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zen habits: A Challenge: Goals for March

Monday, March 5, 2007

A Challenge: Goals for March

Every Monday is Weekly Review on Zen Habits.

We're a few days into March, and I'm reviewing my goals for the year. One thing I'm learning this year is that I took on too much at once. I'm closely examining my goals for this year and thinking that I want to focus on one at a time (more in line with my 12 Habits).

So, for this month, I'm going to be more focused, and I invite all of you to join me in a friendly challenge: set one goal for yourself this month, and we will support each other, motivate each other, track our goals and review them every Monday, and help each other achieve that goal.

So, if you'd like to join me in this March Challenge, in the comments, please list your goal or habit for this month. Some tips (as always):

  • Set something achievable. Don't try to run a marathon if you've never run before. Try to get in the habit of exercising three times a week instead. Work on one small habit, and you will get to your goal eventually (the Zen Habits philosophy).
  • Make it measurable. Want to save money? Great! How much do you plan to save per week or paycheck. Want to run? Great! Set a goal of days per week, minutes per week, or miles per week. Want to wake up early? Set a goal of a certain number of days per week, at a certain time. If it's measurable, you can track it over time and see if you're successful.
  • Set a deadline. It's important to attach a timeline to your goal. Our timeline for the March Challenge will be one month -- although you can certainly continue your goal beyond that, set a mini-goal to be achieved by the end of March -- a certain number of days for a habit by March 31, for example.
My goal for the March Challenge will be to get back on track with my triathlon training (I was sidetracked due to illness and a death in the family). More specifically, here's my goal for March: train five days a week (two rest days) each week until the end of March. The five days should include two swims, two bikes and two runs, but at the very least I should be doing one thing on each of the five days.

I need to get back in the habit of exercise. I actually started to get back into it last week, but I really want to focus on this goal this month. That means that I will postpone two other things I was planning this month: my 5th habit of patience (I'll have to be patient about that goal!) and another challenge of trying to cut out sweets (except for a cheat day). I will save those for later months this year -- a lesson that I've learned is that it's important to evaluate and adjust your goals as you go along.

So, join me! What's your March Challenge goal?

Tomorrow, we will work on a plan to meet our March Challenge goals!


Anonymous said...

great post!

I also came to the realization that it is sometimes better to focus on one area/goal/habit at a time instead of trying to do to much at once.

For me, my goals for 2007 so far are;
January - Purchase an apartment I love
February - Successfully settle apartment
MARCH (THIS MONTH) - Decorate and move into apartment I love

In terms of habits to help with this, I am aiming to do one major and one minor action toward decorating and moving into my apartment everyday of this month :)

best of luck to everyone with their goals for March! :)

Leo said...

Hey, Stayfly ... awesome! Sounds like you're doing great with your goals so far, and I'm excited that you've joined the challenge. Stick with us this month and I think we'll have a lot of fun motivating each other. And congrats on purchasing an apartment you love!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm going to wake up at 5am on the weekdays.

Leo said...

Great to have you onboard the challenge, Chris! And that's a great goal. Let's work together to make this happen!

TheHawk said...

This is a great idea, I've been trying to get back into shape for a while now, but doing it without external support is difficult.

My goal is to run a mile 4 days a week for the rest of the month. I even went on a run before typing this comment.

Leo said...

Great Shaun! Excellent goal. I'm so glad you've joined the challenge. And you're off to a great start already. I'm gonna go for a run this evening. Stick around and let's help each other out.

Anonymous said...

Some people, when they look at this one, will probably laugh because it's simple for them, but mine is to wake up by 8:30am.

I'm leading a lifestyle right now where I can do my work anytime, so find myself staying up all sorts of late hours working, then sleeping in.

I'm almost tempted to pick one that's harder for most but easy for me, like working out regularly. But, that'd be cheating. So, am throwing my hat in the ring. See you at 8:30am.

Monica said...

I love it! I'm in! My goal for March is to read at least one new book every week.

I'm a book-a-holic but have a bad habit of reading the same things over and over again. I have my favorites and they never let me down, so I tend to drag my heels on finding new authors or new books.

