During the circuit breaker measures, you would have developed habits, such as playing the guitar, learning how to cook, or even exercising regularly. Now that June has arrived, the circuit breaker has ended and phase one has begun. Although nothing much would have changed in our routine during phase 1, most of us will resume our normal routines in phase 2 which will be coming soon. If you are going back to school or workplace, you may fear breaking the momentum of working towards the goal you have set in your newfound interests.

We are all aware that it takes consistent practice to get better at doing something. The real challenge lies in balancing our responsibilities and time, especially when we come home after a long day of work. We may feel exhausted and choose to resume our hobbies another day. In such scenarios, having the desire to reach a goal alone will not suffice. After all, willpower itself is a limited resource that we cannot afford to rely on too often (Gailliot et al., 2007). Thankfully, there are three tips that you can follow to help maintain the effort.

 

Using Implementation Intentions

The implementation intention is highly recommended because it helps you to specify how, when and where you will attain a goal. For instance, if you wish to get in shape, your implementation intention may sound like this: “I will run for 20 minutes around my neighbourhood at 9pm.”. A 2006 meta-analysis from the journal of Advances in Experimental and Social Psychology has shown that implementation intentions are instrumental in helping us to adhere to our efforts and keep us from being distracted by unwanted influences that would hinder our progress (Gollwitzer & Sheeran, 2006). By using implementation intentions, you give yourself a fixed plan to follow, thus, greatly minimising any unnecessary contemplation that may sway you from putting in the work. 

 

Visualising the Process

It is nice to imagine what we can do upon reaching our goal and we may think that doing so would motivate us. Unfortunately, research has shown that instead of visualising the end in mind, it is beneficial to visualise the process of practicing. This is called process simulation, in which more emphasis is placed on mental simulations of the processes needed to attain a goal. A 1999 study from the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that college freshmen who held process simulations had better studying techniques and grades for their midterm examination (Pham & Taylor, 1999). This shows how process simulations can enhance both our efforts and the end result. Such awareness in our thoughts can help to ensure that we take the right actions to achieve our goals. Furthermore, visualising the process helps to reduce the stress we feel from the thought of having to put in effort. So, if you wish to sing some songs flawlessly at a gig in the future, visualise the vocal exercises that you need to perform instead of singing at the gig itself.

 

Having an Accountability Partner

As the saying goes, no man is an island. There is no shame in receiving some help from others. If you want to be consistent at doing something, it does help to have someone to keep you accountable. This means that you are answerable for your actions to another person. For this strategy to be most effective, there are two factors that you need to consider. Firstly, while it is not necessary for someone else to be physically present in order for accountability to work, it has been shown to be more effective when the people who hold us accountable are living with us (Lerner & Tetlock, 1999), as we would feel that our actions are being evaluated almost immediately. This implies that the best people who could hold you accountable are the people within your household, such as your family members. Secondly, the efficacy of accountability is also determined by the point at which the person is informed of being evaluated (Lerner & Tetlock, 1999). If someone knows that they will be evaluated before deciding on something, they will be more likely to work towards making the correct decision. So how can this be applied in our own lives? For example, if your sibling knows that you are supposed to exercise after school, they can send a reminder text to you just before you return home, in case you were tempted to skip that workout session. Of course, all these do not mean that you need to have people breathing down your neck. Accountability could also work when you promise your family members that you would set aside time for family-related activities. That could mean getting your whole family to enjoy a Zumba workout at home for 20 to 30 minutes. If you developed cooking as a hobby during circuit breaker but feel exhausted to whip up a meal after returning to normal life, you may choose to rope your family members in to ease the burden and speed up the process. Not only do you get to adhere to your goals, you also get to bond with them.

 

Conclusion

With all these tips, we should also take the time to give ourselves breaks and adjust to the new version of “normal” that would come in phase 2. After all, the last thing we would want from ourselves is to dread doing an activity that is supposed to give us joy and fulfillment. Although most of us would hope to stay true to what we set out to do and make the most out of our time, we also need to go easy on ourselves. Until phase 2 arrives, let us make full use of the time we have now to enjoy our activities but also practice some self-awareness so that we are ready for the changes in our routine that will be coming soon.

 

Contributor: Justin Randall Durnford

Justin is a psychology undergraduate student with Nanyang Technological University. He loves to exercise, sing and cook. He also loves his fried chicken! Justin is striving to be in a career where he is able to help others become the best versions of themselves by improving their mental and/or physical health.

 

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