The new year usually comes with false promises and a slew of new year’s resolutions that are abandoned by February. We are certainly guilty of the practice and have had many failed attempts at creating that new and lasting change. This year, however, we decided to try go about our habits and goals a different way… and it is working better than anticipated!
Usually when we sit down to think about a new year’s resolution, goal, or any change we would like to implement, the process is quick and painless. I would usually take ten minutes, maybe jot some things down in a notebook, then make the conscious decision to make some significant change in my life. Such as, I’m going to go to the gym 5 times a week or I’m not going to drink alcohol for 3 months. Ambitious, yet lacking in effectiveness.
We have read, many of times, the importance of writing down goals and reviewing them each day. I’ve dabbled with this in the past, but I would either forget to take the notebook out or the goals would constantly be visible so it wouldn’t grab my attention anymore. Both circumstances lead to a lack of effectiveness.
Being visual people, we have a white board in our bedroom for brainstorming and work sessions. One day, we had the ingenious idea to make our whiteboard into a challenge board. It would include anything we wanted to do throughout the week – ranging from physical activity, to reading, to training Maddie. We knew we wanted to keep it simple so we put our challenges into a chart with a box for a check-mark for each week. If we completed that challenge, we got a check in the box (it’s my check in a box, my check in a box girl!) If we failed, we got an x. Easy enough, right? This simple idea has blown up into a successful three months of absolutely crushing our challenges and goals.
Of course, our challenge board has evolved along the way. We realized that we did not want to make everything an all-or-nothing challenge. If my goal was simply read every day, and I did not read on Monday, the challenge for the week failed so I am not likely to hold myself accountable the rest of the week. Instead, I set parameters such as read for twenty-five minutes five days per week.
In order to track this, I would write the numbers one through five in the challenge box and after each day I read, I would erase one number. You would be shocked to know how satisfying erasing that little dry-erase number can be! It is instant feedback and a positive reward that encourages us to continue crushing our challenges. More importantly, changing your expectations to meeting the challenge criteria 4 or 5 days per week gives you flexibility and peace of mind if you have a busy day or just need to take a day off. What good is a challenge or goal if it brings stress to your daily life?
One thing we did not anticipate was the competitive aspect of having both of our challenges on the board for all to see. At the end of January, we found ourselves counting up the number of check marks for successful completion of a challenge. There may have been some boasting and trash talk floating around! This is not to say that you need a partner to have success with the challenge board, but friendly competition is certainly a great motivator and can help fuel your progress. You and your partner’s goals do not even need to be related, they just need to be the same in number so you can track total challenges completed at the end of the month.
What I believe has made the board so effective is that it is interactive. It is not just a quote on a post-it or an affirmation that you need to repeat. It is something that you must walk up to, review, and update every single day. In fact, we decided to make the whiteboard the only place that has our challenges so that we would be forced to take the time to interact with it. Keeping the challenges in one place also helped us get better with our scheduling and planning. Knowing that we would be at work all day and unable to access the board, we would be sure to look at the board the night before and schedule what we needed to accomplish the next day in order to stay on task.
We are now in the last week of March and are completing our third round of challenges for the year. Not every box has gotten a check mark, not every challenge has been met with full energy and effort, but the amount of productivity, organization, and self-responsibility has been immense. Feeling that you are improving your habits is great, but being able to measure it and visibly see data that supports your growth brings you to a whole different level. This simple change in our lives has gotten us regular with our workouts and recovery, reading more, working more, and making change in all areas of our lives. The end of the month becomes an exciting time to review our accomplishments, plan for the next month, and crown a victor!
What little hacks have you done that have helped you make great improvements? We want to know! Leave a comment below!