll wait…

Now let’s look at what you can begin doing today to increase your chances of taking action! First and foremost, we need to start with compassion and self-care. We need to give ourselves permission to make mistakes, do the best we can, and take things one step at a time. Let’s look together at some “bite-sized” things we can put into practice this week.

Now, these are not force ranked in order of importance so you can pick and choose whichever tips you’d like to start today, which tips are better for later in the week, or which tips are just not for you.

  • Keeping things bite-sized means not creating a gargantuan to-do list to give yourself a panic attack! Just think about three things that you’d like to begin tackling this week. Pick your three, and remember, I didn’t say you had to finish them this week. Write your three down on a piece of paper (people are significantly more likely to follow through with things when they are written down). Now put that list in a place where you are going to check back on it every day this week.
  • You have a phone. You have alarms. Use them. Set your alarm to check in on your bite-sized list for this week the same time every day to help you remember and keep yourself honest with your goals.
  • Making small changes means not setting yourself up to fail. It means taking it one step at a time. Start by making a commitment to yourself that you will put “self-care” into practice by treating your body better. You can begin with any number of things:
    • Get fresh air everyday
    • Eat more fruits and vegetables (avoid high fat and sugary foods)
    • Go to sleep and wake up the same time every day (even on weekends – because a consistent sleep schedule is good for the brain and your metabolism . . . I know I know I’m posting this the Monday after Daylight Saving!! 🙂
    • Physically touch nature, daily
    • Do 10-20 minutes of exercise (again start small, and build on those accomplishments)
  • Reaffirm to yourself that you have the choice to respond differently to your daily tasks and challenges. There are plenty of things that are not in your control, but you do have control over how you would like to respond to a given situation.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others. Think about how you will be at the end of your week, and compare that future self to the one who is reading this right now.
  • Remember to not lose sight of the things in your life that are going well. Take a minute to think about 1-3 things you are grateful for having this very day. We cannot feel stress or anxiety when we are focused on feeling grateful.
  • Share your “three things” with someone else  to help keep you accountable. Not only will you be proud of yourself for making progress, but your motivation buddy will be proud as well!
  • Focus on one task at a time. Shifting gears frequently is not the most effective way to accomplish your day. Be intentional with how much time you want to dedicate to an activity and stick with it. Remember the alarms in your phone? You know what to do!
  • Reward yourself for your small private successes throughout your day. Even positive self-talk can be a good enough reward. At the end of the day, give yourself credit for the things you’ve done, and don’t be too hard on yourself for the things left undone. You will get to those in due time. Stay positive.

There are more tips just ready to be written here, but I wanted to keep this article short and sweet. Hope you enjoyed it. Now then, can you think of someone in your life – someone close to you – who might benefit from reading this article? If the answer is yes, then I encourage you to share the link to this article on social media or in a private email!

Robin S. Smith, MS, LCMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in clinical practice in Bethesda MD, and specializes in relationship issues for couples, families, and individuals, for improved quality of life. His clinical specialties include: transition to parenthood for new and expecting parents, infidelity, sex and intimacy issues, premarital counseling, and trauma. Robin has given talks to various groups including hospital administrators, graduate students, therapists, and child birth educators. He is the primary contributor to Your Couples Therapist Blog.
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