In How to Have Your Cake and Eat it Too, we discussed planning ahead for the indulgences we knew we were going to partake in. For me, that means knowing that I’m not going to treat myself to an impromptu lunch of Chinese food on Monday when I’ve got an anniversary dinner on Wednesday and Thanksgiving on Thursday (true story). But it is really easy to lose sight of what looms on the horizon when you’re living in the moment. After all, Wednesday is so far away and lunch is right now. So how are we supposed to keep ourselves on track when temptation lurks around every corner?
Create a Visual Representation of Your Calendar
Seeing really is believing. It’s one thing to know that you’ve got events coming up, it’s quite another thing to see them. It can work both ways – sometimes, you realize that there really isn’t so much going on, and suddenly the holiday season doesn’t seem so daunting. Other times, it can help to remind you to buckle down and put on your big-girl panties, because the road ahead is going to be challenging. Either way, creating a visual representation of the time ahead will serve to ground you and prepare you for the upcoming month.
Keep It Simple
When creating your visual, stay simple. There’s no need to include the details (what, where, when) – all we need to know is that on that particular day you will be faced with either a challenge or the choice to indulge.
I use three specific visual tools throughout all of my training preparation and planning; a paper calendar and two iPhone apps. For today’s purposes, we’re going to look at an iPhone app called Calendar Tracker. There is a free version called Calendar Tracker Lite, but for the .99 I suggest springing for the full version, as we will use it later on for other tracking purposes.
When I say “keep it simple”, I really do mean simple. All we’re going to do when creating our visual is to make a tick mark on the dates when there is something going on. That’s it. Just a check mark.
Looking ahead to December, we can see that there are 6 occurrences where food and drink will be either a challenge or a treat. For planning purposes, we know as well that there are two weeks that will likely be more difficult to get in as much activity as we may like, so we had better not slack during that nice, empty week.
Notice that there is no additional information. We don’t know if it’s a holiday party, dinner and a show or a family function. We are attaching no emotional value to the check marks, affording any of them more or less value or weight. They are simply THERE.
We can also see that it’s only six days. 6 days out of 31. That leaves us 25 days to focus on eating well and staying true to our plan. The ultimate goal is to ENJOY those 6 days. Enjoy them, but don’t let them turn into 31 days.
Look at it Daily
Now that you’ve created your calendar, LOOK AT IT. Make a point to sneak a peak and remind yourself of what’s in store for your week. The current date on the calendar will be shaded in dark grey, allowing you to see how far (or close) you are to something that you’ve purposely made room for. Knowing that something you’re looking forward to is imminent will help firm your resolve when confronted by an unexpected temptation.
Take Notice and Take Stock
Another huge benefit to creating and using a visually grounded calendar is that it’s easy to recognize debilitating patterns as they arise. Holiday season aside, if we begin to see that there are check marks every weekend or multiple times per week, while at the same time experiencing a lack of progress toward reaching a particular performance or aesthetic goal, it’s fairly simple to single out the probable cause and make an adjustment. Sometimes the truth hurts, but it’s easier to mend a fracture than to heal a break.
Some people may think that you’re anal retentive for (what amounts to) scheduling your indulgences. But by making such clear choices and sticking to them, you’re taking control of and committing to enjoying the pleasures in life that you deem worthwhile. And you are the only person who can decide what those are. So decide, enjoy and move on.