Running Without a Spreadsheet

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I am going to try to explain something here, and am going to do it clumsily.  Your best option is to read this essay by Joshua Fields Millburn – a complicated, smart, pretentious, moderately sexist advocate of minimalism whose book Everything That Remains got me thinking about my life and my choices.  Damn him.  Anyway, it is a better use of your time to read his essay, but I am going to proceed anyway…

I track things.  I have as long as I can remember – in notebooks, then in Excel, now on Google Drive.  I set fun and not fun goals for myself.  Stretching back as far as I remember.  The summer between my 7th and 8th grade year, I set a schedule for watching reruns on TV.  I like structure.  Maybe it isn’t that I like it.  I am addicted to structure.  Yes, that seems right – addicted.

I could tell you that setting goals works for me.  But that is total bullshit.  For most of my life I have wanted only one thing.  To be thin.  I have never achieved this.  I have achieved being slightly less fat on occasion.  For a few days I was even more than slightly less fat.  But almost exclusively I fail at the things I track in notebooks, or Excel, or Google Drive.  If I could get back the time I spent tracking goals I didn’t achieve…  But I can’t.  And now I want to be happy and healthy – screw thin.  So maybe now it is time to stop tracking shit I want to do, and let it go or just actually do the things.

Here is what I was tracking (until this morning)…

* Completing my skin care regimen every morning and evening, as well as flossing

* Giving myself a manicure every week

* Completing 3 sessions of the couch to 5 K program every week

* Completing 3 sessions of kettle bell workouts every week

* Eating six servings of fruits and vegetables every day, drinking six glasses of water every day

* Tracking what I ate – just to be clear – I tracked what I ate and then tracked that I tracked it.  Seriously.  Not kidding.

* Blogging seven times a week

* Finishing a quilting project every week

* Finish a book every week

* Walking my dog twice a week

Well, that’s a humiliating list.  And other than finishing a quilting project every week, I never hit any of them.  I would read a book and constantly check my page count to make sure I was making enough progress for the day.  I would skip a workout, telling myself that I could make it up before the week was up.  I would size up my bag of carrots in my lunch to determine if I could count it as 1 serving or 2.  I managed my spreadsheet – moving through scenarios to see how I could get an “A” for the week.  I always got a D – once a low C.

At best the goal spreadsheet was a failing extrinsic motivation.  But, really, to be completely brutally honest with myself, it was a total waste of time.  Months after reading Joshua Fields Millburn disparage goal setting, I finally am ready to admit that I need to give up the ghost.  So I am running without a spreadsheet.  Today I did 30 minutes on the treadmill, and I will get no “credit” for it.  There is no box to check.  Whoa.

I am not sure what cold turkey looks like.  Probably a lot more of listening to myself.  I put the things I do still want to do (exercise, blogging, giving myself a manicure) on my calendar.  It still is a bit Type A, but I am new at this.  Baby steps.  That will not be tracked anywhere.  Whoa.

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3 thoughts on “Running Without a Spreadsheet

  1. I think we are supposed to be friends. I’ve been looking online everywere for validation that JFM is indeed kinda sexist. I read his book and really like many of his ideas but i found myself cringing every time he mentioned a woman’s physical appearance! ANNOYING. anyways, I discovered you are also addicted to tracking things. I JUST wrote a blog post about this. In trying to simplify my life, I’m actually suppressing my desire to track about 6 million other things. Right now, I’m just tracking my budget, weight, loosely tracking my workouts, and of course, my lady-time. 🙂 anyways. Hello. I’m Sasha (I am obviously not as obsessed with conventional introductions as I am with tracking things)

    • Hi Sasha! 🙂 So nice to meet you. SO glad to hear that I am not the only one who gets that twinge of suspicion of sexism from those minimalists. Maybe I will write them a letter about it.

      Nice to meet you! So glad to have a new friend. And I’ll go find your blog!

      • I would be so curious to see if they would respond to your letter! Please let me know if u end up writing it!

        Your blog is so great and it really reminds me of myself in a lot of ways. I’ve been trying to be more flexible wile still maintaining a routine. Trying to say yes to more experiences and reducing my restrictive regiments. Have you read any of the Zen Habits blog? I suggest checking it out. He takes a really flexible approach and even has one post about living without goals. It’s a bit scary to me but I can see the value.

        Anyways, great to meet you too!

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