December is typically the time most of us wind down. We relax. We indulge a little. We eat more than we should and sometimes pull back on our routines. Exercise might suffer at the throne of a few extra Holiday Classics and hot chocolate.
Endorphins are loving life but your routines are not.
“But it’s December,” you say, “I’ve worked my butt off all year long. I deserve this.” And you would be right. I’m not one to back away from some well-earned indulgence. It’s the end of the year and you’ve worked hard.
But there’s another thing at play. What happens to your mindset going into the new year when you make exceptions to your routines, goals and habits? Why start the year with deflated momentum?
December is a critical month. Maybe even more so than January. Because it sets the stage for the beginning of the year. Yet January gets all the attention. Just ask the weight loss industry. How much more of a jump start could you get on your year if you came into it with a little momentum rather than a dead stop? Because it’s just as easy to postpone your goals on day two because you messed up on day one as it is to get excited about day two when you’ve had a great day one.
Some of us hit the “Holiday Slump” (and it’s a shame we even have such a thing) so hard that we actually form new, counter-productive habits that we then have to unlearn before we can even start to tackle the new ones. It’s like finally paying off your loans only to go back into debt and start paying on interest again.
Are you hoping for a magic switch that will peel you away from Netflix and magically transform you into an achieving machine on January 1?
No wonder New Year’s Resolutions have such a bad rap. You commit to change the world without solid groundwork or momentum that justifies doing so.
Here are three suggestions to make your December count so you can change the world in January:
First, set limits for your indulgences. Everyone needs to be rewarded for hard work but if you don’t decide ahead of time how much is appropriate, “reward creep” will set in.
At a recent get-together with some friends, I noticed my daughter sitting at the table eating chips from a bag. A seemingly harmless task we can all relate to. I encouraged her to take a handful, place it on her plate and eat that pile until it’s gone. That way she knows how much she’s eaten. If you “snack from the bag,” you will likely find yourself eating far more than you had planned to simply because you didn’t know.
If you’ve had a killer year and are looking forward to rewarding yourself, determine exactly what that looks like, decide your reward and carry through. But then stop and get back to life.
Second, schedule yourself some “me-time” over the holiday break for reflection, planning, goal-setting and improving things around you that are weighing you down.
Ask yourself some tough questions: what’s the mental cardboard that occupies too much of your thoughts or time? What is serving you well and what is not? What do you need to say “no” to more often? What do you want to change from 2017? Taking time for reflection does two things. First, it’s a good thing to do anyway because it pulls you away from the front row to the back where your broad perspective changes. But second, it keeps you going so you don’t lose your momentum.
Reflection and taking inventory tricks both sides of your brain. It satisfies the part that wants to take some time off but yet it also keeps your productivity monster feeling good about your progress. This is why it’s the perfect time to set new goals for the upcoming year.
Block off some relaxing chunks of time for year-end inventory and planning. And feel 100% guilt-free for every minute of it. Or, rather than watching another action-packed shoot-em-up thriller, turn on a documentary or a movie based on a true story. Inspiring, educational and relaxing.
Third, keep your routine going. Your daily routine is the backbone of your personal development. If you give up everything else, do not give up your routine. The consistency will see you through the Holidays and into the new year.
If you haven’t yet, develop a power-packed morning routine to start your day. Pray, hydrate, exercise, meditate, read, journal, whatever works for you. The only wrong answer is not having one. Take December to experiment and develop one you like and commit to it. Customize it and write it down. Just like your year needs a great January, your day needs a great morning routine. Wake up that much earlier if you need- it’s worth it.
With a little planning and some commitment, you can enjoy the holiday season and still keep the critical momentum going that will be so valuable to you in 2018.