Create a Weekly Attack Plan
I want you to think wayyyyy back for a moment……
Growing up, each day was pretty well-scheduled out for you. School from morning til afternoon- you are fed school food. After school sports or a job- you head home and mom has food on the table for you. Once you leave home for the first time, all that structure is gone; it is up to you to shape each day and choose what goes into your mouth! It’s an open plain of freedom, and the way is so broad many dieters get completely lost. It happened to me.
One of the things I struggled with the most my first few months away from home was managing my diet- I gained the freshman 15. I pretty much was flying by the seat of my pants every day. Things in my life started falling between the cracks very quickly, and I soon found myself struggling beneath an overwhelming amount of pain in my joints due to rapid weight gain. Things turned around for me as soon as I instituted a new habit: weekly planning.
Stephen Covey’s (R.I.P.) First Things First was the catalyst for the change. When I got into PA school, my weekly planning sessions became even more crucial. The rigors of my studies on top of my work on studying for boards and required that I had my days planned to the minute so that I could get everything done.
The power of weekly planning lies in the perspective and control it provides for your life; instead of drifting along, you give yourself a birds-eye view of the maze below and harness your newfound freedom in order to do, be, and get wherever you want to go- LOSE THOSE POUNDS. It allows you to manage the day-to-day and often trivial tasks along with your long-term plans and goals. Think of your weekly meal calendar as an Attack Plan for Life: it’s where you hash out the tactics and logistics to make your long-term vision a reality.
Below I share how I go about my Weekly Attack Plan sessions. It’s sort of a mishmash of time and task management ideas from Stephen Covey. I don’t claim that it’s the best way to plan your week, but it’s worked for me. Maybe it will work for you, too, or at least inspire you to come up with you own system.
Establish Your Attack Plan Day & Set Aside an Hour to Plan
Pick a day that you’ll use to establish your Weekly Attack Plan. The weekend is a good time to do it because it allows you to both review the previous week’s successes and failures and look ahead to the next week. I do mine on Sunday. I know some patients/dieters who do theirs on Friday. Pick whichever day works best for you. Set aside about an hour on your chosen day for planning. The first few times you execute a Weekly Attack Plan session it may take you longer, but that’s okay. After awhile, you’ll establish a rhythm that will allow you to breeze through it in about 45 minutes. Go somewhere where you can be alone and away from distractions. I like to do my weekly planning sessions on Sunday nights in our home office. I log on to Hy-Vee or Bakers and have my groceries delivered for the following day- that way I am not tempted to buy anything I might crave!
Pick Your Food Log Tool
Everyone has their own preference for what to use for charting/logging their food. Some people prefer digital like the Ideal Smart app or Myfitnesspal.com; others prefer using good old-fashioned pencil and paper to plan.
Each format has pros and cons. Digital makes planning re-occurring meals a breeze. Also, I am really enjoying the new feature of scanning my IP foods from the barcode!
With paper and pencil logging, you can scribble it down in seconds. There’s also something about the tactile nature of planning with pencil and paper that really gets your strategic juices going. And because we’re on our phones and computers so much these days, it’s nice to give your brain a break with something different. But there are a few downsides to paper and pencil logs. If you lose your log, you’re sunk. Unlike digital logs that exist eternally in the “Cloud,” when you lose a pencil and paper logs, you’ll have to recreate it from memory.
I used to be a pencil and paper planner, but switched to digital tools ten years ago. I like having everything synced up across all my devices. Experiment with the different tools out there and pick the one that’s comfortable for you.
Perform a Mind Dump to Free-up Mental RAM
During the week, our minds build up a giant list of stuff that needs to be done: call mom back, do the laundry, respond to your backlog of emails, study, etc. The problem with these loose ends camping on our craniums is that they’re subtly eating up our willpower, causing us to feel stressed out and mentally fatigued. These unfinished mental tasks are like programs you have running on your computer, but aren’t actually using. We’ve all had those moments working on our computer when its fan is running full blast, and everything seems to be taking an eternity to load. You check the Activity Monitor only to see that a bunch of unused apps are hogging a crapload of memory, causing your Ideal Smart app to screech to a halt. Just as unused computer programs use up precious RAM and slow down your computer, so too do unfinished tasks use up willpower and slow down your brain.
Free-up some mental RAM and get your brain running on all six cylinders again by performing a mind dump. A mind dump is exactly what it sounds like: you get everything out of your head and onto paper (or computer screen). You can actually feel your brain let out a sigh of relief as you write down the stuff it’s been spending precious willpower trying to remember. Use whatever tool you’re comfortable with for a mind dump. It doesn’t matter. I know several people who use a notebook and pen and others that use digital tools like OmniFocus, Things, Nozbe, or Evernote to capture their mind dump (I use Google Drive). The important thing is simply that you have someplace to store your mind dump. Once you settle on a capture tool, simply start writing or typing all the tasks, ideas, and commitments that have been weighing you down during the previous week (like oh I really wanted to make that recipe or gosh I have been meaning to order a bunch of Walden Farms products).