Time to broaden my horizons and expand my mind!

This week: Ursula Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness. Classic sci-fi, here I come!



Leo said...

Great! Welcome aboard the March Challenge, Kamal and Monica.

@Kamal: don't worry, no one is judging anyone else's goals here. We all have our personal goals, and we will all face an equal challenge trying to accomplish them. I think that's a great goal and even if it isn't that hard (I don't know how hard it will be for you), I recommend we start small anyway -- something very achievable.

@Monica: Great goal! I'm a book lover too. Right now I'm reading "High Fidelity" by Nick Hornby, an author I love. I just finished "Naked" by David Sedaris. I'm also a sci-fi fan -- William Gibson is my favorite.

Thanks for joining, guys!

Ann M. Mione said...

Well I'm just about done with 30 days of flossing every night (okay, I skipped a few, and yeah it's a funny goal, but on joesgoals.com it is apparently one of the more common!). Overall, it went really well. I actually used a whiteboard marker to write "FLOSS!" in big block letters on my bathroom mirror as a reminder. More importantly, I also added a box with a countdown to motivate myself. It has been working really well. I agree with previous comments about the one thing at a time.

Like many, I need to get back into my exercise routine. I was doing well, going in the morning, but then bad weather and a weekend visitor stalled me a bit. I've still been exercising, but not as regularly. So I'd like to get back to that. My goal is 4 days a week of either hitting the gym (which I usually enjoy once I get myself there) or some pilates and free weights in my apartment.

Thanks for the inspiration Leo. I read about 10 different blogs, but this and the happiness project are my two favorites. This one because it combines so many different topics but in a realistic way, with concrete tips.

Leo said...

Hi Ann ... Congrats on achieving your flossing goal! I think that's a great goal, one that many of us could focus on I'm sure.

Thanks so much for joining us in the March Challenge. This looks like it's going to shape up to be really fun. I'm looking forward to it. I hope to post something up on most days about the March Challenge, to help everyone through it (and so we can all help each other).

Thanks for the nice comments! I'm glad you're enjoying the site.

Anonymous said...

death in the family has also thrown me out of sorts-- for three months...! i am now moving to a new state to help support family and therefore moving a lot of other things in my life. being a musician, my goal for march:

get back to practicing and composing music. two hours per day for practicing is where i should be.

i will start on march 10th (when i get to the new state) and finish ... when i can play guitar better than jimi hendrix. just kidding... i'll keep playing beyond that "plateau"

Leo said...

Tedgotsoul ... great to have you join the challenge! Sorry about the death in the family. I know it can be very hard, and especially hard on our routines. As for your goal ... it sounds like a lot, but I don't know what a lot is for you ... just wanted to recommend that you start with an easily attainable goal for now. Thanks for joining!

Anonymous said...

thanks leo,

should be an easy goal... us musicians wake up at 2PM and go to bed at 7AM. that leaves plenty of time to find two hours to practice in between all of the groupies and glasses of whiskey.

just kidding. but the jimi hendrix thing is more like a 2 year goal!



Ryan said...

I'm not quite sure what my March goals are (I'm working on some big projects that will take me out of March).

I'll get back to you :)

Samer said...

I'm in: My March goal is to jog for one hour, five days a week, until the end of March, and hopefully cultivate this into a habit.

@Leo: Sedaris is brilliant, I'm a big fan -- read all his books. How did you find Naked?

Leo said...

Excellent goal, Samer! Is one hour a long time for you to run? If so, I would recommend a shorter time for this month's goal. If it's an easy run, then that sounds great. Thanks for joining the Challenge! I'm pretty excited about all of you guys joining, if you can't already tell.

As for Sedaris, I've read most of his books too. I was looking for Naked and finally found it at a used bookstore, if that's what you mean. If you mean how did I like it, I thought it was excellent. Before that I read The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett ... which I loved. I love all her stuff, especially Bel Canto.

Samer said...

Leo, I usually alternate running, then a slow jog, then more running, etc, so an hour is good. I used to do it in October and November, but with going back home during the holidays I kinda dropped the routine.

holli jo said...

