Does this sound familiar? It's New Year's Day 2011, 11am. After a night of too many mojitos and fried canapés, you vow that this year, you'll only drink at communion and, like a saint, volunteer at a homeless shelter for 10 hours every week. You resolve to start boot camp, shop at organic farmers' markets and find a husband. By Valentine's Day. Cigarettes are flushed, an Italian phrasebook is purchased and Cadbury may just go out of business this year because you're quitting chocolate. Forever.
But two weeks later, your new year's resolutions have derailed. Sound familiar? You're not alone. According to a survey of more than 3000 people, 88 per cent of all resolutions end in failure. While all-or-nothing thinking is often to blame, setting too many goals at once is a common culprit. Dr Alice Boyes, a New Zealand-based clinical psychologist, believes the problem lies in multi-tasking. "Choose a single focus and persist," she says. So if you can make only one goal this year, what should it be? "I will make time for myself in 2011." Why? You will be happier, healthier and more likely to achieve other goals.
Why you need time for yourselfBoost creativity
Cashing in leisure time makes you feel good. But there's more to it. "A ratio of 3:1 positive to negative emotions is ideal," explains Dr Boyes. "Studies show that people who achieve this ratio become more generous, caring and dedicated; their thoughts are creative, insightful and clear."Stop staleness
"Women, as natural multi-taskers, just 'keep on keeping on', mistaking being busy for being efficient and useful. Isn't it boring always hearing people say how busy they are?" says Meredith Fuller, a Melbourne psychologist. "If you're doing the same tasks every day, not trying new things, you risk becoming jaded."Mend mental health
Stop "doing" stuff and just "be", urges Ed Halliwell, author of The Mindful Manifesto (Hay House, $22.95). He quizzed GPs and found 72 per cent believed mindfulness treatments would help patients with mental health issues; 69 per cent said it could help all patients. "Lie on the grass and look at clouds, watch the surf...force yourself to be still and pay attention to what's happening," suggests Fuller.Help your health
"Me time" doesn't have to be solo; time with mates is good for you. One study found that women with breast cancer who were socially isolated had a 66 per cent increased risk of dying - from any cause - than those with a group of friends.Manipulate your mood
If getting bendy is your way of winding down, then you're on to something. In a 12-week study, the Boston University School of Medicine found that levels of the brain's feelgood chemical, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), were much higher in yoga devotees than in participants who spent time walking. (Low GABA levels are associated with depression.)Stay selfless
"If you don't look after yourself, you're no good to anyone. It's like using an oxygen mask on the plane: you must give yourself oxygen before helping others," says Fuller.
Today try:A five-minute meditation
Got a sleep debt? You can replenish your shut-eye stores - and amp up your alertness - with meditation, according to researchers. We asked meditation teacher Carolyne Gowen, of Still Your Mind (www.stillyourmind.com.au), to talk us through a primordial sound meditation session, the style championed by Deepak Chopra.1 Make yourself comfortable. It's best to sit upright, with good back support.
2 Close your eyes and silently repeat the mantra "Om" or "Soham" to yourself. When you notice that your mantra has drifted away and you're focusing on your thoughts again, or the noise outside, go back to repeating your mantra. Always favour your mantra over your thoughts or outside distractions.
3 Continue this process for five minutes or more. You'll find that your body and your breathing will settle down and your mind will become still.
Tomorrow try:An efficiency makeover
Reclaim your day using tricks from career coach Domonique Bertolucci:Tonight, 6pm: Prioritise. Look at your diary and to-do list for tomorrow, select the three most important things, then set aside the first half of the day to cross them off.
Time saved: 1 hour of procrastination8am: Read work emails on your phone during your train/bus commute. Action relevant ones as soon as you arrive.
Time saved: 30 minutes9am: Set out-of-office reply: "'’m often away from my desk, so if it's urgent, please call my mobile. Otherwise, I check my email regularly and will get back to you shortly." Check emails at two-hour intervals.
Time saved: 2 hours of email tag10.30am: Chat with a favourite work colleague during the five-minute walk to get coffees.
Time saved: 30 minutes of gossip1pm: Go outside, even if it is just to grab a sandwich. You'll be less efficient later on without a break.
Time saved: 1 hour of surfing the internet6pm: Check personal emails or make personal calls on the phone on your way home, not at home.
Time saved: 30 minutes6.30pm: Avoid the "second shift". Check if outsourcing household chores costs less than 50 per cent of your hourly pay. If yes, get in a cleaner, order groceries online, or drop shirts off at the laundry.
Time saved: 2 hoursTotal:
7.5 hours saved
This year try:
Rethinking your habits
Businesswoman Kirsten MacKelden knows how much making small changes - and having time for yourself - can make a difference. She dropped from a size 18 to a size 10 by following a simple 10 per cent rule (The 10% Diet Formula, Indigo Media Group, $39). Here, she shares some of her secrets:Watch 10 per cent less TV
Rather than mindlessly sitting in front of the box, highlight the shows that you actually enjoy and schedule time to watch them. The remaining time, turn off the TV and engage in conversation with your partner or friends, read a book or go outside into the fresh air.Readjust your diet
Don't go cold turkey if you're trying to lose weight. Scale your favourite treat back 10 per cent a week for a couple of months, so your body adjusts to consuming less of it over time.Pump up the volume
Find your top 10 songs that make you want to dance and play them while you shower and get ready in the morning. Music is a powerful state changer and can elevate your mood, taking you from tired to energised in the space of 10 minutes.Switch off
Try disengaging from technology regularly and engaging in real conversation. Schedule three blocks of 10 minutes - morning, noon and night - for Twitter, Facebook and blogs, and power through them. Then consciously engage with your partner, children or friends by paying them your full and absolute attention, away from technological distraction.Don't be extreme
Saying no fats, no carbohydrates, no sugars, no alcohol, and exercising five days a week is unsustainable and unrealistic for most of us. Instead, try fitting in 10 per cent more activity in your day, by walking to the next bus stop along or going for a stroll at lunch.