“I’m just too busy to____ (you fill in the blank that is most appropriate for you.)” How often do you fail to accomplish things in your life with the excuse of being too busy? Activities like exercising regularly or planning (and then eating) healthy meals are frequently dropped from the ‘to-do’ list due to this excuse. Everyone is endlessly busy these days.
Yet, some people manage to squeeze in more than others. For example, I have friends who are mothers, work full time and recently competed in Iron Man Triathlons (events which require 2o hours or more of training per week at the peak of the training programs). Now, these women are amazing and no doubt extremely dedicated and driven, but how did they find the time to achieve their goals while others struggle to even get started? In my opinion, there are two major reasons: priorities and planning.
Before you can make exercise and healthy eating a part of your normal routine and lifestyle, you first need to make these activities a higher priority in your life than the things that stand in the way. When I think about why some people find it difficult to achieve health-based goals, it seems like there are two overriding factors that make success difficult, both of which involve setting priorities.
First, women, and mothers in particular, often forget about their own health and happiness as they focus on the needs of everyone else around them. For some reason, the concept of taking time to exercise, have fun or simply relax seems neglectful or self-indulgent. Many women no longer see their personal health and desires as a priority in their day to day life.
Second, some people talk about wanting to lead a healthier lifestyle, but are not yet really willing to take the steps that they know they need to take to change their current habits. Some individuals claim to have no time for exercising or healthier eating, yet seem to find time in their day for many other pursuits above and beyond the bare necessities. While browsing, commenting on and updating one’s Facebook status, keeping up-to-date on who was sent home from Dancing With The Stars, or staying up late to watch the end of a Red Sox game may be very enjoyable activities, the fact that the time can be found to do them in the midst of very hectic schedules simply means that they have been prioritized above exercise or planning healthier meals.
If you are starting to think about making changes to your lifestyle and daily routine to focus more on your health, an honest review of your priorities and where your personal health and happiness falls on the list may be a worthwhile examination.
There is no question that focusing on starting or increasing your level of exercise and working on changing your habits so that you can eat healthier meals takes some motivation and work. If it was easy and had an immediate impact on how you looked or felt, everyone would be doing it! However, like any new project that requires some work and some changes to your normal routine, if you don’t properly plan for it, it is never going to happen. The best and only way to really make the focus on your health become a natural part of your life with your busy schedule is to schedule it. Adding exercise, meal planning and grocery shopping to your schedule is critical to them becoming routines and eventually habits.
To be successful in increasing your fitness, you need to get it on the calendar just like a doctor appointment and treat that appointment with the same level of importance. I also highly recommend you learn to embrace the morning as the best time of day to exercise. You can’t beat the feeling of having this box checked off before the day gets going and gets hectic. There is far less risk of not completing your exercise routine each day when you do it in the morning. If life throws any unexpected surprises at you later in the day they won’t prevent you from exercising as you have already done it. Keep in mind getting up early one day per week is far more difficult than transitioning your body clock to getting up early most days of the week. Your body likes a schedule and gets used to rising at a certain time of day.
Get in the habit of looking at your schedule for the next day before you go to bed each night. Look for two things: opportunities for maximizing your time and decreasing the potential of making bad food choices as result of poor planning. Can you take a walk or jog around the fields while your child is warming-up for their sporting event rather than setting up your chair and chatting with other parents as you wait for the game to start? What about the wasted travel time driving back and forth to birthday parties to drop off and pick up your child? Next time, can you bring your child into the party, leave your car parked at the location and use the hour to go for a walk, jog or bike ride? Will you be at an all-day sporting event? Plan to pack lunch and snacks rather than hitting the concession stand or a fast food restaurant. Do you know you will be out all afternoon? Pack an apple so you can satisfy your hunger and not come home “starving” only to hit the snack cabinet or overeat at meal time.
Meal planning and grocery shopping go hand in hand. Pick one day to go grocery shopping for the upcoming week. Friday, Saturday or Sunday are logical days that set you up for the following week. On the day prior to your designated shopping day take a look at your schedule for the upcoming week and determine how many meals you need to prepare and the complexity of each meal your schedule will allow and then select the appropriate meals given your requirements. I have created a meal planning template for my clients to aide them in this process. I’m happy to share it! Another time management suggestion that will benefit meal preparation is carpooling. Can you make arrangements with another family to do all the dropping off or picking up at the weekly practices so that you can buy yourself some time to prepare dinner? If your schedule causes you to leave your meals up to chance, it is far more difficult to come up with healthy and tasty options.
Finally, on Sunday nights organize yourself for the week by preparing and packing meals and snacks ahead of time. Boil a dozen eggs for snacks and salads. Grill breasts of chicken for salads or burritos. Chop veggies for snacks and stir-fry’s. Remember the quote “Prior preparation prevents poor performance”? Set yourself up for success!
While the focus of this article is specific to getting into a healthy routine that includes exercise and better eating habits, the concepts of prioritizing and planning can apply to anything you use the “too busy” excuse for. If you really care about changing or focusing on something in your life, make it a true priority and then take the time and make the necessary changes to make it a part of your daily routine.