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Your Routine is the Key to Achieving Your Goals

Your Routine is the Key to Achieving Your Goals

When I look back at the goals I’ve achieved, the ones I’ve almost achieved and the ones that continue to sit there, staring me in the face, day after day after day I’ve started to come to a strong realization about goal setting.

It’s not about breaking the goal down into smaller parts to make it easier to achieve or putting a deadline on when to achieve it; it’s something much smaller, much simpler and yes, so obvious – it’s about the routine.

Take a moment and look back on some of the goals you tried to achieve over the last 3 months?

Why did you fail?

Were your goals too vague?

Did you not have the proper level of support from your friend to achieve it?

Was it because you didn’t have the time to achieve it?

Why did you not have the proper amount of time to achieve it?

Did you start out and set some unrealistic expectations of yourself that were hard to mingle into the rest of your life once you started?

Did you start but not really commit to achieving it?

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Were you never able to find the time to work on it?

Bingo.

I’ve been struggling with achieving some of my own goals lately (the large ones).  When I looked back and compared to the goals I had achieved during the same time period, I started to see a pattern emerge.

I had a Routine.

For the goalsI achieved, I had a routine that I kept to whether it was every day or every other day and for the ones that I didn’t, I had a sheet with some bullet points on it that I tried to cross out week after week but was never able to do so – no matter how hard I tried.

If we now understand the importance of setting a routine in relation to our goal achievement what do we need to consider in setting a proper routine that will enable us to succeed?

Establish the Routine at the same time as your Goal

Dreaming about achieving “something” is the path to creating a Goal, creating a routine is the road to the execution of that goal. If you are committed and serious about creating and achieving your goal – build a routine for when you are going to work on it while you are dreaming (yes dreaming) it up.

Don’t wait, don’t put it off, don’t put it on your TODO list – do it now – set the tone for your achievement now.

If you are worried about skipping out on your new routine – write it down, put a reminder in your phone – whatever works for you. The most important part in creating a routine are the triggers that drive us to take action – so these little cues are critical to your success.

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For instance, if you are consistently finished working at the end of the day at x time, set that event for the trigger for your routine. Instead of watching TV, spend 30 minutes on achieving your goal, set the timer, block everything out, make it happen.

The routine needs to fit into your schedule

Now that you have created the routine – is it realistic, is it achievable?

In any routine, this is the first barrier to goal achievement.

If you are working 10-hour days, then having to come home and get your kids off to activities, scheduling 4 hours of work to happen on a daily basis isn’t going to work for you. After 2 days you will stop from sheer exhaustion and frustration.

We are all busy; we are all trying to grow and develop and our goals are outside of the norm of what everyone else is trying to do.

This is exactly why it is so imperative that you set your goals to fit into your schedule and not make them totally unrealistic to achieve. If you need to start earlier in the day to make it happen, do that; maybe do an extra hour every other night to get started before going full tilt all the time.

Make it realistic, make it possible, make it doable. Doing 8 minutes of pushups every morning, every day will add up to 56 minutes of pushups you weren’t doing the week before – that is achievement.

The goal is not to achieve it as fast as possible, but to make progress towards it.

Remove distractions from your routine

One of the greatest barriers to resistance with routines are the distractions that surround us. I stayed up too late, so now I’m tired in the morning. I didn’t put out my clothes the night before so now I don’t want to go jogging.

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Case in point: I play hockey at 7am once a week; to get there (and be alert) I need to get up at 6am. To go, I need my work bag ready for the day; I need my hockey bag and all my gear, towel, etc in it. I need my stick and water bottle and then I can go.

All in all, I need to everything together so I’m not stumbling around in the dark in the morning.

The night before, I put it all in my car—I have that battle with myself the night before. So when I wake up in the morning, all I need to do is look down at my feet, put on the clothes I’ve laid out, put on a jacket, eat and get in the car.

My success rate when I do this is incredibly higher because I had the battle with myself the night before, not the morning of, not in the heat of the moment where other temptations were high. In that instance, I am committed.

And on the days when I don’t do this, my success is incredibly lower – the excuses rise up.  Even if I am feeling sick, I will still go if everything was laid out the night before.

Why?

Part of it is embarrassment. If I sleep in and then wake up, get into my car and start the drive to work what is there waiting for me?

