6 Tips for Getting a Head Start on Your New Year’s Resolutions with an Hour Per Week
Our schedules are packed to the max this time of year: we are all overloaded with party commitments, shopping lists, holiday meal planning, and work assignments. Lots of us are also rushing to wrap up everything at the office by the end of the year, and finalizing plans to travel or host tons of family members. The energy and bustle of the season can be invigorating, but often its aftermath leaves us ready to scale back and establish new, healthy habits.
However, the thought of full New Year’s resolutions is intimidating! No one has the time or energy to dedicate to sweeping personal changes during the holidays, but we still want to improve ourselves as the calendar turns to a fresh new year. The question is, how do you get a jump-start on your resolutions when you are about to be overwhelmed by the holidays?
Leverage a Life-Changing Sixty Minutes
The secret is to focus on changing your life in one hour per week. No matter how crazy things are, we can all find one hour per week for ourselves. Consistent, small progress is better than letting a desire for change go unaddressed for months, and ending up frustrated by a lack of progress. Here are a few ideas you can use to leverage an hour per week and get a head start on your New Year’s resolutions:
Give Back. When we get busy, it’s easy to focus on our own schedules and needs. We can forget that we’re surrounded by people in need of our love and attention. By investing just an hour a week into reaching out to others, you could make someone else’s day. Consider taking the time to do something nice for someone else with one of these suggestions:
- Could you pick up Sonic drinks or Starbucks for everyone on your team before your weekly meeting?
- Maybe you could bring stationery into work, and take an hour to create hand-written notes to a few people to express your appreciation for their efforts.
- An hour is also enough time to buy lunch for a friend or co-worker who could use a pick-me-up.
- Is there a single mom in your area? You could give her a gift card to get a pedicure while you watch her children for an hour.
- Is there a charitable organization close to your home or office that could use your help? Maybe you could volunteer there during your lunch hour, or for an hour on the weekends. Many organizations that have food banks or toy drives are in need of extra help during the holidays.
Take the time to look around at the people you see every day, and at the individuals with whom you interact in your community. A small gesture would mean so much to them, for a minimal investment of your time.
Schedule a Power Hour. When bestselling author Gretchen Rubin was working on her book Better Than Before, she spent a lot of time thinking through the issues in her life that she wanted to address by establishing better habits. She began to realize that she had been putting off several small, annoying tasks, like fixing her broken office chair, or taking a bag of donations to a local charity. Because the projects were important but not urgent, Rubin wasn’t creating time in her schedule to deal with them. The upshot: although none of these tasks was big or time-consuming, by delaying them she was feeling weighed down.
Her solution was to designate one hour per week, called a Power Hour, to deal with these small duties. So she wrote down everything that was bothering her, and scheduled just sixty minutes per week to work through her list. Rubin found satisfaction in completing these seemingly annoying obligations, and over time has realized that by devoting just an hour per week to dealing with them, she has a clearer mind and a more peaceful environment.
What tasks have you been putting off? Could you block out one hour per week for yourself, to clean your fridge, finally fold and put away your huge pile of clean laundry, or clean off your desk at work? By setting aside time to complete these things in a Power Hour, you may be surprised at how accomplished you feel.
Sleep. Most of us don’t get enough sleep, and we often forget the toll this takes on our bodies. Sleep is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system, and for sustaining energy and focus throughout the day. Studies have linked a lack of shut-eye to a higher risk of heart disease, cancer, and obesity. And beyond the health benefits, getting just one more hour of slumber per day can have a tremendous effect on your mood and productivity. So we all know sleep is important, but how do we prioritize it?
One trick you can try is to set your alarm in the evening one night per week, to go to bed one hour earlier than you normally do. This may be just the reminder you need to stop the “one more TV episode” mindset that steals from your sleep! So if bedtime for you is typically at midnight, try setting your alarm for 11 p.m. When it goes off, head for your bed, and enjoy getting that extra hour of rest. If you find this change to be beneficial, you can set your alarm for an hour earlier one night a week, to increase the amount of sleep you get that evening.
On the other hand, if your issue is quality of sleep, try setting aside the hour before your bedtime as an intentionally restful period. To create an ideal environment for sleep, follow these steps:
- Turn off your phone and TV, and take a bath.
