At some point, failed New Year’s resolutions have been a reality for us all. You vow to get back on track on Monday after a weekend of overindulgence. Your morning starts off great with a healthy breakfast, but you run out of time to pack your lunch. Before you know it, it’s 12 pm and you are famished. You try to opt for a healthy option so you grab a salad. It fills you up for the time being but by 2 pm you are tired, starving, and craving sugar. You stroll by the vending machine and ask yourself, “Does one chocolate bar even count?” It all goes downhill from there.

Sound familiar? Perhaps this scenario plays out a little differently for you but, regardless of the story, it all stems from the same issue: lack of planning.

It doesn’t matter who you are or what your goals are, having a plan truly is the key to success. How can you reach your final destination without a plan? To illustrate this valuable point, let’s think about planning a family vacation. There are so many things you need to take into account when planning a trip – where you are going and when, your accommodations and transportation, what to pack, etc. It would be impossible to leave for a vacation without a detailed plan; your goals are no different. Let’s have a look at eight crucial factors to consider when planning for success.


What, When, Why and How?

Before you start planning the details of your journey, it is necessary to define your goals and devise a plan of attack. Here are four essential questions to ask yourself.

1) What are you goals?
2) When do you hope to reach your goals by?
3) Why do you want to reach these goals?
4) How are you going to reach your goals?

In order for your plan to work successfully, it is essential to ensure that these goals are specific and realistic. Write down these questions and their answers where you will see them regularly, such as on your refrigerator or next to your desk. Once you answer these questions, you can continue with the rest of your planning.


Meal Planning

Expecting to stick to your plan by only preparing one meal at a time is like expecting to give a very important presentation without any preparation- it’s very unlikely that it will happen. Life happens, meetings run late, and there are days during which we are more tired than others.

Having meals prepared in advance will make it much easier for you to eat your meals on time. Pack your meals and snacks for the day and throw in extras for emergencies. Keep non-perishables such as nuts, almond butter, and rice cakes in your desk or car. Set aside a day or two a week to prepare large batches of food. Use a slow cooker to prepare meals while you are at work and freeze leftovers in individual containers. Try packing your lunch in the evening and preparing breakfast in advance. Make a weekly dinner menu if you are preparing meals for a family or enjoy adding meal variety throughout the week.


Grocery Shopping

Set aside a day each week to devote to grocery shopping and make it a habit to stick to this schedule. Use your meal plan and favorite healthy recipes to help generate your list.


Scheduling Meals and Exercise

If your schedule allows for meals and workouts at the same times everyday, take advantage of it! If you are unable to develop a routine due to an irregular schedule, plan your day in the morning. Plan times for exercise and mark them in your calendar just as you would any other appointment.


Scheduling Treat Meals and Events

We all deserve a little treat now and again. After all, balance and moderation are important for helping you stay on track long term. If you have an event approaching, use it as an opportunity to schedule your treat meal. If possible, you can even go as far as planning what you will have as your treat. Sticking to your plan will help prevent you from going overboard and sabotaging your goals.


Plan for Eating on the go

Whether you work on the road or are going away for the weekend, there will be times when you will find yourself eating on the go. Pack as much food as you can and familiarize yourself with a few items you can grab almost everywhere.


Sleeping Schedule

You may be an adult, but you should still have a bedtime. Sleep is very important for helping you reach your goals. In fact, your body burns the most fat and repairs muscle while you are sleeping. If you do not get enough sleep, your body will store fat instead of burning it and your energy and workouts will be affected.

Aim to sleep between six to nine hours a night and try to go to bed at the same time every evening. The earlier you go to bed, the better. You should also wake up at the same time everyday and avoid hitting the snooze button. Hitting snooze and taking naps during the day will actually make you feel more tired. Planning a regular sleeping schedule will also allow you to plan your meals and workouts accordingly.


Other details

What other challenges pop up in your schedule that can affect your goals? Think of anything that may add a roadblock in your journey and plan how you can avoid falling off track. Knowing what to do ahead of time and sticking to your plan will make you successful.

Above all else, remember that the journey you have chosen to undertake should be a part of your lifestyle. There will always be things that come up in life that seem to interfere with your goals. Having a solid plan will prepare you in advance so you can stay on track or, worst case, teach you how to better handle the situation next time.


**Originally published in Training & Fitness Magazine 01 Jan 2014