Every other person on r/GetMotivatedBuddies says “I want to get my life together: wake up early, exercise every day, eat healthier, cut back on alcohol, and read more… and I’m looking for someone I can check in with daily.”
That is way too many things to fix at once.
Too many people on accountability forums seem to be confused about how to change their lives.
Drill this into your head: You can only fix one thing at a time.
If you feel like “I need to get my life together,” you should be looking at it on a two-year time horizon, not one month. Pick one thing and work on that for 1-6 months—however long it takes to establish the new healthy habit.
What do I mean by one thing?
Consider these areas:
- Creative pursuits/hobbies
- Social life
If you’re currently not doing well in any of them, pick one. And work on changing only that habit. When you’ve mastered that, you can move on to the next one.
Fix food or sleep first
How do you decide which one to fix first?
I suggest starting with sleep or food. If you’re presently sleep-deprived, start with sleep.
If you’re presently over-sleeping, or getting enough sleep just at the wrong hours (say, being completely nocturnal, like I was in first-year university), start with food.
Fixing food first is a good idea because it makes everything else easier: eating at consistent times makes it easier to get to sleep; losing weight makes it easier to exercise; getting enough nutrients makes it easier to concentrate, and so on.
Ignore exercise for now
Exercise should probably be the last thing on your list. If you’re already struggling with eating, sleeping, and working effectively, you probably don’t need to “exercise” more.
Certainly you should move your body more, when you have the opportunity. Go up and down the stairs a few times. Walk around the block.
But don’t make “I’m going to exercise for one hour every morning” your first habit, because you probably won’t stick to it, and even if you did it might be counter-productive (if you eat more unhealthy food because you’re hungrier, or overdo it and injure yourself).
There will be time for that later. This is a 2+-year process, remember?
Now, you can’t just overhaul your whole diet all at once. (Unless you have iron willpower, but if you had that you wouldn’t be in this situation.)
Set the bar low. You’re looking for the smallest possible positive change that you can maintain for the rest of your life.
So for fixing the food dimension of your life, don’t bother with “Starting tomorrow, I’m going to eat 100% healthy food and cook all of it from scratch.” You’re not going to go from living on cereal and takeout to eating home-cooked vegetable-based meals in one week.
Pick a smaller goal, such as finding one healthy breakfast you can eat every day. (You can worry about variety later. Just get into the habit of eating a healthy breakfast first. It’s fine to eat the same thing every day, for now.)
Once you have somewhat got your life together, you can take Scott Young’s advice and set the bar higher than you think you should, as a way of making sure you succeed. For now, when you’re a total mess, the bar should be low.
Search for an accountability partner
If you’re the kind of person who will do what needs to be done for work, because your boss is expecting it, but you never get around to doing things for yourself, you clearly work better when you feel accountable to someone else. So find yourself an accountability partner.
We have this idea that we should be able to do things on our own. We should be like Rocky in a training montage, getting up alone, running at the crack of dawn, chugging egg whites, no external motivation needed. So when we once again wake up at noon, stay on the couch, and gobble pizza, we conclude we’ll just have to try harder tomorrow. Nooo!! Clearly that’s not working out for you. So do something different!!
(Video: “i play “ain’t no sunshine” but the intro is a bit different” by SethEverman)
If you’ve tried saying to yourself “I’m going to eat healthier” and it keeps not happening, you probably need someone else to hold you accountable.
Now that you have picked one thing, make a post (on Reddit or Facebook—search for groups with “accountability” in the name—or in some other accountability forum) seeking an accountability partner specifically for that thing.
For example, to fix my breakfasts, I might look for someone I can text every morning with a photo of what I’m eating, so that I’m forced to explain why I’m having sugary cereal again. Or, once I’ve figured out that I should have eggs and toast instead, someone I can talk to at 2 PM every Sunday while cooking all my eggs for the week.
It doesn’t matter how you connect, just that you have someone else to report to. Having an accountability partner is key because it forces you to say your excuses out loud (and thus realize how lame they are). Plus, a partner can often see your problem more clearly than you can, so they might be able to offer creative solutions.
What to actually post
I would say something like:
Hello, I would like to eat healthier breakfasts, but I don’t even know what to have (I currently just eat whatever’s around, like sugary cereal or ice cream). I would like to text someone a photo of my breakfast each day so that I’m forced to consider why I ate it and what I should have eaten instead (and hopefully improve over time :P). Happy to be a partner for you to talk about whatever you’re working on too. My preferred check-in time would be 9 AM Eastern Time, but I’m flexible.
Treat it like an experiment
You win some, you lose some, and not everyone you speak to is going to be your new best friend. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work out with your first accountability partner, or no one replies to your post (both have happened to me). Just make a new post somewhere else and try again!
 For fixing sleep, I recommend this series by Steve Pavlina: How to become an early riser. (Not that you have to wake up early—you might want to wake up at noon—but if you’re currently not doing that as consistently as you’d like, this method might help.)
 Some people are way more motivated by the idea of losing money/losing a bet. My friend Roman recommends the app Way Better, where you win money from a pot if you follow through with your commitment and other people don’t.