Okay, I'm in. At first I didn't want to join the challenge, in case I didn't achieve it, but I guess that's the point -- accountability.

I'm going to start slow. My goal is to exercise (probably walking, but any exercise will do) for at least 15 minutes, 5 days a week.

Thanks for the challenge. I REALLY needed something to get me started on being consistent w/ my exercise.

Anonymous said...

My goal is to exercise at least 30 minutes 5 days a week. And to redesign my blog by the end of March.

j. said...

doug & i are in. each of us plans to write and complete a short story by the end of march. this morning we woke up earlier than usual and spent a half hour working on them. it felt great!

red said...

such a great idea...this has definitely been on my mind, I'm happy to have help in motivating myself to keep on track.
my goal this month is to run 5 days a week. This means I must take my lunch hour and use it to run 30 minutes all 5 days, but i have the weekend for back up just in case I miss a day at work. It's going to be hard to get back into it, I've become used to ordering in with my co-workers over the holidays. I need to hold strong!!!
my own pursuit of happiness must go on.

RebeccaB said...

I'm jumping on the workout bandwagon! I have gone incredibly soft since moving to Arizona. It's almost bathing suit season and I've got a trip planned to California...I don't want to spend the whole time hanging out inside!
You would think with a boyfriend that works out almost everyday that would be motivation?...Nope it's not. So at least 3 times a week, i'm going to get up with him at 5 and work out in the apt Gym (because it's free!)

As a more long term goal I need to find awesome peopele in my area to hang out with, living in 1 state for 22 years and then moving to another one where you don't know anyone is difficult. So I would love to make some meaningful friendships. So if you want to be my friend let me know, that would just make this goal a whole lot easier :)

Leo said...

Excellent goals, guys! Welcome aboard. I think this is going to be a lot of fun. I went running last night just to get started with my goal.

Jenn said...

I have an ongoing goal that I'm hoping to use smaller, monthly goals to augment.

My ongoing goal is to read and make notes on at least three items a week from the list of texts I need to to know for my upcoming doctoral comprehensive exam in June (and, thus far, I'm succeeding).

In order to help myself out with this, my first month's goal is to exercise for half and hour to an hour, four times a week. I feel and think better when I'm active, which I imagine will only help me to get comps reading done better than I do now, and will also prevent me from turning into an academic slug.

Leo said...

Great job, Jenn. Sounds like you've got it together. Thanks for joining the Challenge!

Unknown said...

Great plan Leo! I've been reading your blog for about a month now and I've learned a lot of great things. I'm excited to join you in your March challenge, and my goal for the month is to procrastinate less. More concretely, I'm going to attempt to limit my Tivo watching to one hour per day (especially weekdays), and only check my email & blogs 2 or 3 times a day instead of constantly checking. Hopefully this will leave me more time to accomplish other goals in the future.

Leo said...

Hi Kara ... excellent goal! I'm glad you've joined the Challenge. I think we can all help each other out.

As for procrastination, I was planning to write about that in an upcoming post (and no jokes about how I've been putting it off!) ... but here are a couple of quick tips:

* Always replace a negative habit with a positive one ... replace procrastination with a Do It Now habit! Replace Tivo and blogs with something more productive.
* Old habits are hard to break. Be sure to create a goal plan (see my latest post on this blog) so that you can attack your obstacles and habit with different strategies. You can do this, but be sure you're prepared!

Now stop reading this blog and get back to work! Or, maybe you could make Zen Habits your one exception? Just kidding!

Seth Kramer said...

I will plan on getting up at 6am every morning....Ready to be more productive in my day

Leo said...

Awesome goal, Seth! Thanks for joining the March Challenge. Hope you'll stick around so we can help each other accomplish our goals. See my latest post about creating a plan for your March goal.

Anonymous said...

I want to finish my engineering project by the end of this month. I have been putting it off for a while now.

Anonymous said...

I love Zen Habits and am joining the March challenge. I want to start earning a reasonable income from my new business. Target for March is $1200, enough to live on and can be improved later.
So I will have to crack the procrastination issues and vow to do at least 1 unpleasant, tough task per day. I will write down all my ways of time-wasting and avoidance.
It sounds a HUGE CHALLENGE at the moment and will take a lot of visualisation.

