Write down your plan. It may seem like a terrible pain in the ass to do so, but it is really important that you write your plan down in as much detail as you can manage. Writing your plan down:
- Keeps you from forgetting it!
- Formalizes the process of self-help for you, and helps you take it more seriously
- Records your goals, so that you can know what you were shooting for
- Helps keep you motivated to continue working the plan
You've spent some time breaking down your problem goals into small, doable, concrete steps. Your plan should reflect these small steps. Though you may want to write your ultimate problem goals into your plan, the heart of that plan should address only your immediate short-term goals; whatever concrete, small steps you are presently working on. When you have completed a given small step, then revise your plan (re-write it and print it out anew) to reflect the next step you need to address. Don't try to take on too much at once!
Post your written plan in a public place if that is at all possible for you to do. Sign your plan. Get other people you care about to sign your plan as witnesses. The more you can make your plan a public and visible event, the more you will be motivated to work on it and make progress.
Obtain a means of recording your progress. Just like you need to write down your plan, you also need to be ready to record your progress towards your plan goals.
- Certain methods such as cognitive restructuring require you to record automatic thoughts and your responses to those thoughts. You can print out forms for this purpose if you choose (link to Thought Record Forms in PDF form, provided as an appendix to this document), but spreadsheet software (such as the free Openoffice.org Calc program, or an online web-based product such as iRows) is very useful for this purpose as well.
- Certain methods such as self-monitoring will require you to note the frequency with which you behave in particular ways. You can record such data on a notebook page, or in a spreadsheet. It is a very good idea to graph the data you collect so that you can easily visualize your progress. Spreadsheet software makes this task very easy to accomplish, but you can also do it the old fashioned way, on graph paper.
- You may want to keep an informal diary or journal about your self-help process. Any old notebook will serve for this purpose, but you could also record your entries using word processing software (such as OpenOffice.org's Write application or online word processors such as Google's Writely.com), or weblog software such as Google's Blogger.com (if you want to be public about it).
- You can also use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) worksheets to track different aspects of your progress in various areas, such as those found here.
Put your plan into action. When the elements of your plan are all assembled, it is time to get started. The plan itself is a necessary part of your self-help efforts, but it is not sufficient in of itself to actually create change. It is a map, and not the territory. You have to do the work and put in the time before you can expect to see progress.
Set yourself a start date (or start immediately), and then start doing the things your plan calls for you to do. Document your efforts to work your plan. Also document the data that you said you'd collect. Count the behaviors you said you'd record. Dispute the thoughts you said you'd dispute. Perform the relaxation exercises you said you'd perform.
Don't worry too much about achieving the larger results you want to achieve. Instead, keep yourself focused on achieving the little goals you've set for yourself. You can handle the little goals. If you focus on the big goals, however, you're likely to feel overwhelmed.
Modify and adjust your plan as needed. Consider your plan to be a work in progress, and not any sort of sacred document. You are very likely to encounter problems in working through your self-help plan that you did not properly anticipate the first time around. When you learn what those problems are, feel free to edit your plan so as to best work around them. Edit and change your plan to make it better and more useful as many times as you need to; as many times as is necessary to help yourself make useful progres