I know I’m not the only one who operates this way. And Google knows it, too, which is why they recently released their Goals feature—a tool to help overscheduled gals like me squeeze stuff like race-training into an already packed daily routine. My name is Samantha, and I am a slave to my Google calendar.
Truth: I’ve been in a pavement-pounding slump for the last, err, year ever since crossing the New York City marathon finish line. But the road started calling to me recently, so I signed up for the Run Rock ’n’ Roll half-marathon in Seattle. And then stared at my training plan. And stared at it some more. Maybe Goals would be just what I needed to get my butt out the door…
OK, Google. How Does This Thing Work?
Once I selected my goal of running four times a week, I answered a few quick questions, including how long each session should be (30 minutes minimum) and what time of day I prefer to sweat (morning, please!). Then, I watched Google do its thang, automatically plotting runs in my calendar.
There were a few kinks to work out: Unless I specifically used the word “workout” in previously-made calendar appointments (so, “yoga workout” instead of just “yoga”), Goals doubled me up with two-a-day training session. (No thanks!) So, I had to revise my non-running workouts to reflect that they were, indeed, still workouts. A bit of a pain, yes. But worth it once I had a gorgeous week of slotted sweat sessions staring back at me.
Kyra Bobinet, M.D., habit and behavior change expert and the author of Well Designed Life: 10 Lessons in Brain Science & Design Thinking for a Mindful, Healthy & Purposeful Life says it’s a smart way to start the week. “The fact that the goals are integrated into your habitual calendar—what you look at all of the time and use to make decisions and run your life—right away is key to the good design here,” she says.
The Google Guilt Trip
When Sunday night rolled around, I was lazily lounging in my sweat pants when I heard a ping from my phone. “Ready to work out tomorrow?” it said. Thanks to the reminder, I got off my butt and pulled out my clothes, so I didn’t have any excuses come morning.
At 6 a.m., I got another ping, 30 minutes before my run was scheduled. Normally, I wouldn’t mind this little nudge. But this early in the morning, when I could still be sleeping!? Not cute, Google. But it got me up, so I headed out early. I felt accomplished AF, but you can bet I changed my notification settings as soon as I got home.
On Wednesday, I had an appointment first thing in the morning, so Goals scheduled my workout for 5 p.m. Unfortunately, that deadline rolled around and there was no way I could escape the office. So I ignored the reminder and kept working. When my run was supposed to be done, another ping arrived. “Workout Done?” I felt a twinge of guilt, but was honest and hit “no.” Then I watched as Goals bumped my sweat sesh to later that evening. When I got my next reminder, that was all the motivation I needed to head out the door. No way was I going to bail twice.
Sweet Organizational Victory
Bobinet says actually listening to Google is key if I want to stick to my goals. “As soon as you ignore it once or twice, your brain will start to put it in the “spam” category and deem it as unimportant,” she says. “It’s your brain’s way of trying to put anything non-essential there, so your attention is saved for more important things.”
Later in the week, I had to straight-up miss a workout and started to feel annoyed at the regular reminders. Who wants a constant guilt trip?! “That annoying factor will grow, and you’ll likely stop responding to the app the more you don’t accomplish the task, because no one likes to be reminded of homework they haven’t turned in,” says Bobinet. That’s why it’s important to keep your schedule realistic, even with Google doing the heavy lifting. “As long as you are still actually doing the behavior, the ‘done’ button will be pleasing,” she says.
By the end of the week, I had, in fact, completed four runs. Woot! While my initial scheduling fails warranted some readjusting, my goals did feel easier to accomplish when I didn’t have to worry about finding the time to do it myself. Who knows, maybe I’ll even say hello to a PR at my next finish line!