Life is busy. The kids are even busier. Work life is creeping into home life - and what’s a “vacation”? Weeks fly by and the idea of finding time to workout is smothered by piles of laundry and hours of overtime.
At first, I began writing this to smugly inform you that it’s not that you can't find time to workout - it’s that you don’t prioritise it. My smugness about being such a dedicated athlete soon wore off, however, when I realised that whilst I have an excellent track record for showing up at the gym 5 times a week, there are other areas of my life that are severely lacking.
Finding Time To Workout: List all the things in life that you ‘don’t have time for’:
Here are a few of mine...
- Screen-free family time.
- Making and eating breakfast.
- Sleeping at least 8 hours per night.
- Household finances.
- Phoning my mum.
- Housework. (my husband will notice this is last on my list)
Next: Make a list of the things you definitely - rightly or wrongly - prioritise most weeks:
Take a look at mine...
- Making dinner and eating with the family.
- Coffee with friends.
- Editing and analysing training videos.
- More Instagram.
If someone had asked me my top 3 priorities in life - I probably would have answered family/friends, work and training. Yet looking at the above lists, I’m ashamed to admit that it more accurately looks like my top 3 things that I find time for are working out, TV and Instagram.
So, whilst I’m not about to swap cleaning and jerking for cleaning and dusting, I decided to take some steps towards a more healthy and balanced lifestyle, removing or reducing non-essential tasks from my daily routine. Feel free to use this post as a template to reassign the hours in your own day to create time for the things that matter most to you.
This quote from Julie Foucher changed the way I thought about time management:
When I started applying this to my life, the guilt set in. Telling myself I didn’t have time to call my mum yesterday seems acceptable. Admitting that I didn’t prioritise catching up with her when I definitely caught up with Monday’s Game of Thrones episode puts things into perspective.
Finding Time To Workout: The Time Budget
I decided to create a Time Budget, just as organised people manage their finances. It showed me where I was mis-spending my minutes and where I could better direct them. I used a key to label my daily tasks - red for high priority, orange for essential but adjustable one way or another, and grey for ones that could be reduced dramatically, or go altogether. I created one for a work day, one for a day off, and two new ones for how I’d rather they looked.
Looking at my typical work day laid out like this, I can see that there’s a big chunk of my day I waste watching TV, and then don’t get into bed until after midnight. Three and a half hours per day to be exact, which adds up to just over one full 24 hour day per week! I was shocked to note that I dedicate so much time to something which brings very little value to my life. I decided that if we keep the TV off for just 2 days out of 7, I’ll regain 7 hours of valuable time to spend elsewhere.
I also picked up a tip from Ben Bergeron’s Insta (see... not all social media is a waste of time!) if you’re brave enough to find out how many hours you rack up on your iPhone. Go to Settings, then battery usage, then select the ‘clock’ icon shown below. This will give you a breakdown of each app and how much screen time it has consumed in a 24 hour time period, and is a great way to accurately track and reduce the minutes you devote to social media.
Finding Time: The Vital Few
Greg McKeown, in his book Essentialism - The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, talks about determining the vital few tasks in life from the trivial many. A technique I trialled with a client who wanted more time to train involved a simple grading system. We listed every recurring activity in his life from taking a shower to shopping online and gave each of them two ratings between 0 and 10; the first number rated how enjoyable he found it, and the second how essential he deemed it to be. (0 being boring/non-essential, 10 being awesome fun/vital).
In order to bring more clarity to his decisions, I had one stipulation - no two activities can have the same coordinates. This forced him to be more rigorous in his reflections, and truly prioritise one over another.
I then plotted these ratings on a quadrant graph in order to see at a glance where my client’s priorities lay, and if they matched up with his lifestyle. It also clearly shows where he can make cuts; typically, the activities in the grey box should be the first to go. (Unsurprisingly, he had nothing in the white box. If you find yourself doing things that are neither fun nor important, you shouldn’t be doing them!)
Similarly, if you’re constantly short on time but find your day has been taken up with more activities from the grey box, than those in the green, or even the blue, something is going wrong.
For example, my client placed ‘home gym’ (meaning any kind of exercise undertaken at home) within the green box and ‘watching tv’ within the grey. In the last month he estimated that 29 days out of 31 have involved watching TV. Out of the same 31, he’s spent 0 days working out from home. Gathering this kind of data and looking at it objectively allows us to see what sacrifices we can make in order to create space for the activities which will bring us closer to achieving our wider goals. My client’s goal is to find more time to workout - and here he can clearly see where a trade-off can be made.
Finding Time: The Life Edit
One of my jobs is editing technique videos for our members to refer to on our website, but also to post on Instagram. Sometimes I can begin the edit with 10 minutes of footage. Videos on Instagram can be a maximum of 60 seconds. I could probably quite easily get the video down to 3 minutes being fairly ruthless while including all the information I want to get across. This would still be 2 minutes too long for Instagram, and 2 minutes longer than most people are willing to watch anyway.
To edit it further, I ask myself two questions for each clip or sentence I include; is it adding value to the point I want to make, and would the viewer miss it if it wasn’t there? By adding this criteria to every second of the video, it makes it easier to eliminate unimportant parts. Often I remove a clip and watch it from start to finish to see if it still makes sense without it. This can be replicated in life.
Make a first cut of the obviously unimportant tasks, then try removing some you think you can’t part with, and see if your life still flows without them.