My equipment – that whole ride to work is just me and my equipment, staring at me, laughing at me, making me feel like a fool for not getting up and hitting that goal.

In the case where you think it is going to take five hours a week to achieve your goal – set 5 hours aside to work on that goal so you are there, focused and working on it. If you need to have a quiet space to work in or have your favourite mug with you – make it happen.

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Achievement of our goals are driven by execution and our execution is driven by the creation of realistic, focused, deliberate routines that are free from distractions, excuses and obstacles and work within our schedules to achieve them.

Think about goals you have right now at work or in your personal life?

Why is that project still not finished?

Why have you not finished the siding on the house?

Why have you not started your new floor?

You might think it’s your commitment or your goal being too lofty, but perhaps it really that you never created a routine that you could really commit to to drive toward its completion.

Featured photo credit: VIKTOR HANACEK via picjumbo.com

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Greg Thomas

Software Architect

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Last Updated on February 21, 2019

7 Natural Memory Boosters That Actually Work for All Ages

7 Natural Memory Boosters That Actually Work for All Ages

Forgot a name? Misplaced your keys? Taking longer to find the right words? Don’t panic. There’s plenty you can do to improve your memory.

You’re probably expecting us to reveal 7 little known and newly discovered herbs from the forests of the Amazon, the peaks of the Himalayas and the Arctic tundra. No such luck.

Despite Americans spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year on Ginkgo Biloba, Ashwagandha, Periwinkle, Bacopa, Vitamin B’s, Omega 3’s and memory boosting supplement cocktails, there is very little scientific evidence they actually work. [1]

Instead, we’re going to offer you 7 completely natural memory boosters, backed up by scientific research. It may take a little more effort than a magic memory pill, but the benefits will transcend your memory and improve your overall quality of life as well, making you more fit, energetic, happy and sharp.

How Do We Remember?

The first process in remembering is creating a memory.

This is where our brain sends a signal, associated with a thought, event or piece of information our mind is processing, over our brains neural pathways, called synapses.

Think of our neural pathways like roads and information like trucks. The better the roads, the more trucks can be driven.

The second step in remembering is memory consolidation.

Consolidation is when the brain takes that thought, event or piece of information and actually stores it in the brain. So now we’re talking about taking delivery of the trucks and storing its contents in the warehouse.

Consolidation helps us store information and label it properly, so its organized and easy to retrieve when needed.

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The last step is memory retrieval.

That’s the step whereby we try to retrieve the information stored in our brains. You know when you have the name of someone on the tip of your tongue.

You have the information; it’s been stored, but you just can’t find it. Our memory recall is typically better the stronger the memory is and the more often we’ve used it.

Memory decline is a normal part of aging. However, new scientific research is discovering many new ways for us to improve memory creation, consolidation and retrieval–no matter our age.

7 Natural Memory Boosters

So how to work on memory and boost your brain power? Here’re 7 brain boosters backed by science that you should try:

1. Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic activity is about as close as we get to a magic pill for our memories. Exercise helps your brain create new capillaries and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which creates new brain cells and connections. To put it in plain english, aerobic activity changes our brains and helps it grow.

Studies have shown that exercising increases the size of the hippocampus and improves memory. In fact, even if you start exercising as an older adult, you can reverse cognitive decline by 1 to 2 years and protects against further decreases in the size of the hippocampus, which is essential for memory. [2]

In another study, reviewed by Dr. Ian Robertson of the University of Dublin, they looked at a group of people of 60 years and older, who engaged in “active walking” for four months.

They compared them with another group of people who only stretched over the same period of time. After testing both groups before and after the 4 month period, the walkers improved their memory and attention considerably more than the stretching group.

So which exercises are best and how much do we have to exercise?

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Turns out, it doesn’t really matter whether you run, swim, row or bike. What does matter is that you push yourself beyond your current abilities, keep doing more, keep getting better. Set yourself short term goals and keep pushing the goal posts.

2. Sleep

You need your sleep. The deeper the better. Sleep helps improve your procedural memory (how to do things, like how do I navigate my iPhone) and declarative memory (facts, like what’s my password). [3]

Even short naps from 6 to 45 minutes have been shown to improve your memory. In one Harvard study, college students memorized pairs of unrelated words, memorized a maze and copied a complex form. All were tested on their work. Half were then allowed to take a 45 minute nap. They were then retested. Those who took a nap, got a boost in their performance. [4]

Another study showed that getting REM (deep) sleep can increase your memory and mental performance by 33% to 73%. Getting a deep sleep helps the brain consolidate memories through dreams and “associative processing”. However, the study also revealed that heart rate variability in deep sleep also contributed significantly to increased memory performance. [5]

3. MIND Diet

Healthy eating, particularly more dark colored fruit, vegetables and oily fish has been shown to improve memory and stave off cognitive decline.

