We often don’t get so much done because we do not plan how to save or spend our time. When we are bogged down with life’s work and activities, sometimes we feel like our work is overwhelming for us and that taking time for caring for ourselves is not possible. However, we can learn how to change habits, one step at a time, and keeping in mind that small steps forward are still progress!

So often, when we have self-care goals, it can be overwhelming if we feel like there’s a lot of change. For example, losing 30 lbs or exercising for 30 minutes might seem like too much, so then it’s hard to get started. One way to help ourselves, is to break down our goals into smaller, more doable steps. For example, instead of getting started with 30 minutes of exercise, perhaps I can first take action by planning to research gyms, identify friends who I might ask to be an exercise buddy, or decide what kind of exercise I’d like to explore. And, if 30 minutes is too much for current fitness level or schedule, I can start out by planning to do 5-10 minutes, and then build from there. Another example, if I want to lose 30 lbs, perhaps I can plan to start by eating a healthy breakfast for most days of the week. By breaking our long-term goals down to short-term steps that we need to take to get there, we accept that we aren’t at the long-term goal yet, but we can start from where we are now and work towards increasing our good habits.

When learning how to make changes, it’s important to have a definite aim or goal. Learning how to write a SMART goal provides a good template that we can use  to plan how we want to execute our goals.

SMART goals are statements that reflect the important results that you want to accomplish. SMART is an acronym that stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. SMART goals are intended to focus attention on what is most important so that you can accomplish your priorities for your health or other areas of your life. One way to write out a good SMART goal is have your goal answer the following questions:

  1. What? (be specific about the behavior you want to do; instead of saying exercise, say that I’m going to walk or ride an exercise bike; also, losing weight is not a behavior, but replacing sugary sweets with fruit is and this behavior can lead to weight loss.)
  2. How Much? (e.g., minutes or hours of time you will spend, # of reps, distance, # of portions or serving sizes, calorie intake, etc.)
  3. When? what time of day or days of the week (e.g., in the mornings, after work, or on Tuesdays & Fridays you’ll get it done)
  4. How Often? This refers to the number of days over the next week you will do it (e.g., 3 days, 2 days, 4 days, etc. For certain goals, try to avoid starting out doing them every day so that you can build up to your successes)
  5. How Confident Am I? (on a scale of 0  to 10, with 0 = no confidence and 10 = total confidence, how confident am I that can accomplish my action plan exactly as written; if your confidence level is less than a 7, consider making adjustments to the way you wrote your goal so that you increase your confidence that you will get it done; initial successes are important for a sense of accomplishment and motivation)

An example might be:

  1. What? I plan to walk this week
  2. How Much? I plan to walk for 10 minutes or walk to the stop sign on my road and back home twice
  3. When? I plan to work in the morning, before breakfast
  4. How Often? I will walk at least 3 days this week
  5. How Confident Am I? My confidence that I can complete my action plan as written is an 8

Another Example:

  1. What? Go out to eat with friends
  2. How Much? a few hours
  3. When? in the late afternoon, during dinner time or on a weekend day
  4. How Often? at least once
  5. How Confident Am I? My confidence that I can complete my action plan as written is a 7

You can use the above example to help you get started with writing out your own SMART goal for your self-care. Here are some additional tips:

  • As you’re getting started, just write your SMART goal to reflect what you plan to do over the course of 1 week, and revisit your plan to review if any changes needs to be made for the following week.
  • Increase your ‘How Much’ and ‘How Often’ incrementally and only as you achieve success in the previous weeks; this will help you work towards long-term goals
  • Include self-care goals that support your mental, physical, spiritual, and social well-being. Consider activities that relax or energize you, connects you with friends and family, increase recreation and physical activities, increase good health habits, foster devotional spirit, etc.

Use the following guide as a template to keep track of your goals: TRANSFORM SMART Goal Template