In the past couple years since I wrote 50 Athletes Over 50, I have talked to a lot of people about the challenges they have in getting the health, body, fitness, and energy they want. I have to say, that the most frequent challenge I hear about is lack of time.
We live in a demanding world. I’m not sure that it is inherently more demanding than the world our parents lived in, but it sure feels that way to most people. The one factor that I think has contributed to our busyness that was not present when our parents were our age, is the wealth of entertainment options and the ease of access to them. Social media, and the internet in general, have made many modes of entertainment available to us. It is hard to not partake when we can.
The purpose of this blog is not to discuss the reasons we are busy, but to give some practical tips to help make time less of a challenge. You might be saying, “Don, what do you know about managing time?” I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I have to say that time is something I understand and manage pretty well. In fact, people often ask me how I managed to get my Ph.D. while working full time, or how I wrote a book, given my demanding job. They sometimes ask how I manage to stay in the kind of shape I am in given all the other stuff that I do. I think that fundamentally, it is how I handle my time.
So, without further procrastination (get to it), here are my top four tips for making time for exercise, eating better, and taking care of yourself.
1.) THINK about TIME
One of the first things I ask someone who tells me they don’t have time to do something is, “how long will it take you?” About half the time I get the response that they don’t know. They had not really thought about how long it would take, yet they decided they don’t have the time to do it. Hmmm.
I’m not sure why this is, but there are quite a few people who really don’t think of time in a quantitative way. When thinking about doing something, they don’t automatically think about how long it will take. I’m not saying this is bad or wrong. It is just something I’ve noticed about people.
If this sounds like you, and you want to manage your time better, you need to begin thinking of time quantitatively. So, what does that mean? It means that when you have a list of stuff to do, you need to think about and write down how long you think it will take to accomplish each of your tasks. It is good to do this first thing in the morning and map out when during the day you will have blocks of time to do the things you need to do.
Doing this will train your mind to become more aware of time, and over time you will get better at estimating how long things will take. This will enable you to plan your days better.
2.) PROTECT your time
What would you do if someone walked up to you and asked you to give them $50? My guess is that you would not just hand them $50. Am I right?
Now think about someone walking up to you, getting your attention, and telling you about how they had to replace their refrigerator last weekend and how it cost them a ton of money. Or, think about someone who calls you and asks if you can pick their sister up from the airport later that day.
How would you react to these? Most of us would endure the story for 10-15 minutes before prying ourselves away. Many of us would also start thinking about how we could rearrange our day, so that we could drive to the airport. For a close friend or family member, that may be the right call, but all too often we let others steal our time without much of a fight.
If this sounds like you, I suggest that you think about the following:
– do you have something more important to do than listen to the person’s story?
– do you have something more important to do than drive to the airport?
– do you have something more important to do than whatever it is someone is springing on you?
If the answer is yes, then politely explain to that you really need to attend to whatever it is you have to do, and that you would love to talk or help some other time. Most of the time, people will understand. They live in the same world you do.
3.) Plan WEEKLY, then Daily
Most of us have a daily To Do list, and we plan our days to try and accomplish the items on the list. Many people I have spoken to tell me that certain areas of their life get left behind, and often it is their well being.
If this is the case, what I recommend is planning weekly as well as daily. Furthermore, I suggest while planning weekly that you list each role you have in your life, such as parent, employee, spouse, daughter, etc.(one of the roles must be SELF!). Then write down what you want to accomplish during the week in each one of your roles. Once that is done, you can decide which day you will work on each item, thereby having a plan to be in balance with all you would like to accomplish.
4.) Only have things you can DO on your TO DO list
Do you find that some items on your to do list never get done? They just slip from day to day. One common reason for this is that many times, stuff on our to do list is not really doable. Here is an example:
To Do Item – Paint the bathroom
This item is very likely to not get done. Why? Because it is not something you can do at one sitting or in one swoop. It is a PROJECT and not a TASK. Everthing on your to do list should be a task. A more appropriate items for the to do list might be:
Measure the square footage of the room
Pick out a color
If you have projects on your to do list, replace them by the first task that needs to be done. You will be much more likely to get that bathroom painted this month.