As every year comes to an end, people always come up with ways that they are going to make a better version of themselves the coming year.

There will be those that want to do less (e.g. spend, eat, drink) and those that want to do more (e.g. time with family, workout, healthy habits). Some of the research shows that it takes roughly 21 days to form the habit, but as we all experience each year, most don’t even make it that far.

This year I chose a “do more” resolution, specific to exercise. I had made the goal and a bet with a friend (pride not prize) to exercise every day for 30 minutes. The intention was pure cardio, but we’d make exceptions along the way if both parties agreed. As you’ve realized by reading the title, I lost, but I still took away some important nuggets.

Procrastination can be a byproduct of your priorities

There were 18 days where I started my workout after 10PM. I had cut it close to the 12PM deadline multiple times and was within mere minutes on a few occasions. By putting the task off to the last minute, the quality of the workout and whatever else I was doing at the time, was generally not my best. I’d rationalize that the procrastination was due to wanting to give myself some much deserved “rest”, but often it was because I had prioritized other events (e.g. grad school work, seeing friends) above it. However, despite waiting late, there was always a sense of accomplishment finishing the task and watching the streak grow higher. By finding time to do my activities throughout the day (e.g. in the morning, over lunch), I wasn’t waiting until the clock struck 11:30.

Accountability is KING

The most important element of keeping the streak alive was having another person pushing me each and every day. Having your significant other/family hold you accountable only goes so far, but by having another companion stride for stride, the competitive beast within me wanted to push on day after day. In case you’re wondering at this point, my friend’s streak is still going strong, but his next test is being realized as you read as he seeks to continue his own lone race.

Quantity and quality are quite different

One of the first decisions when starting a streak/habit/resolution is determining the metrics/stipulations. In the case of my bet, it was 30 minutes of exercise a day. By having a minimum, there’s the risk that one will do just enough to get by and get to the next day. On 34 of my 90 days, I did exactly that and completed less than 35 minutes of exercise. I would often wonder if I had taken rest days on some of those low volume days, would the weekly total have outweighed what it was, because I would have wanted to do more another day. I would also think about those late night workouts and how they’d affect my sleep and my productivity the next day. It all looked to confirm the notion that quality should outweigh quantity, in this case mean is a better metric than mode.

Rest is important

You’ve most likely realized that I’ve yet to detail why I stopped the streak. Was it because I wanted to elevate my friend’s pride and give him the upper hand on the first of many wagers… I wish! It was as many of you could guess due to injury. This was also the most transferable lesson of the bunch, because burnout does not always represent itself with a calf-strain, as it did in my case. At the workplace, many find themselves in a similar pattern as what I succumbed to, but they generally do not have the option to stop. This is why it is important to incorporate rest into your routine, whether it be 30 minutes in the morning to plan out your day, or 15 minutes after lunch to stretch out your legs.

Now that my streak is over, the pressure is gone and my pride is not totally shot. I learned a lot about how to set my priorities, focus on the quality of my work, and to incorporate rest when needed. Most of all, I learned that your effectiveness is only as good as your network of support. I’ll continue to support my friend in his pursuit, just as we all should support the rest of our teammates in their own respective goals in life.