Skipping workouts for a business project, missing your daughter’s school event for a conference call, rescheduling date night for a long night at work — if you’re like me, these instances can become far too commonplace. We tend to leave ourselves in the dust.

While we can all easily attest to the fact that taking care of ourselves is important, we don’t act in congruence with our words. Over the past several years, I noticed these patterns in myself and began taking the necessary steps for improvement.

Now that we’re staring into the face of a new year, it’s the perfect timing to hit reset on our personal priorities. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else.

Here are some tips that have helped me along the way on improving self-care:

Set a goal. At the beginning of each year, I sit down, access the different areas in my life and set goals in each area. For example, I ask, “What do I want for me in the new year?” This sparks the setting of exercise, learning, growth and overall well-being goals.

Then, I take a look at my relationships. “What do I want in my relationship this year?” I set goals on spending more time with my wife and kids. I think of my extended family, friends and co-workers and ask the same question.

Next, I dive into finances. “What do I want to achieve and improve on financially this year?” “Is there a large purchase I need to prepare for?”

Lastly, I think of my rituals. “What are the rituals that I need to focus on or create?” “What are the good habits I can start?”

Each of these questions helps me create an extensive, specific and actionable list of goals for the year.

 Make a plan. Once I’ve set goals in place, it’s time to make the actual plans. Plans are essentially the tasks that need to be completed to achieve the outcome of the goal. For example, if you set a goal to weigh 195 pounds at the end of the year, I would create a nutrition plan, schedule a doctor’s office check-up or two and begin an exercise regimen to move me closer toward my goal.

Add accountability. Now, it’s time for the hard part. You have to tell people about your goals. Meet with a group of friends for a few hours to talk through challenges, celebrate successes and discuss upcoming plans. Every quarter, review your list with these friends and share updates, struggles and victories.

To add personal accountability, print your list and tape it at eye-level in your closet. Every day, you’ll be reminded about the important steps that should be taken. Both accountability with yourself and others amps up its daily importance.

Get out the calendar. Placing a date and time next to your plan is critical. I’ve found that if I don’t protect my time to ensure things happen, I’ll fail. Each month, I like to set aside one full “Rejuvenation Day.” These are the days that I will only work on my personal goals and priorities. I exercise, read and reflect. Sometimes I even get a massage.

I’ll also mark days with family events in red, as I proactively set trips with my wife and kids at the beginning of each year. My team knows that anything in red cannot be changed. Set your gym time in your calendar, too, and pre-pay your trainer if you really want to make sure you’ll stick to it. We all know the hardest part about working out is actually getting to the gym.

Review, and review again. Repeated for emphasis, folks. You must review your goals and plans often. Why? Review will cause you to recommit to them if you fall off the track. Plus, life just happens. The goals you set today could most likely shift in a few weeks or months. You’ll find that you need to make adjustments, rather than giving up completely.

This year, stop the cycle of putting yourself last, and start a new cycle focused on what will only push you forward.


This article originally appeared in the Tennessean.