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Productivity

The Ever Better Challenge, Part 1: Build a Plan, Change a Habit

I’m typing this on Monday morning, although I suppose that’s not a very meaningful detail. How about: I’m typing this on Monday morning—without the aid of the chocolate-hazelnut croissant I treat myself to at the beginning of each week.

Why? Because today is the first day of my Ever Better Challenge, which is no desserts for 30 days in the hope of losing a little weight.

(You might be thinking that desserts can only occur after lunch or dinner and that a croissant is simply an unhealthy breakfast choice. But, if I make that distinction, I’ll just front-load my day with cupcakes to exploit the loophole.)

Taking on this challenge will not be easy. In fact, research shows most people who make yearly goals fail to achieve them.

Why do so many people fail? They set big goals without planning how to achieve them. They don’t have systems set up to track their progress, hold themselves accountable, or get support when they stumble. And they expect instant results when they should be focusing on gradual day-to-day progress.

#EverBetterChallenge

That insight inspired the creative team at Evernote to design the Ever Better Challenge to help you finish what you start. Because having a goal and relying on willpower isn’t enough; you need a plan and a structure to support it.

We created a helpful set of templates to get you started, some “infotaining” videos to guide you along the way, and this series of blogs from yours truly; I’ll be writing about my experience with the challenge while also giving some tips to help you with yours.

A disclaimer

Success is not assured. If you’re nervous about your challenge, I hope it’s of some comfort to know that I am as well.

Build a plan

I’ve tried to give up desserts before, but I didn’t put a framework in place to actually quit—which is perhaps why I didn’t succeed. The Ever Better Challenge features four templates to guide you from start to finish. The first, Build a Plan, provides a foundation for the program.

To begin, identify a goal—one thing you want to change about yourself and your life. Choosing a goal (just one) isn’t easy, but it’s an important decision. You want to make sure the goal you choose is reasonable, achievable, and realistic. For me, I want to lose a little weight, maybe five pounds. I have some awesome old shirts I almost don’t fit into anymore that I want to wear again.

That’s my goal. You will have your own, and with that goal in mind, the next step is to target a habit you can build or curb that will help you get there. James Clear has some great advice on how to choose a habit that makes sense. Speaking of habits…

Track your habit

A person can love something without consuming it on a daily basis, so it’s important to note here that—more than loving desserts—I’ve habituated myself to eating them. Honestly, there are meals I eat only to justify the dessert that will follow.

To change a habit, you have to do things differently. Our Habit Tracker template is a great resource to identify and track your new behavior.

For my goal of losing weight, cutting out desserts makes sense. It has a direct correlation to what I want to change and how to change it. The Habit Tracker allows me to record my progress. For each day without dessert, I place an “X” in the corresponding box.

People love checking off boxes. It’s a strategy that helps people meet their goals because it’s a fun, interactive, and visual way to measure progress that provides a sense of accomplishment. It’s also simple, and that’s important.

Ask for support

Accountability is another strategy that has proven to be successful when making changes. We do better when we’re not in it alone. Designating an “accountability buddy” increases the chances of getting something done.

Our Support Network template will help you create a network that you can be accountable to, that will support you as you go—and that you can reach out to if you have a setback.

Deal with setbacks

OK…you might not like this, and perhaps I shouldn’t even write it—but it’s possible we’ll experience a setback at some point over this 30-day challenge. We might not do that thing we were going to do every day—or, we might do that thing we weren’t going to do (like eat dessert).

While I don’t want to set us up for failure (or give us an easy way out), it’s also important to recognize these things happen. Because all is not lost if—if—we experience a setback; we can even turn setbacks into comebacks.

Self-compassion is OK

If I slip up and eat some frozen yogurt next week, the worst thing I can do is be negative toward myself and give up. If my goal is not to eat dessert for 30 days, but I end up not eating dessert for 28 or 29 days, I still succeeded. After all, a goal can be something reached or something to aim toward.

If a slip up occurs, let’s be kind to ourselves; not only do we deserve it, but we’re also more likely to keep going instead of giving up completely.

Reflect and correct

Also, speaking of “keep going,” we built a template that can be used as a weekly check-in to make sure we’re keeping up with what is working and steering away from what isn’t. Using the Reflect and Correct template is a great way to track what is happening in the challenge—and as a diary for future challenges.

Because this isn’t the first or last challenge we’ll face. Each success prepares us with confidence for the next and, if you use these templates, you’ll have a helpful reference resource to guide you as well.

Take the first steps

Okay, you’ve identified your goal, the habit you’re going to change, your accountability buddy, and how to deal with setbacks. Now it’s time to get started.

For me, starting means no croissant. As I’ve written this today, I’ve probably thought about that croissant a hundred times. As well as the peppermint bark I turned down after lunch. This challenge is already…challenging.

Remember your motivation

Why am I doing this? Oh yeah, to lose a little weight and prove to myself I can. Overcoming a challenge like this is sure to boost my confidence, allowing me to take on other difficult things in my life. First things first though—29 more days without dessert!

I’ll keep you posted on how my challenge goes with these weekly blogs. Let us know how your challenge is going in our Ever Better Challenge Facebook Group.

A footnote about this challenge

New Year’s is usually a time when people cast a new vision for themselves, but resolutions can be a loaded term, and very specific to that time of year. You can take on a new goal anytime. So, this challenge was designed to be used anytime and beginning at any point in a month; you can start on April 23 as easily as January 1.

Whenever you get started, we’ll be here.

For more information on how to save templates, click here.

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