This week’s problem

Every now and then I feel the need to become more productive and collected at work, and decide to change my sleeping habits, start exercising, write a morning journal or something similar. Each time it lasts for a few weeks before I fall back to my old habits. How do I maintain new habits long-term? Female, 36


Jonathan’s answer

The New Year, anniversaries, or vacations, often generate a moment when people reflect and strive to be a better version of themselves. Your desire to be more productive or collected at work may be trying to match a colleague or role model you admire, and also gain their other positive features.

Try to really identify what is behind the desire to change. Underlying causes could be pressure from peers, media or family, or they could be more tangible such as feeling perpetually tired. Understanding the primary features you want to change allows you to set realistic targets and you would be able to positively reinforce progress towards these. Once you have identified the changes you seek, take actions to incorporate them into your life and learn the new behaviors.

Connect the changes to something important to you, for example, ethics, health, or something you have learned from someone you respect. As with career plans, it can be empowering to tell others of your intentions.

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