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You needed accountability and some structure. So you decided to join an online workout program with your best friend. She’s been doing it for months. She loves getting up early so she can check her workout off in her planner. She agreed to text you each morning so you can “workout together,”. It worked great on Monday but you were hitting the snooze button by Wednesday. Why is it so easy for her to stick to a fitness routine?

The answer is simple. She’s found the structure that works for her. Maybe she doesn’t need the same level of accountability you do. We’re all different. That’s why the first step to designing your ideal week starts with figuring out your personality and matching it to the right system for you.

I’ve got five books for your summer reading list that will help you design your ideal week and stick to a fitness routine.

For most of us, changing habits starts with understanding our true nature and the level of accountability we need. That’s why I want you to start by reading two of Gretchen Rubin’s books but read them out of order. First, take her online Four Tendencies Quiz and then read her book, The Four Tendencies.

Her Four Tendencies framework looks at how a person responds to expectations. In our world, we have both inner expectations (the goal we set for ourselves to meditate for 10 minutes) and outer expectations (the boss expecting you at the 8 am staff meeting). Some of us respond best to both (Upholders like me), while others respond best to inner expectations (called Questioners) or outer expectations (called Obligors). There are also those who don’t respond well to either (which she calls Rebels).

Understanding who you are helps you customize the tools and systems you utilize to stick to your fitness routine and make positive changes.  This primer on the Four Tendencies will explain each tendency in detail along with tips on how you to do your best work when it comes to habit change and sticking to a new routine.

For even more specific strategies, I want you to read her book Better Than Before next. This is where she introduced the Four Tendencies as one way to better understand how to change your habits. She also uses “know yourself better” assessments like Moderator vs. Abstainer or Over-Buyer vs. Under-Byer.  If you disdain grocery shopping, you are probably an Under-Buyer. By using some of her strategies, you can set up systems to help you make sure you have plenty of nourishing food in the house when you need it instead of defaulting to the drive up. If you’re an Abstainer, it’s best to keep trigger foods out of the house.

You may also need help managing your time to help design your ideal week. Start with Laura Vanderkam’s book Juliet’s School of Possibilities for your time management makeover. This productivity parable is the perfect quick introduction to the work Vanderkam has done over the last decade researching how people spend their time, get things done and enjoy it at the same time. Reading this short insightful story will get you primed to read her book, Off The Clock: Fell Less Busy While Getting More Done.

Off The Clock is a concise summation of Vanderkam’s work studying time and how to pursue your passions and purpose. After years of studying time logs, including her own, and interviewing people about how they spend their time she has developed a list she calls The Secrets of People Who Have All The Time In The World,

Tend your garden.

Make life memorable.

Don’t fill time.

Linger.

Invest in your happiness.

Let it go.

People are a good use of time.

Within each of these chapters you’ll find actionable steps to take control of your time and live a happier healthier  life. She includes a workbook in the back to help you do your time study and review the key message for each section. You can also go to her website and sign up for her email list to receive her free time makeover guide which includes a time study spreadsheet.

Ever since I saw her speak last summer, I try to ask myself her four tend your garden questions regularly,

What do I like about my schedule?

What would I like to spend more time doing?

What would I like to spend less time doing?

How can I make that happen?

I can’t snap my fingers and have a week off to read. But I can make a conscious decision, after clearly stating I want to read more, to put my phone away in the evening in exchange for a good book. Honestly reflecting on a regular basis about how want to spend your time vs. how you actually spend it is a big step towards designing your ideal week.

Now that you’ve gotten a clear picture of who you are and where you can make time management adjustments, you can take a look at the environment in which you live and work. Say no to Marie Kondo and pick up Gretchen Rubin’s Outer Order, Inner Calm.

I know I can’t do my best work when my office is a wreck. And it’s hard to get things done when you can’t find the tools you need. That’s why some of the top become a morning exerciser advice is to put your workout clothes out the night before. If you spend 20 minutes searching for a clean pair of pants, you won’t have the time left for your 30-minute vinyasa. The goals of Rubin’s book is to help you get your physical space in order so you can focus on creating your ideal week and achieving your life goals.

I’ll admit I’ve only put a few things into practice from this book. I signed up for Rubin’s 21 day Outer Order Challenge when I preordered it. I never made it past day two. But the small victories I have achieved feel more significant than the effort. Her 1-minute rule keeps the mail from piling up on the dining room table. Instead of throwing it down I take it to my office where it gets shredded (because most of the mail is junk) or opened and placed in the right spot for bill paying or adding to the calendar.

I also started making my bed each day. It’s surprising how successful and “adult” I feel by this one simple task. That’s the power of small victories. One bit of success leaves you craving more. I’m also a huge advocate of her tip to shop less, thereby avoiding clutter. I love using the drive-up option at Target because it helps me avoid impulse buys.

Her mode of decluttering also feels more doable than they “pull everything out of your closet” method so popular right now. Rubin has a shelf by shelf, one small area at a time philosophy. She also has a section with tips on organization based on your tendency. As an Upholder, I need to do a better time of scheduling 30-minute blocks of time to clear out old files and take things to Goodwill.  This quick read will help you feel less overwhelmed by the task of uncluttering and open up space for you to take care of yourself.

If you are struggling to stick to your fitness routine, start with the Four Tendencies quiz. Then work your way through this summer reading list. Keep a journal as you go, documenting the tips and tools that make sense for you. Designing your ideal week starts with understanding the level of accountability you need and the structure that supports your personality, values and goals.

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