If you've been thinking about quitting smoking, you may be waiting for January 1st to take action. New Year's is a perfect time to set your goal to stop smoking, but that's no reason to procrastinate in the meantime.

There are steps you can take right now, as the New Year approaches, to start weaning yourself off the habit. By doing some initial preparation toward your action plan, you can increase your chances of staying smoke-free year-round.

Here are some steps to get you started on the right path:

Choose Your Quit Date
It helps to have some lead-up time to the day that you are planning to stop smoking. Now is the time to take out your calendar and pick a date--ideally within the next two weeks--to quit for good.

New Year's Day is an excellent choice, because it is a special day that is already associated with changing bad habits and starting over in fresh directions. If New Year's isn't practical, you might also consider another special day that has meaning for you--such as your birthday or anniversary--to provide you with an extra incentive.

Spread the Word
Now that you've chosen your quit date, you have two weeks to prepare for the big day. There is plenty to do between now and then, so roll up your sleeves and let's get to work! At the top of your two-week agenda should be letting others know about your plan to quit smoking, because it's easier to succeed with supporters behind you.

Make a list of people who are part of your support system, including family, friends, and co-workers. Take time out with each person on your list for a heart-to-heart talk about what your goal is, when it starts, and what kind of specific help you need. Do you like to have frequent check-ins, when others ask how it's going? Then ask your friends to support you in that way.

Get Ready
Because of the addictive nature of cigarettes, quitting is rarely easy. The National Cancer Institute reports that most people who go back to smoking do so within the first three months after quitting. Knowing this, you can anticipate and prepare yourself for the challenges that lie ahead.

In the weeks before you quit, spend some time creating a "Craving Journal" to help you identify your triggers for smoking. The journal should include space to record:

  • Time of day
  • What you were doing
  • Who you were with
  • How you were feeling
  • Craving level

Carry the journal with you, and each time you have the urge to smoke, write down the details about it. This information can serve as a valuable tool to help you prepare for the challenges you may face once you quit smoking. By becoming aware now of what circumstances trigger your temptation to smoke, you can plan for how to deal with the urge before it strikes.

Clean House (and Car and Office)
The lead-up weeks before your quit date offer the perfect time to rid your living and work spaces of cigarettes, lighters, matches, and ashtrays. Disposing of things that remind you of smoking will help prepare you mentally to quit.

Go through each room of your house (don't forget the backyard and patio), as well as your car, office, and any other areas where you may have stashed cigarettes. Throw them all away--saving one pack "just in case" will only make it easier to start smoking again.

As added incentive, spruce things up by cleaning your drapes, carpets, and clothes to rid them of the smell of cigarette smoke. Starting the New Year off fresh, clean, and ready to quit will strengthen your resolve and help you reach your goal.