Like any good project manager, I like to review my last piece of work before I move onto the next. Every New Year I pick a focus instead of a resolution (see this post on why), and last year it was my health and wellbeing.

Did I achieve my objective?

My main objective was to establish a couple of different good habits that I thought would improve my overall health and wellbeing. I tracked them with monthly monitoring on this blog, and the summary of year is here:

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the level that I managed to maintain for most habits over the course of the year. I had a blip in October (see my post on my October update) but recovered well. Some habits were easier to establish than others – my diet and exercise are pretty much in ‘cruise mode’ – whereas some like flossing and managing stress have been harder to get right.

In September I readjusted my habits to expand the list, and got rid of a few mental health items that felt too similar (see my September update).

I also had a measurable side-goal, to get fit enough to run 5km in 30 minutes. Although I did manage to achieve this in March and maintain it until September, a lockdown period in October disrupted my running and I haven’t quite got back to where I was. It just shows that the consistent habit is much more important than a specific goal, when my objective is to have a healthier lifestyle.

Cost/benefit analysis – was the project worth it?

Absolutely! I feel much better than this time last year, and all the time and effort spent on myself has been a great investment.

As I have been using my work gym, exercise hasn’t cost me much in dollars, but I did buy two extra sports bras to remove the barrier of having to remember to put my gym clothes into every wash. Next year I won’t hesitate to spend on things like yoga classes to supplement my gym sessions. My improved diet does cost more, but I’m happy to budget this in as I’ve landed on a simple structure that suits me.

I had a clear ‘why’ for getting fitter – to be able to enjoy hikes and outdoor activities more. This worked really well for my motivation as it is short term enough to be tangible, and links to something that I am passionate about.

Some of the habits delivered more value than others. Diet, exercise and reducing alcohol have all delivered noticeable benefit. Surprisingly, drinking water was the main thing that helped with my energy levels. Monitoring my stress levels has been somewhat useful, but I wasn’t actually doing anything to improve this, and reducing stress was out of my control. Next year I’ll either create a habit like meditation or just remove it.

I also bundled stretching in with my regular exercise sessions, so next year I won’t monitor this separately.

Can the project deliver further benefit?

Just like my 2020 focus on my personal finances (see my review of that year here), now that I’ve spent a year focusing and optimizing my habits, I can semi-automate them into the future.

I’ve figured out the best daily routine to fit in exercise, and established a one-hour session that includes cardio, targeted weights and stretching. I have a simple diet plan that I can repeat week after week. I also put together a good ‘rule’ for reducing alcohol intake – only drinking when I’m out socializing and cutting out at-home, on-the-couch drinks.

I’ll continue to look at my routine and experiment with improvements and tweaks, but next year I can move on from this focus and more or less just implement what I’ve established.

What were the lessons learnt?

Having an easy monitoring system, and being accountable to this blog, was the number one thing that kept me going with my habits. I’ll definitely be continuing the monthly updates next year to help me stick to the habits that I’ve worked hard to put in place.

It was also important to experiment with different exercise routines, diet plans, and other tricks to make the habits easier.

Finally, I also learnt that I need to be able to deal with the unexpected. Just like setting up an emergency fund to keep my personal finances on track, I need to keep some will power in reserve and not try to build a routine where I’m using up 100% of my efforts each week.

Conclusion

It was great to have a year where my choices were influenced by my own self interests as much as possible. I was working on improvements that directly benefited me, and I could see and feel results in the first month or so.

I’ll be continuing my habits into next year, but simplifying/removing a few, and also trying to stick to more of a regular weekly routine.

How did your focus for 2021 go? What did you learn?