10 in 2010: Chunking out goals

chopped carrots and a cleaver

As one of my 10 goals in 2010+ is “Get back on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet 100%,” I probably should have spent Fat Tuesday whooping it up with all of the sugar, rice, wheat, chocolate, potatoes and etcetera (lots and lots of “etcetera” on the SCD) I won’t be able to eat anymore.

Instead, I holed up in a favorite coffee shop with a green tea and, while I waited for my friend from Portland to show up for our visit, I set about breaking out this monstrous, slippery to-do into smaller, hopefully more manageable tasks.

Some goals lend themselves to chunks. As I’ve mentioned before, my breakthrough moment with “Read a book a week” came when Julien Smith shared his own chunking solution: read 40pp per day. It’s obvious in hindsight, but when you’re panicking at the thought of how to do something you’ve never done before (or haven’t done since your early 20s), looking at books as roughly 280pp units and then doing some quick division ain’t the first solution you try applying.

My new Nei Kung practice shakes out the same way: “Practice Nei Kung every morning” has a built-in chunking mechanism; it’s expressed as a chunk. (The morning part I’m facilitating by tying it to a morning routine, which is another pro-tip Julien puts forth in his excellent post. I swear, I’ll keep linking to it, so you might as well go read it now.)

Compared to reading and Nei Kung, “Get on SCD 100%” is a slippery mollusk. While being on “100%” is both a clear metric and in keeping with SCD tenets*, it doesn’t help me “be” on SCD day to day. I like to-dos; to-dos make for a regular and orderly life.

So I sat down and brainstormed a number of activities I can do to help support my transition back to and then my staying on the SCD. They include:

  • expunge cupboards of all SCD “illegals”
  • cull non-SCD-legal and/or non-“keeper” recipes from recipe binder
  • create running grocery list
  • check running grocery list
  • make SCD-legal baked goods in bulk (e.g. almond-flour cookies, breads, etc.)
  • make SCD-legal freezer-portion foods in bulk (e.g. stews, chilis, pizza sauce, etc.)
  • search new recipes for SCD-legalization possibilities
  • shop farmers’ market

Some of the items are daily things I can check off, and very small. Just because you’ve committed to a big annual goal doesn’t mean every ding-dong day has to involve pushing a c*cksucking boulder up a motherf*cking hill. Some days, you just want to look at your running list and check the fridge, freezer or pantry for supplies. Other days you might only have the gumption to spend five minutes surfing epicurious for Paleo recipes you can convert, or even email a chef-y friend for suggestions on how to fabricate legal substitutes for some craved food.**

And there’s no law that says you can’t find to-dos that kill two goals with one stone. I’m also looking to make more plans with friends this year; who says one of them can’t be “Go with so-and-so to farmers’ market on Sunday”? Not me. I wouldn’t say that.

One final note: to get myself started with the list, I asked myself a couple of “how and why” questions: how does the diet work for me, and why do I want to be on it?

When I initially got on, the answers were clear and obvious: to not die; to get out and stay out of the hospital. As I’ve moved further away from peril (praise the sweet baby jesus), it’s become more difficult to come up with pressing reasons. To get off of meds? Yeah, a worthy goal; these immunosuppressants are hell on your liver, long-term. For me, the reasons are now tied to other things, like having the energy to really apply myself to my other big goals. I do NOT want another repeat of last December, when I viewed my previous year’s list of goals and saw six or seven out of ten unaccomplished.

Therefore, since I know that in the moment those BIG goals aren’t necessarily enough to keep me on the straight and narrow, I needed to look at some tactical stuff, too: what daily to-dos can I put in place to remove friction? To make it easy to say “no” to Mr. Delicious French fry, or at least, easier?

For me, it’s about not letting myself get hungry and not letting myself feel deprived. So some of my to-dos can become:

  • prep travel bags of snacks for on-the-go
  • think up more games to keep myself motivated
  • look at pictures of bloody transverse colon pre-SCD

Kidding on that last one, sort of. Truthfully, “Watch Ignite video” would make a really great to-do for a given day, since it is both a graphic reminder of what I went through to get here (and what I never want to go back to, ever), and a motivator to stay on track with one of my other goals, which is to do more speeches that I feel really make a difference.***

But that is another goal story for another day…


*At least initially, being on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet calls what our beloved Elaine called “fanatical adherence”: the smallest cheat nulls the effect, since what you’re striving for is a removal of all opportunistic, “bad” bacteria in the gut, and the slightest trace of something juicy will keep the bastards alive. Once you’re on and symptom-free for two years, you can consider an indulgence here and there. Although as I seem to be an abstainer rather than a moderator when it comes to things like French fries or Italian bread with a gnarly crust and chewy tooth, I’m just off of it, period.

**I’ve been dreaming of those greasy sesame sticks you buy by the pound at Trader Joe’s, and my friend Wayne said, “Oh, I love figuring out stuff like that.” So there you go. Make someone else’s day into the bargain.

***And who said you can’t kill two goals with one story? Not me. Never me!

Image by Muffet via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.


  1. So I wandered on over to YouTube via your link and partook of the folk song. Have to say, I enjoyed your cheery presence and admired your guitar technique, and I will take your advice!

  2. C: there is something very gentle about this post that feels new to me. I really like it–perhaps I’m just “hearing” it and you’ve already been doing it? The power of this constellation is palpable:
    know, assess, research, test, readjust AND be nice to yourself in the process.

    Thank you for demonstrating it. You helped me listen to a dream I had last night about continuing to limit my constellation to these MINUS rumination.


    1. Well, it has been a bit since we’ve sat down and talked, and yeah, I’ve been working pretty assiduously to implement this bidness.

