Step 2 : Warm up. Five to 10 minutes on the elliptical if you can.
Step 3 : Do less. Forget about 3 sets (unless you really are a professional athlete). One set of 10 to 20 or so is enough. However, there has to be enough weight to tire the muscle without straining. Yes, for most of us less really is more. If a workout is not as tedious, it'll be easier to do on a regular basis. The concept in fitness circles is called supersets - and they really are.
Step 4 : Limit yourself to 6 to 9 machines and 20 to 30 minutes. DON'T rest between machines. Use machines rather than free weights, especially when getting started. They're designed to keep you in proper form.
Step 5 : Rotate among upper body, core (mid-section) and legs.
Step 6 : Work major muscle groups. Curls are not needed. Arms are worked indirectly by chest, back or shoulder exercises. The more slowly that you move the weight, the better. If you rush, inertia takes over and you're not working the muscle over its full range. Even slower on the negative
Step 7 : Hop on the elliptical for 10 to 20 minutes and optionally switch to the treadmill for another 5 to 20. Go fast enough to sweat. No reading is allowed (it slows you down). Once you've settled into a routine, intersperse with 1 or 2 minute intense segments (interval training), where you push your heart rate an extra 10 or 20 BPM. Cool down for a few minutes. Stretch at the end of your workout. If you're up for more cardio, go for it but build up slowly.
Step 8 : Reward yourself with a few minutes in the pool, steam room or sauna.
Step 9 : While at home, it is important to eat a nutritionally sound diet. Eat more veggies and fruit and fewer dense foods, especially those that are high in fat. Skip the protein bars or drinks. Protein deficiency is rare in the US. Only professional athletes need supplemental protein.
Step 10 : On days you skip the gym, do something else. Even if it's just a 10 minute walk (or two). Use the stairs instead of the elevator.