Make an "I can at least ..." List
Not every day is going to be perfect and I hope you're not shooting for perfection anyway. You're never going to get perfect, you can only and always get better. You have to think progress not perfection!
So with that in mind, how can we make progress every single day? Here's a tip that I got from an article by Robert Pagliarini that I've tried on a couple of areas in my life and it works. Think "I can at least...". This practice will save you on those days when you're feeling too tired, or stressed, or "blah" to do as much as you planned.
Here's an example:
Let's say you have a goal to save $5 every day because ultimately you want to have money specifically saved to invest in a mutual fund by the end of the year. As easy as this sounds, you'll probably have days where that $5 disappeared on gas or emergency groceries or maybe you just blew it on candy. Instead of feeling that you messed up for that day, do the next best thing instead. In this case, you say, "Well, I can at least save $1 today." And do that.
This is about more than the "something is better than nothing" principle. When you can't accept anything less than $5 a day and you miss it, you've not only sacrificed a day, you've sacrificed a precious bit of your momentum and you've made it that much easier to miss it again and again. Before you know it, the year is gone and you've gotten nowhere because you've sabotaged your success with your need for perfection. It's funny how obsessing over perfection so often leads to its exact opposite. That $1 saves you. It preserves your self-respect. It's a symbol of your commitment to progress no matter what.
Now, before you say, "What's the big deal? I can make up for missing a day by saving $10 tomorrow. So it's ok if I don't do anything today." The money in itself is not the point. Your mindset is the point. Really successful people know that their success is the result of the little things that they do every day. They understand that this is how the magic of the compound effect works in their lives. Success is not a result of what you do to make up for what you didn't do.
So, what's your back up plan?
Here's some ideas:
Goal: I exercise for 45 minutes a day
Back-up: I can at least exercise for 10 minutes today
Goal: Study Spanish for 1 hour every day
Back-up: I can at least study 10 words today
There is another awesome benefit about this principle. When you think, "I can at least ..." and you do it, you'll find it easier to keep going and you'll find yourself on top of your game anyway. For instance, if the thought of exercising for 45 minutes feels too daunting for you one day, but you get up to at least do 10 minutes, you're going to find after 10 minutes that you feel good enough to do the next 35!
Remember: Think progress not perfection.