Getting STARTED…Step 4 of 4

Step 4.  Sustaining the Change

People make and break commitments to themselves and others every day.  If you want to be the one whose commitments stick and whose behavioral changes are more than a flash in the pan, you must do some things differently.  Here are several ideas for sustaining the changes you seek.  

Balance. It’s cliché, but true that no one has more time than you.  No one has less.  There are 168 hours each and every week for all of us.  Tradeoffs are unavoidable, so be intentional with your tradeoffs.  Quality time spent with your kids can’t be spent at the office.

To maintain some balance while you change behavior and prioritize your goals, establish some planning rules to prevent one role from dominating another.  For example, if your big tradeoff is between work time and family time, try these:

* Update your calendar at least every 3 months to reflect important family functions; notify colleagues and clients well in advance that you are not available those days.

* Don’t work late every single day.  Rather than working until 7 or 8pm every day, instead commit to be home at a decent hour certain days.  On the other nights, work later.

* If you have children, save some quiet work to be done after the kids go to bed or before they get up in the morning.

* Discover your spouse’s ‘love language’ (www.5lovelanguages.com) and schedule some time each week or month to speak it.  You will likely find that it doesn’t take a lot of time or money…just intentionality.

Set firm boundaries, or commitments, to yourself or your family.  Boundaries help with balance, and they help with sustaining change.  Without these commitments, you are more likely to stray to old habits when the going gets tough.  Here are a few examples:

* I will not drink caffeine after 6pm.  I will go to bed by 10pm 4 times a week.

* I will have a special breakfast with the kids at least one morning each week.

* I will get home at a decent time at least 2 or 3 nights each week to help with bedtime.

* For every day that I eat out for lunch, I will bring a healthy lunch two other days.

* I will not open more than two or three windows on my computer at one time.

* I will make 20 minutes each day for quiet time…no matter what.

* I will not work on my computer or check email on my phone on Sundays.

Measurement. Everyone knows you can’t manage what you don’t measure.  There are even studies that show that results improve simply because they are getting measured (see The Hawthorne Effect).  Take this advice, if you are going to the trouble of creating smart goals and actions, take the added step of measuring your efforts and results.  Make this a habit.  Schedule it.  Hardwire it.  Make it part of your weekly agenda, and make the results as public as possible (see accountability below).

Accountability. We talked about using an accountability group in Part 3 of this article.  Few tactics have a greater immediate impact on behavioral change than accountability.  But note that not all accountability is created equally.

Effective accountability requires:

* Careful selection of accountability partners (You should trust and care about your partners)

* Clear understanding of what you expect of them (Encouragement?  Coaching?  Discipline?)

* Clarity of what you are doing and measuring

* Real time visibility into your progress

* Easy and direct modes for feedback

* Consequences…commit to post your results and to endure something undesirable (think dunk tank) or for the greater good (give more time or money away) if you fail or give up

Rewards. Depending on the goal, you may or may not need a reward to motivate you to stay on track.  If the goal is to earn a sizable bonus or achieve a major quality milestone, the goal and the reward may be one in the same.  Other behavioral changes that require you to endure a hardship may benefit from a positive reinforcement, such as a fun outing, memorable memento, or other form of celebration.

Tools. Sustaining change may require the use of new tools, too.  With distractions everywhere and busyness filling your every waking moment, existing productivity tools like email, instant messaging, and smart phones often just add more thing to your plate.

For tracking daily to-do’s, there are great new tools like Things (http://culturedcode.com) and Teux-Deux (http://teuxdeux.com).  For keeping up with notes, thoughts, and other media, consider Ever Note (www.evernote.com).

But for staying focused on the actions that matter most, sustaining change over time, and adding real-time accountability to your efforts, there is really only one solution with the power to help you succeed and the simplicity to make it sustainable…irunurun.

Good luck and keep running!

Travis Dommert, COO

About IRUNURUN

IRUNURUN is an emerging technology company whose mission is to help people achieve their potential in work and life.  Its patent-pending accountability app helps people focus on their highest-impact activities.