Fat lessons: Learn from pregnancy plan

"I don't mean to be harsh," my agent said three days after I delivered my baby, "but you look terrible." The fact that good-looking people make more money is more true for women than men, which is especially unfair, because it's very hard to not gain a million pounds when you're pregnant. I gained 60. This column is about my two-month quest to lose that weight, and the importance of making a plan for any large and difficult goal.

I have a book deal that's predicated on a grand speaking tour, and the speaking tour is predicated on my not being overweight. The bookings start in September. If I can't line up speaking gigs, I can 't promote my book, and if I don't promote my book, it won't sell and I won't get another contract. So losing weight became my number-one job.

My husband said, "The stress of you having to lose so much weight so quickly will kill us both. Give back the money you got for the book."

But I ignored him and did what works best for me when I'm in trouble: I made lists. I scheduled two visits a day to the gym and wrote lists for what I would do there. I wrote a schedule for the babysitter. I wrote a list of food– what to carry with me each day, and when to go shopping, because if I'm starving in front of a bakery with no food in my backpack, I'll do the bakery. Finally, I scheduled the date I would go to my agent's office to show her my progress.

It worked. I lost 20 pounds just by delivering the baby. But I lost 40 more pounds in two months. People are shocked, and they ask how I did it. First I tell them that if you had to lose weight in order to earn a living, you'd be able to do it, too. I gained insight into ultra-thin Hollywood: not being able to work if you take too many bites of cookie gives you a lot of self-discipline.

But the bigger factor is that I came up with a schedule and followed it, and I realized I could do it for any goal.

Many times we're filled with self-doubt and inaction about meeting our goals. But meticulous scheduling and a belief in your abilities will allow you to relax, tune out worries, and follow the plan.

You can't take this advice for everything in life. But making an extremely detailed, well-thought-out schedule to support an ambitious plan is a great way to ensure you meet the goals that will make or break your career.

Some people's careers are stalled because their weight makes them look out of control. For most, though, weight loss isn't all that important. They might have other goals they worry they won't achieve, such as switching careers, going back to school, or starting their consulting business.

Make a commitment to yourself and to your most important goals by reserving time in your day and space in your head to meet your goals. Great ambitions are not met haphazardly, and many times are not met at all. You can increase your odds tremendously by planning meticulously.

My next step is finding good places to book my speaking tour. I had been worried that this wouldn't work out. But now I feel more confident. I'm making a plan, as detailed as I made for the weight loss. And I know if I execute the plan on a daily basis, I'll end up with a speaking tour I like.