From Chaos to the Captain

How to get into the driver’s seat of your health and fitness. Hint: It’s easier than you think.

Have you ever experienced this? Your alarm goes off and you slowly peel your body out of bed. As you brush your teeth, you begin to think about your day. “After work today I’m going to my workout then stop at the store and pick up some cilantro for fish tacos.” As you stand in front of your closet, you groan at the sight of the wall of clutter. It’s taking longer to figure out what’s clean and what fits. “I’m going to clean out this closet today and get rid of all this stuff!” you lament. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone!

Click on the link to watch the video version of this blog.

The to-do list starts innocently, but as the clock ticks, it grows longer and more demanding. Soon you get a call from the school.  Soccer practice was canceled due to rain. Oh, and we need a poster for the history project due tomorrow. “Well, there’s goes my workout!” The texts and phone calls keep coming and by dinner time, you’re in the drive through of Chic-fil-A, exasperated and discouraged. What happened to my day? I never have time to take care of myself.

Image credit:

Each day is a road trip. You have your destination and you embark with optimism on how you will get there. But soon you hit detours, road closures, pit stops, and sometimes you even get full-on carjacked! What started as a nice, purpose-filled day balanced between nurturing ourselves and helping others, ends up with you as a captive taxi-driver schlepping people where they want to go and you are left with an empty tank and a belly full of resentment. 

We have all experienced getting our plans sidetracked, especially in our health and fitness. So how do we get back into the driver’s seat? In this article, I’m going to share with you the four steps to getting back into the drivers seat of your health and fitness. It’s a simple daily practice, called “Make Time and Plan Ahead.”  

What does it mean to “make time and plan ahead”?

Don’t worry, this is not time-consuming, no fancy charts and no app required. Here’s four simple rules of the road: 

  1. Set an appointment.

Where and when will you have your own little planning period? 5 or 10 minutes a day makes a big difference so don’t overthink this.

What has worked for some of my clients is doing it in the morning while drinking coffee. Some do it while waiting for a child’s after-school activities. Or lunch time. Others prefer to do it after dinner – looking ahead at the next day. Bedtime is another popular time.

  1. What’s most important to you?

What do you want? If there were no other demands on your time and attention, what would you want to accomplish?  Spending a little time each day thinking about what’s important to you will help you remember that you have goals outside of work and family obligations. Even if this season of life doesn’t allow a ton of time for those things, carving out some time to plan for them will give you a sense of autonomy you’re much more likely to do them, even if it’s on a smaller scale. So don’t rule out being a salsa champion yet, my friend! For now, a few minutes of online classes will be your step forward.

  1. Break it down into simple actions.

To get from New York to LA, you need to decide which roads you want to take and who will drive and how long you’re each willing to drive each day and where to stay  along the way. 

What, specifically, are one or a few small actions that you can take today that would move you closer to your goals? For example, say you want to cook a dinner at home. This can be an overwhelming or least tedious prospect for many people. You’ll need to reverse engineer the process to make it happen. You’ll need to plan the meal. It’s best to keep it simple.  How about spaghetti, meatballs in your favorite homemade sauce, and salad?  Choose a time; 7pm.  Let the other house-dwellers know.  Great! So now what?

  1. Making a specific and deliberate plan.

How exactly do you plan to execute those plans? Here’s where the magic happens.

  • Ask yourself what challenges might you run into and make your backup plan. In case your evening doesn’t go as planned, you decide to buy premade meatballs, a jar of spaghetti sauce, and prewashed salad.
  • Check the kitchen for ingredients.
  • Make a shopping list.
  • Go shopping during lunch. Prep meatballs during afternoon Zoom meetings.
  • Set out a pot of water and the box of spaghetti next to the stove.
  • Set the table.  Simple things like setting the table and filling the pot with water ahead of time can really help Future You be more successful!!

