Planning ahead can be a major pain in the butt, however I’ve found it to be a necessary evil if I want to
achieve my goals, and achieve them on time. By that I mean you can achieve way more if you do a bit of planning ahead of time so that you don’t forget anything and have to start over.
And today I’ll show you how I’ve improved my life dramatically with a bit of planning, and how you can do the same.
Why you need a goal
In 2015 I had a fantastic year. I was able to fulfill almost all of my goals – and I started the year with 10 goals! I’m totally amazed that I was able to achieve so much and all because I did some planning at the beginning of the year.
My 2 most important goals related to healthy eating and exercise. I decided early last year that I wanted to cook meals from scratch each weeknight but that I wanted to make these meals quick and healthy – I wanted to make the most of my evenings instead of using them preparing, cooking and cleaning up after making my healthy meals. For my exercise goal I wanted to exercise 4-5 times a week after work by going to the gym.
Neither of these goals was new: in fact I’d wanted to do both during 2013 and 2014 but I’d never quite got there before. I always went about them in a really reactive way where I’d do whatever I felt I could do at the time.
But there’s a few flaws in working this way:
- You only do what you tell yourself you can do (which might not be much if you’re tired).
- You aren’t prepared very often and you end up doing things on the fly (like a last minute recipe search and then a dash to the supermarket).
- You always feel behind or like you’re trying to catch up to where you thought you should be by now.
- You feel more stressed and less positive about the entire experience.
I was sick of doing things this way so I took a few steps back before I started doing things the same way I’d always done them. I started the year by reading The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris and it changed my thinking entirely.
Automate, eliminate and delegate
In his book Ferriss has a few main theories about how to increase your productivity but the ones I took from his book were the ideas of eliminate, delegate and automate.
I sat down and wrote out exactly where I was spending my time. I looked at what I was doing and how I was doing them. I then arranged these things into the 3 categories of eliminate, delegate and automate.
What I came up with was an extra 3 hours each night where I could use that time to spend with my husband or living my passions (which is writing for me) as well as being able to fit in my 2 goals.
Here’s what I did:
I changed gyms so I could change to a train line with more frequent trains. This saved me 20 mins each afternoon which means I get home 20 mins earlier each night after the gym. That also means I’ve either got an extra 20 mins to prepare dinner or I’m eating earlier which stops me from snacking so much.
I also eliminated slow meals from my weeknight dinners. I looked for healthy recipes that used quick cooking ingredients (remember my goal was to cook from scratch so there were no convenience meals) or I made bulk meals on the weekend that I could reheat during the week. This saved me another 1-1.5 hours not only in preparation time but also in cleaning time because faster meals used less cooking utensils and pans (bonus!).
For the last three years I’ve been menu planning my meals each week. It saves me time during the week but I tend to spend hours on the weekend flicking through cookbooks and then the house cleaning doesn’t get done on time. I decided to trial menu planning for a month at a time and it worked so well we’ve continued it all year.
I have a system set up where I add new recipe ideas to an ongoing document when I find them and then once a month I plan out the whole month using these new ideas, but I also add in some recipes from previous months we liked and some of our favourites too.
Delegate was harder for me but I came to an agreement with my husband. He took on the washing during the week but I did the major house clean on the weekends. I essentially made it so that I was batching my cleaning but during the week I make more of an effort to clean as I go (like washing the 1-2 fry pans I use for dinner each night). This gave me more time each night too, and especially allowed me to fit in the gym sessions.
Goal setting and habit creation
I used Ferriss’ ideas to get me started, but I also looked into goal setting and habit creation. There’s actually more to goal setting than you think, because you need to make the goal realistic and measurable so that you can actually achieve it.
You can’t just make your goal something like “I want to eat better” because that doesn’t tell you what actions you need to take. If you make the goal “I will increase the serves of vegetables I eat at dinner each night”, then you have some idea of the actions you need to take.
My own healthy eating goal of “cook healthy meals from scratch each weeknight that are quick” gave me plenty of actions and so became a goal I was actually able to achieve.
So once I’d decided on my goals I then set out to take some actionable steps (now I knew I had the time I needed each night to do them). Those action steps are the habits you need to incorporate into your life so you can achieve the goal.
My habits were things like:
- Making a menu plan ahead (and I decided to menu plan for a month in advance, but you can do it for a week at a time).
- Making a grocery list at the same time I did the menu plan.
- Sharing the menu plan with my husband so he could defrost the meat for me each afternoon because he gets home earlier than I do.
- Preparing food that went into the oven or pressure cooker when I got home, and then I had my shower (after my gym session) while it cooked.
- Making bigger meals on a Sunday night so I could use the leftovers on Monday night (I’m always tiredest on Mondays).
- Using leftovers as fuss free and healthy work lunches.
If it weren’t for incorporating these habits into my life I would not have been able to achieve my goals.
What are your goals in 2016?
What about you? Have you decided that 2016 is the year you want to learn to cook? Is it the year you want to get healthier? Is it time to start making a few achievable goals for yourself?
If that’s what you want then I am here to help you. I offer plenty of advice and tips throughout Spiced Anecdotes on everything from how to cook, what to cook and menu planning to budget cooking ideas, kitchen organisation tips, cleaning tips and more.
During February I’ll be running a back to basics series of posts to get you started if you’ve never cooked before. I’m also going to offer you some suggestions for how to set up a new kitchen or how to organise your time as well as show you how to cook your food using the right temperatures.
If you haven’t already, sign up for emails from me and get the free ebook on menu planning. It comes with a template you can print off and stick on the fridge as well as dinner suggestions complete with photos of meals I have made myself.
And lastly if you want to make a change to both your eating and your exercise check out my ebook “Face your excuses: Plan your way to success at the gym.” In the ebook I set out exactly how you can make goals, create habits and face your excuses head on so you can lose weight or begin a regular exercise program. I also show you that planning ahead can be the best way to actually achieve your exercise goals because it’s so easy to give up when something unexpected comes up. Really, what I’ve done in the ebook is to take away all the mental and physical barriers that are probably stopping you from doing regular exercise. It’s not actually as hard as we often think it is, so grab a copy of the book.
Whatever your plans are for 2016, make the most of them and plan ahead the actions you need to take. It’s the only way you’ll motivate yourself enough to achieve those goals. Why make things harder for yourself? Give yourself the best chance right now. Plan one thing right now to make sure that you have the best 2016 ever!