The MIND diet is proven to reduce the risk of dementia. It’s a mix of the popular Mediterranean diet and the low blood pressure DASH diet. [6]

The study kept track of the diets of almost 1,000 older adults. They were followed for an average of 4½ years.

The study concluded that “people whose diets were most strongly in line with the MIND diet had brains that functioned as if they were 7½ years younger than those whose diets least resembled this eating style.”

The study also showed that people who followed the MIND diet in the study reduced their chance of getting Alzheimer’s disease in half.

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So what does the MIND diet consist of? Lots of vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, berries, beans, fish, poultry, olive oil, whole grains and wine.

4. Relax

We all know that stress is bad for our health. It can raise our blood pressure, impact our immune system and interrupt our sleep. Stress also impairs our memory.

When our body gets stressed, it releases cortisol into our blood stream, which can cause short and long term physical changes to the brain. While cortisol has sometimes been shown to cause increases in short term memory, it can actually decrease our long term recall memory.

To help reduce the stress in your life, try relaxing with meditation, yoga or breathing exercises. Unplug–even for just a few hours. Stop checking your emails, social accounts and news. Release some endorphins with some exercise.

Bottom line, the more anxious and stressed we are, the less clearly we think, the poorer our memory works.

5. Continuous Learning

The mind is like a muscle. The more you challenge it, the stronger it gets. The more you learn, the more you can learn.

Research shows that learning can actually change the physical makeup of your brain. Not too long ago, we used to think that you were born with a fixed amount of brain cells, which declined with age. New research now shows that we can actually increase the number of brain cells we have throughout our life.

Aside from staying physically active, learning new skills and studying can actually keep our brains healthier. Consider taking a continuing education class, studying a new language, learning a new instrument, playing new card games. [7]

Studies show that the more complex the task, the more benefits for your mind. Simply showing up to class is not enough. You need to be actively engaged. Anything that forces you to focus and learn something new and get out of a rote routine will help you sharpen your mind and boost your memory.

6. Stay Social

The more deep and meaningful social connections you maintain, the more you protect your brain. Bottom line, the more friends you have, the more people you work with, the more you’re forced to use your brain.

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Social isolation and loneliness are significant risks of dementia. Without interacting with others, our brains wilt. Isolation and loneliness lead to depression, physical and mental decline. [8]

In a 2016 study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, seniors with a full social calendar did better on memory, reasoning, and processing speed tests. [9]

What to do?

Party! Seriously, get together with friends as often as possible. Have family dinners. Choose social activities or sports like tennis, golf, cards or go for walks with a friend. Bottom line have fun, build meaningful social relationships and stay connected. Not only will it make your mind sharper and your memory better, you’ll be happier, too!

7. Wakeful Rest

This one is getting harder and harder to do. In a world where we can’t sit on a bus, go up an elevator or go to the bathroom without our phones, doing absolutely nothing to distract our minds is becoming increasingly difficult.

But, the results are in. Doing nothing is great for your memory. Quietly resting for 10 minutes, after you learn something will help you remember and help you create more detailed memories. [10]

What we do minutes after we learn something new has a significant impact on how well we retain the new information. In another study, it didn’t matter what you did after you learned something new, as long as you weren’t distracted by outside factors. In other words, you could be thinking of your day, making a grocery list, or thinking of a story. In either case, wakeful rest for a period of 10 minutes helped the brain process and consolidate your memories so that you were better able to recall the information at a later date. [11]

Conclusion

You don’t have to spend a dime on cocktails and supplements promising a quick boost to your memory power. There is very little conclusive scientific evidence suggesting supplements will help improve the memories of healthy individuals–not for Ginkgo Biloba, Vitamin B, fish oils, Vitamin D, Folate or other supplements claiming they a secret formula.

There are far cheaper and more effective ways to boost your memory: exercise, rest, eat well, learn, love, laugh and relax. Who wouldn’t want that prescription?

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

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