Setting Goals Part One: Budgeting Time in a Team of One

Once you’ve taken the time to analyze your life and have decided which areas need change, it’s time to set about formulating your goals. For those of us used to a professional environment this will take an attitude adjustment.

In the workplace, typically and simplified, someone decides something needs to get done – and then assigns the proper amount of staff, time and budget to see it happen. Sure, there will be plenty of instances where you’re understaffed or your deadline is too short: and this will reflect either the quality of your product, or you’re going to break the deadline. A proper dialogue with your boss might get you the extra manhours you need.

However, in all changes concerning yourself, there is only one ultimate boss, team manager and team worker. You. You need to do all of the work yourself, and haggle with yourself for every damn paper-clip. You can’t supply extra energy or resourses from outside. All the work needs to get done by you – having a temp in to change your self-esteem won’t do a fat lot of good.

And how time do you have to devote to the project? Well, this is a fairly easy equation.  You have 24 hours and all your energy and attention –  minus any time , attention or energy you want to spend on anything else.

Have this is mind when you set your goals. Your time for working on project change will be limited. And buget for sick-days and those pesky times when all of the workforce suddenly has to attend a pre-school performance.

It’s imoportant also to keep in mind the distinction between time spent and energy spent. Lots of time we do one thing with out hands, while we think of something completely different. Which is fine, I guess. But when we try to actively think or feel about more than one thing at a time, we usually get in trouble.

If, for instance, you have a family, they’ll demand a fair share of your energy, and so will your day-job, and the minutiae of maintaining life. Personally, I don’t consider it fair to my kids to read them a bed time story with half my mind on tomorrows schedule, I want to give them my complete attention. And being too wrapped up in trying to figure out your daddy-issues is sure to affect your performance at board meetings, too.

Also keep in mind that any given bad day, when your sad or mad, will take its toll too.  Any day when you feel you’ve ”failed” at working on yourself, devoting less energy to your project than you’d wished, will surely will turn in to a mad/sad day, creating an evil energy-sucking spiral. That’s why having a realistic idea of how much energy and time you can devote to the project is so important.

So what to do?

  1. Return to the energy pie-charts you made in the analysis phase, and to your weekly schedule
  2. Identify any activities and areas that drain your energy, and see if you can put them on hold or now. For instance, if you spend 3 hours a week on social media – perhaps that can be paused for  the duration.
  3. Make a new pie-chart and schedule, leaving the areas you’ve decided to down-prioritize blank. If you decide to spend less energy on socializing, you reduce that slice accordingly and add to the blank slice. If you decide to spend less time watching TV, clear an hour a night in the schedule.
  4. Count the blank spaces: these are the amounts of time and energy you have available for the changes you want to make.

Ok, but surely some changes can just replace the activities already on the schedule? I mean, I have to eat anyway, so eating healthy won’t take any more time or energy? Sadly, I don’t think that’s true. Replacing existing habits with new, conscious choices will be hard work. Preparing a proper meal instead of slapping together a sandwich won’t take that much longer given you’ve chosen an easy recipe. But RESISTING THE URGE of reaching for bread when you’re tired and low will certainly take lots mot energy than just giving in to temptation. More on that next time, when we’ll look at part two of goal setting.

Minimalism – From Head to Toe

For me, the process of change  has been as much a process of reduction as anything else. My ultimate goal is to free up recources – of time and within myself – to spend on the things that matter to me, instead of spending it randomly in a haze of busyness.

Looking at the bigger picture, the changes I’m going through can all be discussed in terms of reduction of energy.

-Reduction of energy spent working and/or worrying about work -Reduction of energy spent on shallow socializing -Reduction of energy spent worrying about food and eating

However, it’s equally true none of this means I’ve reduced the actual amount of energy spent on these areas in a larger sense. The decrease in energy has been compensated with

-An increase of energy spent being constructive/creative -An increase of energy spent on relationships that matter -An increase of energy spent on physical and mental well-being

As I am going through these mostly internal processes – which isn’t without it’s lumps and bumps – it’s reassuring to also see some outward signs of change. One very interesting way to do this (faddish right now but what the hell) is through minimal consumption/shopping. Reducing the amount of STUFF that surrounds me feels like a tangible and concrete way of vizualising, to the world and myself, the internal changes in my life.

Since style and clothing for myself and the kids are major interests of mine and one of the main black holes when it comes to my budget and environmental footprint, I’ve decided to start at that end. I’ve pored over some very good sites, most noticeably Un-Fancy and Into-Mind and I’ve decided that my project for April (aka month 9 of pregnancy 3) is to re-haul mine and the childrens’ closets along a minimalist approach such as they outline – adding some touches of my own to make it work for me and rapid-growth toddlers.  Wish me luck (and hefty-bags).

Analyzing Your Life – a step toward sustainable change

OK, so you’ve spent 30 odd years going about things the wrong way – and now you’ve decided you need to change. Of course you want to waste as little time as possible. BUT. While jumping right in might give you a sense of purpose in the short run – taking a little extra time to analyze and reflect will work better over time. Taking a month of resting in wrongness will save on frustration in the long run.

And, well, resting can be rather hard work. While making no drastic decisions or changes to your lifestyle, you do need to spend quite a bit more energy on analyzing it and finding the kinks. Your method will vary depending on the area of life you need to change, but as inspiration, here are my own examples.


  • Take a pencil and a piece of blank paper. Draw a circle on the paper. Segment the circle into slices approximately representing the amount of energy you spend on different areas of you life. NOT HOURS PER DAY – but energy consumed. You might spend half an hour on the phone with your mother every week and finding that drains you as much as 3 hours spent running on the threadmill. Save your circle for later and try not to worry if it feels overwhelming.
  • Journal your life in concrete detail for a week or two. Note the time you spend on different things – the commute, Facebook, grocery shopping. Then, take that pencil again and a new piece of blank paper. Make a hour-by-hour breakdown of a typical week and fill in the time you spend on different activities.
  • Take note of spikes in your stress-levels, and jot down possible reasons for this. For example – ”Camille whiney about her boyfriend for 10th time this month. CANT TAKE IT ANY LONGER WOULD SHE PLEASE SHUT THE FUCK UP OR DUMP HIM”.


  • Back to the pen and paper (or why not get a pretty notebook?): catalogue your daily eating, paying attention to four different categories. A) when did I eat B) what did I eat C) why did I eat D) how did I feel afterwards


  • Journal your sleep patterns. When did you fall asleep, how many times did you wake up and why, when did you wake and how did you feel. Were you especially tired at some point in the day – and what did you do about it?


  • After three weeks or so, take your notes and jottings and sit with them in a quiet, comfortable space. A table in the sun would be ideal, and a pot of coffee at your elbow doesn’t hurt either. Go through your collected reflections and try to look at them as if they were another person’s life, say, another person you like and care about. If they told you about all this shit, what would you tell them? Would you pity them or think they were an idiot? Would you try to help or would you say they made their own bed?
  • Make a long list of all the things that you find unsustainable. You don’t have to arrive at the solutions yet, just pin-point the problem areas.


  • Now we get to the fun part, the day-dreaming. Pick up your pen again. Make an alternative energy circle, depicting the ideal amount of energy you’d LIKE to spend on different areas of your life. Realism has no place in this: just make it the pie-chart of your dreams.
  • Do the same with your weekly schedule, your weekly menue, and so forth. Dream big! If your ideal would be to be the kind of person who has home-made granola in the mornings, don’t get hung up on not having the time to make it. Just write down greek yogurt, fresh berries, homemade granola as your breakfast of choice.


  • Now that you have some idea of where you are, and an ideal of where you want to be, it’s time to compare and contrast. How are you spending your energy? What are you doing to re-charge? How does your diet compare to what you’d like to eat? How’s that sleep adding up? This comparison should result in a giant to-do list, albeit a rough one.
  • Some examples from my own was: make time for the kids and husband, focus on proper friends, stop getting involved in family squabbles, spend more time outdoors, do something about why I eat when I’m not hungry, meditate????, find work that doesn’t kill me, quit social media, try to fit in exercise… and so on and so forth

Of course, this list is impossible to work with. Lot’s of ambitions – and as many pitfalls. In the next step, we’ll discuss taking your long-list and turning it into a short list: with actual proper goals and a sustainable way of achiving change.

How to de-stress (in 6 life-long steps)

A journey of self-discovery and self-change is interesting. The results, of course, but also on an intellectual level the process. Not just the results of change, but how change occurs. These 6 steps are the ones I’ve found helpful (I know they’re half as many as in AA, but they do take for the rest of your life so don’t get too cocky…)

1. Receive an unequivocal, factual message of something being wrong. For me, this was actually falling ill from my lifestyle, with ensuing doctors’ visits and physical symptoms as well as mental. Burnt out, stressed out, I’d hit the famous wall and was actually a fair ways trough the wallpaper as well.

I’d recommend finding a good doctor or psychologist and opening up to them. Once the lab-work comes back and you’ve had a professional eyeing your sleep habits it’s harder to ignore the facts – ignoring the signals our bodies send us is very easy in comparison. If you’re sure your aches and pains are normal, your diet is a temporary slip which won’t damage your health since you’ll change it to kale-only in just a few days, and your marriage will be fine just as soon as you’re both your ideal selves: get someone to give it to you straight.

2. Resting in this wrongness. This might sound counter intuitive. Normally, when I’ve decided to “change something” in the past,  it’s been a very short leap from decision to all sorts of drastic actions. Going on a diet – the crazier the better – is a perfect example. Or deciding to dramatically detox my digital life, quitting Facebook in a burst of glory… This time, I simply didn’t have the energy to take on big change, I was so broken down. This gave me time to actually feel and analyze, on a deeper level, what it was about my current situation that was bad for me. Was it my consumption of sugar and the time spent at work I needed to change, or something more profound? (Spoiler alert – it was something more profound)

I’d recommend letting at least a month pass between the decision to change and taking any action. Use the time to journal your current situation in detail (food, time at work, emotions and so forth) and help yourself get a clearer idea of what needs to change for real, what is realistic, and what sort of change you can decide against since it’s probably just another fad (there goes the all-kale diet again).

3. Set goals – not deadlines. In the period I spent evaluating my lifestyle, I came to realize I did have a very specific goal of where I wanted to be – physically as well as emotionally and also on a practical level. I wrote these goals down, and also the path for getting there. HOWEVER, which has been a game changer for me: I couldn’t put a deadline to the goals. For example, being pregnant at the time, I couldn’t set a goal for weight-loss: all dietary changes had to occur without that motivation. The same with re-evaluating my career: I know I need to change my job, but since I am just about to have baby number three, switching right now isn’t realistic. And so on. (A specific post on the goals set coming shortly).

I’d recommend setting very specific goals, but open-ended. You won’t find a healthy life-style by May 7th. On the other hand, when May 7th comes and goes and you find daily mediation has become natural to you – but you haven’t dropped a single pound – you’ll want to focus on the positive.

4. Consequences – or watching it all unravel… Profound life change can’t be about cutting carbs or blocking some me-time in the calendar. Only to gorge on cheese instead and filling me-time with must-dos. Profound life change has to be, at the very least, about the way you think (hopefully feel) about your body and mind. A million little habits, all deeply intertwined. For me, deciding to actively manage my stress lead to changing my diet which led to changing my sleep-patterns, which has led to changing my view of exercise and active rest, which has changed my views on meditation and spirituality, which has changed the way I view my surroundings and the people around me, which has changed the path I am taking in my career. And I’m not done yet.

I’d recommend: be brave, that’s all I’ve got for you on this one. And implement the one-month thinking-things-over policy thoughtout. Don’t actually QUIT your job or your lazy-ass husband just because you’ve seen the light. But do calmly update your CV and see about setting your personal finances in order. Prepare for the changes that are going to come, execute when you are in a less volatile state.

5. Re-commitment. I’ve needed to replace lots of daily habits with daily rituals. Perhaps, at some time in the future, these rituals will be habitual but so far they take a fair bit of conscious choice and action. In order to sustain them, even on days when they demand a level of energy I just don’t have, I need constant reminders and inspiration. The number of self-help books currently on my bed-side table would suggest I am searching desperately for a path, but that’s not the case. But reading about different methods of change, finding inspiration in other peoples stories, helps me hone my own ideas and dig that little bit deeper, not settle for the obvious solutions. So though I’m never going on another diet for as long as I live (solemn promise) I do read massive amounts on nutrition, and conscious eating, and LCHF and so forth. And while I’m tolerably certain of the new career I want to pursue, and how to find my work-life balance, I still turn to the guides for help calibrating the compass. Arianna Huffington’s Thrive is one I’d recommend to anyone as a good starting point.

I’d recommend: Indulge yourself in positive examples. So what if you should be reading the latest Booker Prize winner instead of tacking inspirational quotes to your Pinterest wall. So what if you realize that the fool-proof guides to happiness can’t all be right at the same time. So what if buying some incence and a meditation pillow makes you feel like a stereotype of a middle-aged mom. Go with it. Enjoy it. And also some essential oils for your bath.

6. Rinse and repeat. Positive life change is on-going, because life is. The calm place I’ve found right now, in the last weeks of pregnancy and taking time of work, won’t be the same calm place once baby arrives or even, god help us all, once my husband I and are both back at work doing full days and also managing three kids… The peace I’m finding now will have to be rediscovered: rituals changed once again. Realizing this, that I’m not about to find the fit-all key to serenity, is important for me. Committing to not falling ill again is something that’s going to take a fair amount of time for the rest of my life. I will have to care about myself for the rest of my life. I will have to prioritize myself for the rest of my life. I will have to think about myself for the rest of my life… The thought is a bit staggering, but truly, finding peace is a day to day struggle.

I’d recommend: those goals you’re gonna write down after your month of introspection? Make sure to write them in pencil. Changing them and adjusting them will be as important as reaching them. For example, I set a goal of quitting sugar, which has now become a more profound goal of not harming myself through food. I set a goal of making sure my kid’s have healthy eating habits which I erased in favor of the goal of taking the time to eat dinner as a family on a daily basis…

How It Started

I was a super bright kid. Affluent family, high goals, attractive parents, and attentive too. A mix of the bohemian and the scholarly. Keeping up appearances mattered, of course, but most of all it was important to never look like you were trying. Pedaling furiously under calm waters, I think they call it. Success was a given, looks were a given. If I’d been known to WORK for them that would have been half the value lost. Asking for help? Not even on the table.

Fast forward 25 years or so and you find me in a very credible job at a government agency, managing a team of 10 people (not paying very much, but money was never the thing, dear) with an influential husband and two sparkling blonde kids of my own.  A stylish, eclectic house, a sprawling yet maintained garden. A carefully selected wardrobe. You also find me with an increasing array of stress-related illnesses and conditions:

-Waking up at night in multiple cold sweats
-Pounding heart and pounding headaches
-A stubborn depot of body fat despite rigorous diets (interspersed with bouts of frenzied eating)
-Killer moods
-Memory loss
-Panic attacks
-Muderous/divorcey feelings towards my innocent husband
-Shingels in the eye (!) and ensuing loss of sensation in the face and skull
… and, oh yeah, a third pregnancy.

This is where the details get a bit fuzzy but basically I got sent home. I stayed at home for a month, and then another. I was furious with my body, myself, and the world in general for failing to meet my expectations. I kept getting worse, eating to numb the increasing feelings of panic.

Finally, and I don’t know how, my therapist got through to me and convinced me that a sick-leave entitles you to turn your phone off and stop answering mail. He also convinced me to apply for a different position at work for the remainder of my pregnancy, and to put sleeping first. After a few weeks of this, I got to the end of the tunnel, regained some clarity of sight, and decided what to do with my life. Which is, get some peace.

OK, so the odds are lousy. Peace isn’t a prime feature of a three-kid household. Nor is time. But I’ve decided to take the warnings signals for what they are and change my life. Starting now.

-I’m changing my diet (more on why later)
-I’m going to exercise in some way shape or form (tbd)
-I’m going to get some rest
-I’m going to take the time to watch my kids grow up
-I’m changing my pace
-Most likely, at the end of my maternity leave, I’ll be changing careers too

Can it be done? Stay tuned.