      Thank you for noting it. I am sincerely trying to be gentler with myself. Not easy!

  3. Good luck with the nutritional challenge. What I’ve found to help me through Paleo (and what may help you) is lots of planning. If I know I’ll be going to an event which will most likely not have something I can eat, I always have something packed to bring along.

    Another, slightly weird hack is to take a whiff of the things you’re craving. I was with a friend when she was eating a yummy-looking cookie (that bitch!) and although it was odd to ask, I had her blow a bite into my face. Nothing beats shotgunning some sugar off a friend. This works best if it actually is a GOOD friend and not some random stranger.

    Lastly, get used to the dreams. I have a very rich dessert every night in my dreams and they are simply delicious. And the funny part is that a couple of bites into the dessert, I start to feel bad. Then, I remember that I’m dreaming and continue eating my sweet treat. I almost always wake up happy. ;)

    1. People! Lissen up on what my gal, Tara, sez!

      Yeah, prep is KEY. One of the things Elaine was constantly pushing about was how you should always have stuff ready to go so you’re not starving. And if you know Thanksgiving or a birthday or somesuch is coming up, you can plan a strategy for coping. People are very understanding, esp. when it’s a health thing (and you’re in CA).

      I can’t wait for the dreams. Some of my dreams can be exceptionally real!

  4. Your 40 pgs. a day goal made me go aah.. that’s how to do it. Right.

    With diet stuff, sending a daily email to someone doing the same thing as me helps a lot. I’ve walked by my favorite fried chicken place because I thought to myself, ‘I’ll have to put it in the email…’ I’ve also found that the more on-track I am, the easier it becomes, and the more off, the harder. (For me it is about eating all organic, and large amounts of greens w/ 2 meals a day.)

    1. Thanks, Kate, and glad it clicked. To be clear, the 40pp/daily is NOT mine, but Julien Smith’s. I mean, I’m making it my own for the duration, but he gets full credit.

      I like the email idea! Like the pain in the butt of keeping a food log, only multiplied, plus adding shame. Perfect!

  5. Good luck with SCD compliance. I too attempt that. A few failings: one daily medicine I rely on … and In-n-out’s fries.

    On the plus side, I used to cheat with Butterfinger candy bars. No more! Also, I do a good job (perfect?) with {{expunge cupboards of all SCD “illegals”}} and {{create running grocery list}}. Still, all in all, it ain’t easy. I wish you good luck on the SCD path!

    This may or may not help, but my sister gave me a vat of delicious, real honey that is thick and spoonable. Feels like quite the treat to dig into it with a spoon. Unlike store-bought honey, it needs a spoon. Just an idea. (Don’t know where to buy it around here. It came from Wyoming.)

    1. Oh! Oh! Having different honeys for when those cravings hit is so great. The Surfer found some unbelievable white, whipped honey that I swear was like eating Marshmallow Fluff. I have thought many times of trying to track him down just to find the source of that stuff; I’ve seen it nowhere else, online included, and think it must be some freakishly local specialty item.

  6. Hi, Colleen. It’s about time — after months and months of reading your blog — that I check in and tell you how much I look forward to reading it, and how much I enjoy it when I do. I’ve been following your efforts to wrestle the planning thing to the ground, and I now have a copy of “Your Best Year Yet!” next to my computer. Over the course of this weekend, I’m hopeful that it’ll migrate into my hands for reading.

    And speaking of reding, Julien Smith’s “read 40 pages a day” post, which I read, leaves me a little cold. I get and value breaking goals into small tasks and doing them regularly, but it seems that in Julien’s world, books are, essentially, consumables. After one paragraph, I suspected that he was talking mainly about non-fiction (which is only about one-fifth of my overall reading). I read 54 books last year — yes, I’m anal enough to keep count — and though I made sure that I read every day, the 40-page rule is a bit arbitrary when you’re reading a good novel. And when he suggested that, if you’re falling behind in your goal, you pick up a short book that you’ve already read and breeze through it, he lost me. Whatever type of reading you’re doing, isn’t the real goal to learn? Whether that translates into learning better ways to do business or understanding the vagaries of the human heart isn’t the point here, but books that help us with the latter may not lend itself to strict page counts if we’re going to get the full benefit of what we’re reading.

    Enough (English-major) ranting already. Thanks for raising issues — as you often do — that make me think, probably when you don’t even mean to do. And good luck with your eating plan, and your plans, period.

    1. Thank you for finally breaking the silence, Clara, and for the kind words.

      I think the idea of 40pp/daily is more about kickstarting—getting your ass in the chair with the reading light, carving out time in the day to commit—than 40pp. Julien strikes me as someone who loves to read, not someone who’d subscribe to those horrid executive summary things so that they can have “read” the “important” parts of a book. I get that a book’s main thesis may be captured in an article or the ToC, but there’s something that happens while reading a book that’s irreplaceable. I don’t know this for sure, but I sense from much of what I’ve read of Julien’s (and from the exceptionally good writing in Trust Agents) that he’s one of those people who “gets” it.

      But I will continue to raise issues, regardless. And roofs. And other stuff.

  7. I just chunked my Ignite Portland talk. Duh! I should have thought of that. If I nail one chunk per day, I’ll be set for the rehearsal on Wednesday.

  8. I’m a huge book lover myself, who like everyone else has a lot going on, and can find myself in a place of not reading regularly, which feels bad. I love the 40 pgs. a day goal for just the reason you said– kick starting. I might find myself chomping through a novel two sittings or reflecting for an hour on 10 pages of something… but the page count, as ‘crass’ as it may be, works as a reminder, and it makes me feel all school-y, in a good way.

Comments are closed.