I tried eating, exercising, sleeping, and spending ‘perfectly’ for a week — and realized I’ve been approaching my goals all wrong

Courtesy of Anna Arsenault

If you’ve ever had a long list of things you want to accomplish, you might be familiar with the feeling that you don’t have enough time or energy to do them all.

I’m very familiar with that feeling — I have more on the list than I can often keep track of: I want to eat healthier, exercise more, cook more often, get less takeout, take fewer cabs, not eat the ice cream in the freezer (or at least not replace the ice cream in the freezer once I’ve eaten it), check off my whole to-do list, and be the most productive, functional person I can be, all while maintaining my social life and sanity.

And as you might imagine, I’m never quite able to focus on — much less achieve — every goal on that list.

So I decided to test myself. For one week, I would commit to focusing on, and achieving, all of my goals.

The first step in this plan was to explicitly define “perfect.”

After going through my general wants and digging into the specifics, my weekly goal list looked like this:

1. Exercise five times, for at least 30 minutes. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week, to maintain cardiovascular health and strength, so I’d increase my gym sessions from two or three a week to five.

2. All meals prepared at home, with the exception of one night — meal-prepping all of my lunches, and cooking all of my dinners, allowing myself takeout or a restaurant on Friday or Saturday. Similar to the “if you stopped buying coffee you’d save so much money” adage, I know if I spent less money on lunches, I could put it toward other things I’d like to spend money on (vacations, concerts, savings).

3. Actually stick to my weekly expendable “fun” budget of $75.

4. Wake up at 6:30 a.m. during the week (a number of successful people wake up early to maximize productivity) AND get a full seven hours of sleep, the minimum necessary for adults, according to the CDC. That meant I should be bed by 11:30 p.m.

5. Avoid sweets. I’ve always admired the people who do Whole 30 or entirely cut sugar out of their lives — but I really enjoy chocolate. So, I thought I’d settle for making better snack choices.

6. No alcohol Monday-Thursday. If I was committing myself to waking up earlier, and exercising more often, I wanted to get a full night’s rest, and drinking leads to poorer sleep quality. Plus, I wanted to avoid draining my budget on a bar tab.

7. Accomplish all of my chores and those annoying to-dos that pop up and you put off thinking I’ll do it later.

8. No cabs (unless my budget allowed for it).

I can tell you immediately: Things did not go according to plan.

Day 1, Sunday: Successful, but entirely work
Hannah Schaffer

In my mind, Sundays are for meal prep and laundry, so that’s what I did — and besides watching Twin Peaks and Game of Thrones, that’s about all I did. 

Wednesday was the only other day during the week I’d be home before 9 p.m., so I needed to prep enough food to last me a few days without cooking again. I spent the afternoon planning, shopping, and cooking, in addition to laundry, dishes, and cleaning out the fridge. All of this brought me exactly to 8 p.m.

The upfront cost of the groceries initially unnerved me — I spent almost double what I normally spend — but I also usually don’t see my takeout and lunches consolidated into my grocery bill, so I was able to understand that it would still (hopefully) save me money in the end.

And while I wanted popcorn to accompany the Game of Thrones finale, I already bought all of the food I allowed myself, so I denied the temptation. I crawled into bed and fell asleep by exactly 11:30 p.m.

Money spent: $70 groceries, $5 laundry, $3.15 coffee ($71.85 left for week)
Made all meals at home: Yes
Exercise: None (5/5 workouts left)
Alcohol: 1 beer
Sweets: I might have had a piece of 80% dark chocolate that was hanging out in the fridge
Cabs: None
To-do list completed: Yes
Time asleep: 11:30 p.m.

Day 2, Monday: Almost completely successful
Hannah Schaffer

My alarm went off at 6:30 a.m., but I hit snooze out of habit, and rolled out of bed at about 6:45 a.m. 

I usually buy coffee every morning — I realized this is a non-negotiable part of my daily routine — and this Monday, I got one for free because of the rewards card I have with my bagel place. 

Although I packed my lunch and dinner — I had a bachata dance lesson after work — I realized I left my breakfast at home and I ate the trail mix my office has in our kitchen. While this should be OK, it had chocolate, so I had to take a point for myself for giving in so soon. 

On the successful end, the dance lessons were a gift from my boyfriend, so it didn’t count against my fun-money, and it counted toward my exercise! 

Time awake: 6:45 a.m.
Money spent: $0
Made all meals at home: Yes
Exercise: 60 minutes (1/5 workouts)
Alcohol: none
Cabs: None
Sweets: Some chocolate
To-do list completed: Yes
Time asleep: 10:30 p.m.

Day 3, Tuesday: One misstep after another led the day to spiral out of control
Hannah Schaffer

Tuesday morning was initially very smooth, but after that, there were some speed bumps that made it the black mark on my week.

By the time I normally wake up (7:30), I had put Sunday’s laundry away, washed Monday’s tupperware, showered and dressed, packed for the gym, and organized all of my food for the day.

I was not feeling great on Monday, so I squeezed in a doctor’s appointment Tuesday morning, and I ended up spending unexpected money. I also ended up making more work for myself — while I called my old retirement company to transfer 401K funds to my new provider, I made a mistake and would need to get a notarized letter to correct it. 

Luckily I had Muay Thai after work — which is my week’s saving grace because I get to socialize while exercising and actively working out any stress that bubbles up during the week.

After, I went to my boyfriend’s to help him move the last few things from his old apartment to his new one. When I got there, he had a slice of pizza, garlic knots, and Diet Coke waiting for me — which was just about the greatest thing I could’ve hoped for that day, and I was not about to say no. That pizza was totally worth it (plus: free).

It was 11 p.m. by the time we moved things, and still raining. Since the trains have been pretty unreliable this summer, I considered Uber Pool was definitely worth the $5 cost.

However, when I pulled up to my apartment, I realized I had my gym bag but not my second bag, which contained my wallet — and keys. Needless to say, one cab ride turned into three.

I also realized — when getting cash for coffee — how silly it is to use an ATM with a fee. It’s an extra $2.50 — which means the coffee that normally costs $1.75 sort of costs me $4.25. I will not be doing that again.

Time awake: 6:45 a.m.
Money spent: $61.34 (left in fun budget: $50.51 — not counting medical fees)
Made all meals: No 
Exercise: 60 minutes (2/5 workouts)
Alcohol: None
Cabs: Yes
Sweets: Yes
To-do list completed: No — and dishes needed to be washed
Time asleep: 12:15 a.m. 

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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