It’s easy to tell what’s truly important to a person by looking at how they spend their time. Yet when we asked MyFitnessPal users about their biggest obstacles to healthy living, “no time to cook” and “no time for exercise” rank in the top 5.
The fact is investing some time every day into taking care of your body and your health is probably the surest investment you can make in this lifetime. It pays off in the ease and joy that come with a healthy body and lower health costs, and ultimately it pays off in terms of even more time: a longer life expectancy. Diet factors into as many as 70% of all deaths in America, and Psychology Today reports even a small amount of daily physical activity can extend your life.
But wanting to do something doesn’t exactly create more space in your calendar. Which is why having a time management strategy is so important. Here’s how to find the time in your day to cook, eat well, exercise, and do whatever healthy is to you.
1. Identify your time vampires Watch the clock for a day to identify where you’re spending too much time. Do you really need to watch another cat video online or post another selfie on Facebook? Are you spending more than an hour watching TV? Once you’ve identified the less-than-healthy ways you’re spending a ton of time, see if you can…
2. Redirect your time toward healthier activities If you can’t bear to miss the next episode, try catching up on The Real Housewives while on the treadmill, for example. If it turns out your time vampires are more social, get your friends involved. Instead of spending 3 hours texting or chatting with each other on social media, use that time to meet in person for a walk and gab session around the neighborhood, or hit up a Zumba class. Consider converting social events into workouts or weekend Farmer’s Market trips. Or simply agree to share your food logs with each other and discuss your health goals on Facebook. You’ll connect, feel supported, and even achieve better results.
3. Get clear on how much time “healthy” really takes Everyone on planet Earth, has the same number of hours in a day. The busy Mom you know who works, has three kids, runs 3 miles every day, and preps family meals on the weekends while balancing her checking account doesn’t have any more time than you do. But she might have different priorities.
If healthy eating and exercise aren’t high on your priority list, you may be overestimating what it takes to be “healthy.” It’s tough to go from daily fast-food cheeseburgers to eating a vegan-gluten-free-grown-in-your-kitchen-garden-and prepared-by-hand-daily diet over night. In fact, it’s downright impossible. That busy mom probably took baby steps to get there, and so should you.
4. Make small changes to your routine Start by ordering a side salad instead of fries, and opt for water instead of a root beer chaser. Don’t try to force yourself to cook if you hate being in the kitchen, pick up freshly prepared meals from the grocery store or a healthy restaurant instead. And don’t try to run a marathon out of the gate. Ease into fitness with quick workouts (like our Fast Fitness! series) or pick a fun activity that you enjoy doing with others—sign up for a dance class or join a hiking club.
Do what you love, eat foods that fuel your body, make small changes, and before you know you’ll be spending all of your time simply being healthy.