Leo said...

Zenith and Meandering, thanks for joining the Challenge! Sounds like you guys have great goals. Let's help each other achieve them.

Anonymous said...

My goal is to quit drinking diet Coke by March 31.

Pissarrinha said...

I would like to join this challenge by commiting
myself to finish two sections of my PhD thesis:

- The cost and benefit analysis
- The case study of smell from paper pulp mils

The deadline is the end of March

Leo said...

Balfour and Pissarrinha, thanks for joining the Challenge! Sounds like you've got some great goals. I suggest you set mini-goals along the way, instead of just one goal to finish by the end of the month ... like what you'd like to accomplish each week. It's much more manageable that way.

Anonymous said...

Leo, so nice to get a comment. Here's my plan: I've been drinking 2 (sometimes 3) cans of diet coke a day. There have been times when I haven't had diet coke on weekends, so I think weekends will be easiest to kick.

Wk 1: 1 diet coke today, 1 diet PEPSI (to break the coke habit) Thurs and Fri., one diet PEPSI on weekend
Wk 2: 1 diet PEPSI on 4 weekdays, 0 on weekend
Wk 3: 1 diet PEPSI on 3 weekdays, 0 on weekend
Wk 4: 1 diet PEPSI on 2 weekdays at beginning of week (3/25 & 3/27), 0 through rest of week. That's it!

Leo said...

Hi Balfour -- great job. I would also suggest you create a goal plan (see my more recent post on this) with rewards, other motivations, and strategies to overcome any obstacles. Good luck and stick with us during this Challenge!

Anonymous said...

I haven't done a goal plan yet (will do!), but want to check in and say I only had one diet coke yesterday, down from 2 per day, usually. This is Day 2 of my challenge!

Is this where we're posting our comments as we go along?

Leo said...

Hi Balfour ... great job! Be sure to create your goals plan, though ... it may seem unnecessary, but I think that extra few minutes of planning will help you overcome obstacles, help motivate you, and give you that extra bit of commitment you need to stick with it for the rest of the month.

As for where to post progress, this is good for now, but I should create a separate post for that. Good job!

Anonymous said...

I'm quitting smoking for good today. I love your site and read it daily. The movitation part will be the biggest help, thanks!

Leo said...

Congrats Mollie! You've made a big step. Quitting smoking was one of the biggest changes of my life, and it has made so much difference.

Some suggestions, if you don't mind:

* if you haven't yet, join the forum at http://quitsmoking.about.com/mpboards.htm -- this is one of the best tools ever. Introduce yourself, post often, get to know people, and rely on them -- they're going through the same thing as you!

* if you haven't yet, read my tips for quitting smoking - these are the things that really worked for me

* also read the articles at http://quitsmoking.about.com/

* stick with the slogan "Not One Puff Ever" (NOPE) - don't let yourself take a single puff, from now on!

* read the top 20 motivational hacks on this site if you haven't already, and use as many as possible!

* find a stress replacement -- I used running, but find something to do when you get stressed

* stick with us here in the March Challenge -- let us help you, and you can help us too! Go make a goal plan (see my more recent post on this) and report your progress, daily or at least weekly

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I once read somewhere that to have any one thing become a habit, you must perform that one thing consistently for at least 21 days. Now I'm sure some people can achieve this <=21 days...and others might take more time but I truly do believe this is a good metric in my experience of trying to form habits. Anyway...good luck in trying to get back into our old regimen.

Leo said...

Hi Manny ... thanks for your comment. Actually, the 21 days number has never been scientifically verified, although it has been repeated quite often (google it). Those who repeat it never attribute it to a source, because it's believed to be common knowledge.

My take? Doing something for 21 days straight will definitely help you form a habit, but I would recommend 30 days as a better goal because then the habit will become more firmly entrenched. Sometimes 21 days is not enough -- and in fact, it's right around that time that many people suffer a crisis in their resolve and fall out of the habit. Going to 30 days ensures you're over that common crisis period, and it should be fairly smooth sailing from there.