- Read a book, or meditate.
- If your thoughts are still racing, keep paper and a pen on your nightstand, to write down all of the to-dos that come to your mind.
- Turn down your thermostat a few degrees, and turn on some calming music.
By following these steps to prepare your body for sleep one hour before bedtime, you have better odds of experiencing a restful night.
The bottom line: examine your schedule, and see if it is possible for you to go to bed an hour earlier one night per week, or to take an hour to prepare for a better night’s sleep. You will feel much more refreshed by investing a little time into increasing your quantity (and quality) of daily slumber.
Learn Something New. Most of us have dreams of pursuing a creative hobby or improving a skill, but often feel intimidated by taking on a new commitment in our schedules. However, if you knew you could learn something new by investing only an hour per week, would that remove the intimidation factor?
Take some time to think through the things that you’ve always wanted to learn to do. Have you ever wanted to paint with watercolors, master the art of cooking, or improve your photography skills? Do you want to learn self-defense, or get your private pilot’s license? Or, maybe you already have a hobby, like running or knitting, but you want to become better at it.
Schedule one hour per week to focus on learning something new or improving your skills. If possible, find a class to attend, to hold you accountable to making this time a priority. If you don’t live in an area where a class is an option, check out meetup.com to see if there is a group of people in your town pursuing a similar goal. If you are more content working independently, find relevant resources that work toward a goal, such as a cookbook to bake through, or an online running plan. The most important step is to begin intentionally pursuing your goal, by dedicating an hour per week to it.
If you are able to commit one hour per week to your efforts, your skills will grow measurably over time, and you’ll be proud of investing the time in growing yourself.
Catch up on Communication. During busy times, you can have so many e-mails, voice messages, and texts coming in that you can’t possibly keep up. Your to-do lists get overwhelming, and when you have a few minutes to catch your breath, you don’t know what you should be working on, or what your top priorities are.
To combat this issue, consider scheduling one hour per week to catch up on all communication. Here are a few tips for success:
- Find a quiet environment, and make it your goal to power through as many e-mails as possible. Unsubscribe to ads and newsletters that are clogging up your box, and archive those e-mails you don’t need to act on.
- When you come across e-mails that you can’t act on for a few months, consider archiving them and setting a reminder appointment on your calendar. This way, you won’t forget, but your inbox will be cleared of work you can’t do today.
- Return those neglected phone calls, and send the texts you’ve been putting off. Be sure that you’ve made allowance for the calls and texts that will come in during the hour, and that you have a plan for responding.
By dedicating one hour per week to focus on catching up on your communication, you will feel so much better when you’ve eliminated or reduced your backlog.
Plan Healthy Meals. Everyone knows that making good choices about the food we put in our bodies is important. However, it’s easy during times of stress (or the holidays!) to settle for food that is quick and available, without putting much thought into the nutritional value. Our food choices are typically made out of habit, and we’ve all had seasons in our lives where we know we could do better, but don’t make it a priority.
Consider carving out one hour per week to map out your meals for the week, focusing on fueling your body with healthy foods. If you are lacking inspiration, Pinterest has thousands of links to healthy meal and snack ideas, and the Food Network and Cooking Channel often feature shows that discuss how to prepare healthy meals quickly.
Even with these resources, some of us don’t enjoy cooking. If this is the case for you, you could spend one hour per week researching the most healthy take-out options in your area, or looking into delivery services that will ship nutritious, prepared food to your home. Or if cooking intimidates you, but you would still like to learn the basics, subscribe to a delivery option like Blue Apron, which sends healthy meal ingredients and detailed instructions to you at your convenience.
Spending one hour per week planning out your meals will also help you make better food choices on the go, and improve your nutrition. You’ll enjoy the benefits of eating well, like contributing to better bone health, and reducing your risk of heart disease. Your energy levels will improve, and you’ll find it much easier to maintain a healthy weight.
These six suggestions above show that dedicating just one hour per week toward self-improvement can make a big difference, when practiced consistently over a period of time. While reflecting on these ideas, you may find one or two applicable to an area where you are motivated to work toward change, or you may find inspiration for yet other ways to creatively use one hour per week to improve your life. If you are able to get started now, by investing just sixty minutes per week toward a goal, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment when a fresh new year rolls around!15