listsIn our Learn About – Motivate Yourself page we discussed “Making a List of Activities and Goals”.   Planning activities and goals and pushing yourself to achieve them is a helpful tool for recovery from anxiety and depression.

Make a list of activities and goals
Think of activities that you know you have to do and also what you’d enjoy doing. Include things to do at home and out with people. Try to generate a list of things that includes others and that gives you some time to yourself. The activities should be a mix of productive activities, and hobbies, and self-care.

Create a Daily Activity Schedule
Psychiatrist David D. Burns suggests in his book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy for people to create a Daily Activity Schedule, a simple but effective tool that can help you organize your day and regain your motivation.

Here’s how it works: At the beginning of each day, write down what you’d like to accomplish in each hour. And what you plan to accomplish, at least until you feel better, may be very basic. From 8 to 9 am, for instance, you may write get up, have a shower, get dressed and eat breakfast. At the end of the day, tick off what you actually did. According to Burns, many depressed people do not plan any activities that could give them pleasure; a mix of both practical and pleasurable activities, he says, is important.

Schedule some Weekly Activities
Schedule some activities throughout the week. Try to plan out either one week ahead of time and actually write the activities into your calendar with specific days and times. Spread them out as much as possible and make sure to stick to the schedule.

Focus on short term goals & activities
What is most important thing when setting any goals, task or activity in life is that it is achievable and realistic.  When you are suffering from a mental health illness you should only ever start off with daily or weekly goals.  Short term tasks, goals and activities are easier to achieve and you can more achievement.

Make your Goals SMART
SMART Goals are used in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, in business and in personal life and are very useful for everyone to use.

Choose a specific goal: S = Specific. A specific goal helps focus your efforts and attention and prevents you from choosing a goal that is too large or consists of too many parts. A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal.

To set a specific goal you must answer the six “W” questions:

*Who:      Who is involved?

*What:     What do I want to accomplish?

*Where:    Identify a location.

*When:     Establish a time frame.

*Which:    Identify requirements and constraints.

*Why:      Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.

Unspecific general goal: “I will eat healthily.”

Specific goal: “I will ensure I eat breakfast, lunch and dinner every day this week.”

Pick a measurable goal: M = Measurable. Being able to measure your progress allows you see positive change and motivates you to continue. When you achieve the goal, will there be tangible evidence of its completion?  Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set.

Unmeasurable goal : “I will eat healthily.”

Measurable goal: “I will ensure I eat breakfast, lunch and dinner every day this week by planning my meals and buying food for each day and ensuring I eat it so nothing gets wasted or thrown out.”

Select an attainable goal: A = Attainable. If you pick a goal that is too extensive or long term, it will be more difficult to attain, and therefore more tempting to give up.

Unattainable goal: “I will eat healthily and make every meal from scratch.”

Attainable goal:  “I will ensure I eat breakfast, lunch and dinner every day this week. I will plan what to eat for all my meals and I will buy food for each day. I will ensure I eat it so nothing gets wasted or thrown out. As I am short of time I will eat good food that I can make quickly or that doesn’t require lots of effort and work on my part, as part of my meal plan I will source and save quick and easy recipes.  For my lunch I will buy a tasty sandwich in the local shop.”

Choose a realistic goal; R = Realistic. Realistic goals, when achieved after some hard work and perseverance, are an excellent source of motivation for future endeavors. Unrealistic goals are unlikely to be met and may only be discouraging.

Unrealistic goal: “I will eat healthily and I will make every meal from scratch using fresh ingredients every day.”

Realistic goal: “I will ensure I eat breakfast, lunch and dinner every day this week. I will plan what to eat for all my meals and I will buy food for those meals. I will ensure I eat it so nothing gets wasted or thrown out. As I am short of time I will eat good food that I can make quickly or that doesn’t require lots of effort and work on my part, as part of my meal plan I will source and save quick and easy recipes.  For my lunch I will buy a tasty healthy sandwich in the local shop.”  The local delicatessen sells some really nice homemade meals that I will buy to eat on Tuesday and Thursday to give myself a break from cooking a main meal.  I will ask my mum can she cook a lunch for us on Sunday in her house, she can keep an eye on the baby while I eat my meal.”

Set a time frame for your goal; T = Timely. Give yourself a specific amount of time in which to achieve your goal. With a time frame in mind, you will be more willing to push yourself and begin working on the goal immediately.

Untimely goal: “I will eat healthily and I will make every meal from scratch using fresh ingredients every day.”

Timely goal: “I will ensure I eat breakfast, lunch and dinner every day this week. I will plan what to eat for all my meals and I will buy food for those meals. I will ensure I eat it so nothing gets wasted or thrown out. As I am short of time I will eat good food that I can make quickly or that doesn’t require lots of effort and work on my part, as part of my meal plan I will source and save quick and easy recipes.  For my lunch I will buy a tasty healthy sandwich in the local shop.”  The local delicatessen sells some really nice homemade meals that I will buy to eat on Tuesday and Thursday to give myself a break from cooking a main meal.  I will ask my partner to cook us a main meal on Saturday and I will ask my mum can she cook a lunch for us on Sunday in her house, she can keep an eye on the baby while I eat my meal.”

Write down your goal, including how and when you will measure your progress, as well as the specific time frame. Refer to your goal often for motivation and to chart your progress. If you are currently seeing a counsellor or therapist, share your goal and activities with them before you start them.

Read more on looking after your Mental Health & Emotional Wellbeing.