Try giving yourself multiple scenarios:

    • What’s the minimum that you’ll accomplish (in the event that you run into detours)?  What exactly will have to happen in order for you to feel successful? (You decide that as long as it’s any meal served at home, you’re going to call it a win.)
    • What’s the best case scenario (given an ideal situation of unicorns)? (Serve an unrushed meal of homemade meatballs, salad, and spaghetti at 7pm. Yea, family time!)
  • Your day will likely land somewhere between the two scenarios.

Okay, now let’s hit play on this scenario and see what happens.

At 5pm, you get call. Jimmy sprained an ankle at the soccer game and needs an X-ray. You spend your evening at the ER and your day has pretty much been carjacked. You get home at 9pm tired and famished. But since you had a plan in place, all is not lost. 

You turn on the burner and soon you’ve got the spaghetti is boiling. Meanwhile you pull out those premade meatballs and heat them up in the microwave with a jar of spaghetti sauce (and you remembered to cover it so kudos!).  Cut open the premade salad and voila, dinner is served by 9:30pm. It’s not the relaxing meal at 7pm that you had imagined, but you claim victory because it’s a meal at home. You’re feeling like a super-hero! There is real power in planning and preparing.

Why and how to do this

In a life full of responsibilities, it’s easy for a day to get pulled into chaos.

Bosses are demanding production. Children are demanding entertainment. Partners are demanding affection.

Netflix is demanding binging. Social media is demanding swiping and tapping and scrolling. Retail is demanding buying.

You can’t stop the onslaught of demands for your attention.

The best you can do is prepare for chaos, and meet it with a plan of attack.

The best defense against unwieldy demands of the every day: set fiercely stable priorities.

Where do you want to go today? What do you want to accomplish?

You get to define what success means to you each day.

Warning: If you’re not clear on what you want, you’ll be acting on the plans that other people have for you, rather than on your own. Your day will get carjacked and you’ll be driving to places that don’t serve you and leave you running on empty.

Without planning ahead,

you’ll end up accomplishing more of what other people want for you,

and risk doing less of what you want for yourself.

Make time to stay in the driver’s seat.

Planning ahead is setting a clear plan of small, simple actions that will define your success for the day.

Ask yourself,

“How, specifically, will I get to where I want to go?

What detours and emergencies are likely to pop up?

What will I have to trade off or say no to?

The more clearly and accurately you can predict and plan your future, the less you risk being swiped for other people’s priorities, and the more controlled you’ll feel in the moment.

At the same time…

Beware of over planning. It’s often counterproductive to plan out every detail of the day minute-by-minute.

Unless you’re living in a strictly regimented monastery or you have vivid visions of the future, the day will probably not unfold along every detail.

Instead, be strategic.

Set aside some time, even if only five minutes, to plot out the big rocks of your day. Take note of the big rocks in this infographic compared to the sand. Are you allowing the sand to take priority over the rocks?

One last note about lanes. Many people and things will compete for your time and attention. Having a plan in place will help you know what deserves your time and attention. If you have something planned for yourself and a loved one makes a request, it’s okay to pause, pull to the side of the road and think. It’s okay to say no to others so you can say yes to yourself, even your kids.  This is a tough one, but think of the powerful example you set for them when you speak up for your needs. This is more likely to happen when you have a plan in place.

Photo credit: Precision Nutrition

Outline the 1-3 big-ticket items you want to accomplish today, and clearly mark out time in your calendar to accomplish those top priorities. Have at least a general plan of how you’ll ensure those minimum priorities get accomplished.

Then, when you finally get to that moment of truth when it’s time for the big rock to happen, you’ll have clarity and control for exactly how to follow-through. That will be your moment to choose your health over the whims and demands of the moment (whether they be your own or someone else’s). Getting into the driver’s seat at that moment is a matter of accurately planning ahead. The time spent now is worth it, for less chaos and more control later.

If you found this helpful, check out Progressive Athletics. We help you fit healthy habits in the context of a busy life. We think you will find it absolutely mind-blowing! Every aspect of our workouts and health coaching is designed to elevate your fitness and your life beyond the gym. Click here to experience our comprehensive fitness experience for one month. 30-day money back guarantee.   

Previous Post:


Next Post: