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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

When a Plan Comes Together

Sometimes you have to have a plan.

It's something that I tell my students on a regular basis. One of my many activities is teaching SAT preparation classes, and the section that always scares my students is the essay. Yes, the SAT has an essay now. It's also scored out of 2400. It took a while to get used to that.

I tell the students that the key to writing an essay is to make a solid plan before you start. (It's also the key to great blog posts, which is probably something I should take to heart, but honestly, I'm just proud of myself if I turn the television off while I'm trying to write.) By deciding in advance what you're going to say, they way that you're going to say it, and the examples that you'll use to prove your point, you take out the guess work from writing, and the essay has a greater flow.

My days tend to work the same way. When I start a day with only a general idea of things that have to get done, I will often find myself coasting from one thing to the next. Invariably, I end up accomplishing all my goals right at the end of the day. It happens that I enjoy working under pressure, but it would be far more efficient if I were able to maintain focus on each event, and my day would have the kind of flow that I've come to expect from my students' essays.

Enter the schedule. When I have a lot to do, I give every event a start time. That way, I end up with several small deadlines instead of one giant one looming up ahead. When you give yourself a certain amount of time, you create a level of urgency that actually pushes you forward and makes you get to work. This can be in the long term, such as deciding that you've got 46 more marathons to run in the next 22 years, or it can be short term, like knowing that you have to be on the road at 7:00am, so you have to start your run by 5:15.

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I'm not a morning person, so the fact that I got up at 5:00 this morning just to get in eight miles and a shower before an early morning meeting is downright unheard-of in my world. Sure, I can do that time when I've got 20 miles to cover, but to do it when I could postpone my miles until the evening is quite the accomplishment, as well as a testament to the power of a strict plan. It begs the question, how can I repeat this behavior?

By refining the plan based on my own strengths and weaknesses, I might be able to make this a regular thing. I think the first step is noting what was successful from this morning and taking that to heart. I didn't try to go to sleep incredibly early last night, and I did not try to push my body too hard this morning. To be honest, I was amazed at how easily I woke up given the hour. Maybe I've just been sleeping too late in the morning. Seems unlikely, but maybe that's been the key all along.

Then, I have to look at what did not work. This was mostly my attempt at making coffee. Apparently some filter was askew on the first pot, and I had to have another shot at it. Also, I was a little slower than I usually like to be, but as I mentioned above, I was not trying to push the pace. I'm in a taper. Now is not the time for excessive strain on the muscles.

So here is the refined plan, to be put into effect on Thursday (as tomorrow is a blessed, blessed rest day): Step one, go to bed at the regular time. Step two, get up crazy early and do some dynamic motion to get the muscles going before the workout. Step three, workout. Step four, have an awesome day.

It's so simple.

Tuesday's workout:
63 degrees
7.93 miles

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