1. State your goals in terms of what you want to do, not what you want to stop doing. Example: You’ll be more successful if you get up 15 minutes earlier every day, rather than vowing to “stop being late to work.”
2. Scale down a lofty goal to a daily to-do. Example: Your overall goal may be to sharpen your . So your daily No. 1 task should be to spend 15 minutes reading a best-seller or e-newsletter that focuses on communication.
Tip: Do it at the beginning of the day, so it doesn’t get pushed aside for more pressing tasks.
3. Write down the goal every day, and put the paper on your wall.
Bruce Wexler, the neuroscientist and author of Brain and Culture, found that children have brains that can easily change, but adults are more hardwired. Changing behavior takes more intense mental power than you might think. Writing down a goal takes only a minute, but, amazingly, it will bolster your resolve.
4. Plot each night how you’ll meet your goal the next day. Example: Is your goal to take a brisk walk every day? Then give some thought to how you’ll arrange tomorrow’s to-do’s around that one 30-minute walk. If you simply assume you’ll “get to it sometime,” chances are you won’t.
5. Check in with friends who “match” your new desired behavior. Why? People who don’t change their behavior tend to justify it by saying that it’s socially acceptable, according to Cindy Jardine, professor at the University of Alberta who studies public health. So travel in circles where the behavior you want to change is not accepted.
Studies show that, for women, talking about a goal out loud actually helps them meet it. Men, meanwhile, are more motivated by seeing they’ve reached measurable benchmarks.