I’m too stinking busy!!
Seriously, that’s just where my life is right now, and there’s no way around it.
Know the feeling?
You’re too busy to count calories or grams of salt or fat. You’re too busy to get to the gym on a regular basis. Many days you collapse into bed at night barely able to remember where the day went.
Being busy is an excuse (although a good one) for not taking care of yourself. For many people it takes a health scare or other life event before they wake up and start taking care of their body. But that doesn’t have to be you!
The word that will transform your diet and exercise habits is:
In my 20 years of experience I’ve come to believe that simplicity is the only way to live healthy when you are really busy.
Sounds simple, right? It may be simple, but most people don’t get it. Here are strategies I use to take control of my time and to simplify as many aspects of my life as possible.
Learn to Simplify Your Life
- Simplify my eating.Forget being overly concerned with counting calories or measuring portion sizes, instead I think of my diet in terms of color, variety, and freshness. I focus on finding foods I love and easy recipes that incorporate a few fresh ingredients. I own several great cookbooks that contain recipes using 5 ingredients or less.
- In conjunction with simplifying my eating, I also learned to simplify my grocery shopping.Each week I plan out 7 days worth of meals. From that plan I write up my grocery list. I arrange my grocery list so that all the items I need are in order based on the path I take around the store. I bring a pen to the store and check off each item as I go. This saves me time since I don’t have to back track in the store to get forgotten items, it saves me money since I don’t buy things I don’t need, and it reduces the chances I’ll buy junk food (since it’s not on my list). I’m in and out of the grocery store quickly and I have everything I need for the week, which also saves me time not having to back to the store for forgotten items.
- Simplify my workouts.Before I get to the gym I know exactly what exercises, sets, and reps I will be doing that night. I keep my gym bag packed with my membership card, weight belt and other accessories, my journal, and my iPod in my car so I never forget it. In the gym I don’t waste time talking to other people or watching TV or texting. I’m focused and keep distractions to a minimum. If someone is taking too long on a piece of equipment I need, I simply ask (politely), if I can work in with them. I don’t sit and wait forever for a piece of equipment to become available. My workouts last an hour or less, no exceptions.
- Simplify my cardio.For me, simplifying cardio means getting it in any way possible. It might mean taking the stairs all day at work, walking the parking lot at lunch time, going for a bike ride with the kids, or whatever else I can fit in. It’s rare that I can get to the gym for cardio, so I do what I can when I can. Many nights it’s just a walk or run around my block (several times) before dinner. I don’t need a treadmill or elliptical machine to get a good cardio workout.
- Simplify my time.I use Google Calendar and an old fashioned paper calendar to keep track of everything. They are my time bible. I schedule appointments, tasks, projects, and reminders for anything I need to do. I’ve trained myself to enter things in my calendar as soon as I become aware of them. This simple system saves me a ton of time by keeping my day organized, but it also saves time by not missing things and having to make them up later. I get a lot of satisfaction from crossing things off my to do list every day.
- Simplify my activities.I spent many years believing I could do everything I wanted, but ultimately finding that I could do many things poorly, or a few things well. I’ve defined what is most important to me (my kids, my health, my career) and I base all my decisions around that. Having a clear understanding of my priorities makes other decisions simple. For example, if I’m supposed to work out tonight but my daughter has a lacrosse game, I reschedule my workout because family is my number one priority. The choice is very easy and adjusting my schedule is fairly painless. Simplifying may mean giving up a few round of golf or a late night at the office, but once you define what’s most important to you, those decisions become much easier.
- General simplicity.I’m always looking for ways to simplify things I encounter. I like to combine activities like vacuuming while the kids are waiting for the bus or cleaning the house while the football game is on in the background. Most recently I’ve begun getting rid of things in my house and environment that create clutter. It’s amazing how many items take up cupboard or shelf space yet are never touched or used.
Finding simplicity is mostly about looking for opportunities and being open to new ways of doing things. It’s easy to say ‘I’m too busy’ and plop yourself down on the couch to watch another episode of American Idol, but if you look around and really ask yourself where you can save some time, you begin to see where small changes can add up and you can ultimately find time to fit healthy living into your life.