Finding Time to Workout: Make it Happen
So having completed these time budgeting tools, you should have the information you need to list some practical changes to help fulfill your new goals. Your changes should be realistic, but not easy. Getting rid of all TVs in the house might be a little drastic and set you up for failure. Starting off with cutting out one series, or not allowing the TV to go on until you’ve completed higher priorities, could incite long-lasting change that you can gradually expand from.
If you’re in need of some inspiration, here are 4 small changes I decided on, and which have so far made a significant impact on my life;
1. Be in bed by 11pm, and up at 7am, 5 nights out of 7.
2. Choose 2 evenings per week when the TV stays off.
3. Use extra time in the mornings productively (Complete a household chore, read or write. Make breakfast!).
4. Listen to an audiobook or podcast on way to/from work.
The new bedtime routine was the most challenging for me so in order to stick to it I had a friend I’d text every morning at 7am when I was up. She wanted to find more time for yoga in the morning so we kept each other in check for a few weeks until it became habit.
I also used to be a serial snoozer but after taking tips from Ben, I plugged my phone in across the room so that when my alarm when off I had no choice but to get out of bed to turn it off. Pleased to report I haven’t snoozed since!
Previously, mornings in my house would be a half hour of utter chaos, but since the no snooze rule came into play, it’s become a productive and relaxing hour and a half to enjoy with the kids (or own my own if I manage to sneak downstairs without waking them!).
The rules you set for yourself will eventually become routine, but until they do, stick your list of changes on the fridge or office wall to remind you constantly. Ben Bergeron, in his podcast ‘Maximizing Your Minutes’, tells us we should “discipline ourselves until it’s not discipline anymore.”
How to stay on the fitness wagon
- Find an accountability partner. Make sure that they will regularly check-in with you if you don’t keep them updated. It could be as simple as adding a photo or comment to a group chat on a consistent basis.
- Retrain your thoughts. To replace negative thoughts at 7am, I force myself to think of 3 positive outcomes that I’ll receive when I of get out of bed; 1 - I get coffee sooner, 2- increased productivity, and 3- no rushing. When it’s Coffee vs. Snooze… no contest!
- Habit tracker - scroll down to the bottom to download a free habit and time tracker, so that you can colour in your new daily habits as you stick to them.
- If a full wheel of colour isn’t enough of an incentive, try dangling a more exciting carrot. Reward yourself at the end of the week, or the month, for sticking to your plan and finding time to workout.
Budget, Plan, Accomplish
Now you have all the tools. It’s time to get to work. With the suggestions outlined above, you now have the ability to “create time” instead of claiming there just aren’t enough hours in the day. In Essentialism, Greg McKeown reminds us that we can do anything, but not everything. When we fully accept that we can’t possibly do everything, it becomes easier to empty the grey box and live at our highest level of contribution.
Let’s ditch the phrase, ‘I don’t have time’ and start prioritising properly. Are we using our time on things that develop us personally? Are we using time to improve our relationships, work toward our goals, and live a happier life? If your goal is to find time to workout, be honest with your budget, be ruthless with your edit, and be proud of your success.
I’ve created a printable "Habit Tracker Wheel", “Time Budget Tracker” and the “Awesomeness Quadrant Graph” that you can download below. Enjoy!
WHOA – The coordinate chart. Have to try.
Let me know how you get on with it Sunny!
Sho – these trackers are amazing! I love how you simplify time management. Can’t wait to try it.
Let me know how it goes! Hope they help 🙂
The matrix is very interesting, it reminds me the Eisenhower’s matrix to find out what’s important.
Thanks a lot
I checked that matrix out – quite similar! Thanks! Another great tool to start using our time wisely. Sho 🙂
Absolutely love this, Shona. It’s really easy to think “Obviously I prioritize the things I care about!”. However when I actually analyze my daily habits, there are a few things that are out of line. (Like watching more Netflix than reading).
Something I want to start asking myself more: “Will I remember this a couple hours, days, weeks, months, or years from now?”. If the answer doesn’t even pass the “hours” test, then chances are it’s not something worth spending my time on!
Great addition to this post Ben, I will definitely be asking myself that question on a daily, or maybe hourly basis to help reinforce decisions about how I spend my time. Sho 🙂
Brilliant post!! When you have kids getting your partner on board is so important. My husband just does not get CrossFit….but I’ve made him see that it makes me feel happier and healthier in many different ways if I go. So we have a pact – I don’t moan when he has 2 hour runs and he doesn’t moan when he has to fix the kids breakfast because I’m at the gym. I’m still too tired to phone my mum back though 😉
Thanks for the comment Nicola! Love your pact idea, definitely makes a difference to have the support of your family. Sho x PS. Call your mum
Going to be on time is TOUGH! I have to be up at 0545h every day. So hard to actually crawl into bed around 2100-2200h. I rarely feel tired, and always have a few more things I want to do, which are productive. I know how important sleep is to recovery/training so I’m trying my best to be more consistent.
Yeah being disciplined about going to bed is the toughest one, but I think as you say, if you treat it as part of your training and put sleep as high up the list as actually going to the gym then it becomes a little easier to make the right choices. Sho 🙂
Thanks a lot Ben. I usually think I don’t have enough time but your latest entry has make me think about my time, and I’ve been aware about the amount of time I waste
Nice Blog, well worth reading it! 🙂
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