Review Your “Weight Objective” & Lifestyle Goals
Now that we’ve detoxed our brains and freed up some mental RAM, it’s time to review our entire plan and long-term goals. This step will help you keep “first things first” in mind as you plan your week out and ensure you’re staying on track with your long-term goals. Sure, you may have been successful in completing your short-term goals, but if those short-term goals get you off track with your future aims, what good are they? If needed, reevaluate your short-term to-do list in light of your long-term goals. You might need to amend your life plan and goals as well, as new experiences and insights change your vision of where you want to be down the road. Don’t have a life plan or goals? Well, now’s the time to create them. Log onto Myfitnesspal.com- join a couch to 5K group. Join a Ideal Protein challenge group on Facebook. Recruit a “weight loss buddy”.
Review the Previous Week
Reflect on your previous week and how you performed in your various roles as an “Ideal Lifestyle” participant. How did it go? Did you achieve the goals you set for yourself? What were your successes and failures? How could have you done things differently? Any tasks or items you need to follow-up on? I recommend writing down any thoughts that come to you during your reflection on the previous week in your journal. First, the act of writing helps make your thoughts more concrete and well thought-out. Second, by writing down your observations about the previous week, you create a record that you can look back on to see if you’re improving. Feel free to do this in the “message” center in your Ideal Smart app. We can review it at your follow up.
Set Weekly Goals
After I’ve reviewed my previous week, I start setting goals for the coming one. Here’s how the role-based goal-setting method works. When I created my life plan, I defined and prioritized the different roles I fill: wife, mother, sister, friend, PA, and hobbyist. Your roles might be husband, athlete, business owner, etc. Every week I create a goal that I want to accomplish within each role. So for example, a goal for my role as a wife could be to clean out the fridge this week; a goal for my role as a PA could be to finish that research project. I also follow Covey’s advice on creating weekly “Sharpening the Saw” goals. As you saw away at your goals, the blade is going to become dull — you have to take the time to sharpen it up. Thus Sharpening the Saw goals are all about keeping yourself sharp in all aspects of your life: physically, mentally, socially/emotionally, and spiritually. I try to create a weekly goal for improvement in all of those four areas. A weekly physical goal could be to bench press x-amount of weight; a mental goal could be to read a book or listen to a lecture on your commute to work; a social goal could be to write your college buddy a letter; and a spiritual goal could be to meditate every day for 15 minutes.
Lay a Foundation for Success With Re-occurring Time Blocks
After I’ve set my goals for the coming week, I move on to putting them in my calendar. I first block out time on my weekly schedule for my Sharpening the Saw goals. These are small and simple things that keep me feeling sharp no matter what sort of chaos happens during the week. So I have time blocked off for exercising, reading, and prayer and meditation. An important part of keeping your saw sharp is weekly and daily planning, so I block time off for it, too. I treat these events like a doctor’s appointment — I don’t schedule anything else during these times and don’t deviate from them unless it’s an emergency. I’ve blocked times off every day in the week for these activities and have my iCal programmed so that they repeat every week.
Block Out Time for Your “Big Rocks”
In his book, First Things First, Stephen Covey introduced a really clever object lesson on how to get more done in life, while ensuring you actually accomplish your most important and meaningful tasks.
From First Things First:
I attended a seminar once where the instructor was lecturing on time. At one point, he said, “Okay, it’s time for a quiz.” He reached under the table and pulled out a wide-mouth gallon jar. He set it on the table next to a platter with some fist-sized rocks on it. “How many of these rocks do you think we can get in the jar?” he asked.
After we made our guess, he said, “Okay. Let’s find out.” He set one rock in the jar…then another…then another. I don’t remember how many he got in, but he got the jar full. Then he asked, “Is the jar full?”
Everybody looked at the rocks and said, “Yes.”
Then he said, “Ahhh.” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar and the gravel went in all the little spaces left by the big rocks. Then he grinned and said once more, “Is the jar full?”
By this time we were on to him. “Probably not,” we said.
“Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went in all the little spaces left by the rocks and the gravel. Once more he looked at us and said, “Is the jar full?”
“No!” we all roared.
He said, “Good!” and he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in. He got something like a quart of water in that jar. Then he said, “Well, what’s the point?”
Somebody said, “Well, there are gaps and if you really work at it, you can always fit more into your life.”
“No,” he said, “that’s not the point. The point is this: if you hadn’t put these big rocks in first, would you ever have gotten any of them in?“
Most young men fill their schedules with the gravel, sand, and water of life first. Sure, they look and feel busy, but all they ever work on are the small tasks that are likely inconsequential in the long run. You’ll find these sorts of gents wistfully lamenting that they never have time for the things that are truly important in life: the Big Rocks.
What the object lesson above teaches us is that if we want to accomplish our most important goals and tasks, we need to put them in our schedule first. Those smaller tasks can get done during the gaps between your Big Rocks.
What’s a Big Rock? It’s going to be different for everyone. Look at your mind dump list and pick three or four items that you consider to be your MITs: most important tasks.
No matter what your personal Big Rocks are, block off a set amount of time on your calendar to work on them and don’t let anything bump them from your schedule. Remember: Big Rocks first!
You’ll feel like a boss after you plan your week.
If you want to see success come from your Weekly Attack Plan sessions, you have to do them consistently. I’ll admit that I’ve had my moments where I’ve fallen off the wagon on it. My husband can usually tell when I haven’t been planning my week out, because I get unproductive and grouchy — totally off my game. I just don’t function well without the structure of a weekly plan. I promise as you consistently plan out your week, you’ll find yourself with more motivation, direction, and peace in your life.
Do you have a weekly planning routine? What works for you? Share your tips and experiences with me at your next follow up!
If you have read this far thank you! Call today for heal in your weigh loss goals!