Quality and Wellness

Using quality tools to improve your health

by Jennifer Stepniowski

Aristotle was quoted as saying, "We are what we repeatedly do." These words inspired me to take action and seek excellence where my personal wellness goals are concerned.

My pattern of resolution-making has been somewhat predictable. I focus on career goals and add a general statement that I’m going to do something like eat better or exercise more. But these wellness goals are often dismissed well before the Chinese New Year rolls around.

As I started this viscous cycle of self-defeating resolutions in 2015. I realized that quality tools could be applied here as well. I committed to my resolutions for three months, considering I’ve heard that establishing a habit might take anywhere from 21 to 90 days. Finishing off the Aristotle quote, "Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."

Choose your tool

Getting started was the easy part. I’m all about strategic planning, and any good quality professional knows that’s step No. 1.

I conducted a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis to get an assessment of my current wellness level. Based on that, I set my focus on being more mindful and ensuring that I’m getting enough physical activity. My goals were SMART, meaning they were specific, measurable, achievable, reliable and time-bound.

I laid out tactical action items to keep me on track. For example, I set up reminders in my calendar to spend 15 minutes meditating and stretching before I started each the day. It felt ridiculous and unnatural for about a week, but it really does make a positive difference. I also set reminders in my calendar a few times throughout the day to prompt me to take a moment and really be in the moment. As an added support tool, I downloaded and evaluated a few apps and found some pretty good playlists online.

Address your threats

To figure out how I could be more successful with increasing my physical activity, I went back to the SWOT and realized that I just didn’t like the gym and felt prohibited by the outdoors.

Living in Florida, it’s not fun to exercise outside for much of the year. So, I reached out to a friend of mine who had recently become a certified personal trainer and who needed to develop a client base.

She agreed to work with me at home, so it was a win-win. She was able to kickstart a new career, and I spent time doing something I didn’t like (physical activity) with someone I enjoyed being around and in an environment where I felt comfortable.

After a month working on my new goals, I created a Gantt chart in an effort to organize the flow of activities and hold myself accountable to timelines I had set up. I set up calendar reminders to alert me to do some evaluation at key milestones.

For example, I planned on exercising a minimum of two times per week at 30 minutes for the first three months and increase it to three times per week at 30 minutes. The third time was on me without a trainer, so I was pushing myself to be more accountable.

At the end of my initial three-month commitment, I did an analysis of my performance. It turns out I didn’t do so badly. In fact, put in perspective, I can say it’s the most change I’ve accomplished in this area, and it’s been sustainable for the most part.

Reflect and improve

If I break it down using the plan-do-check-act (PDCA) method, here’s how I applied quality tools to wellness:

  • Plan—I started out with strategic planning, making sure my existing mission and values incorporated what I wanted to achieve on the wellness front. I conducted a SWOT analysis to help identify my opportunities and created a few SMART goals.
  • Do—I executed the tactical action items to get things done.
  • CheckI regularly evaluate whether I’m meeting my own expectations. I found a wide selection of apps and wearable technology that has made this easier. Whether it’s the Fitbit to help track activity, or something like the Apple Watch that fully integrates and provides a daily snapshot of your daily activity, more tools than ever exist to help hold us accountable in this regard. I use the results here to figure out what’s working. You get some good data here.
  • ActBased on my assessment of what is working, I’ll revise my action items and try again. One example is that I found meditating in the evening gave me a higher success rate than in the morning. So, I revised the schedule to include 10 minutes of stretching in the morning and 15 minutes of meditation before going to bed. 

Using PDCA sets me up for continuous improvement. And, that’s what it’s all about. As I move into 2016, I’m excited to expand my goals and incorporate more in to my wellness objectives. If Aristotle was right, I’m on the right track to achieve personal wellness.

Jennifer Stepniowski is the regional director to North America at Pro QC International in Tampa, FL. She earned an MBA from University of South Florida in Tampa, FL. An ASQ senior member, Stepniowski is an ASQ-certified manager of quality/organizational excellence She is the education chair of ASQ’s St. Petersburg-Tampa chapter and an adjunct instructor at Hillsborough Community College in Plant City, FL.

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