Look around. The busy and stressed outnumber the productive and relaxed. I’d say a good 8 out of 10 of my friends are stressed out about work, relationships, family, and school.
I see it playing a huge part in their mood, fitness, and general quality of life.
One of the biggest obstacles I hear for improving health is TIME.
It feels like time is our biggest nemesis. We don’t have enough time to workout, enough time to prepare meals, enough time to take on a new activity or challenge.
Not enough time to live our best life and we are constantly blaming time. Using it in two ways that are very different from one another.
The Scapegoat: Poor guy takes the heat and all the blame about why we are not getting shit done.
The Ego Boost: We admire the art of being busy. If you’re too busy to have fun, play, workout, eat right, or RELAX, you must be doing more important things and working hard, right? Thus, the lack of time equals that we are super-duper important.
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WHY ARE WE SO BUSY?
Being busy is easier than being productive. Being busy looks like getting shit done. Productive IS actually getting shit done.
Take on as much as possible, try to be everywhere for everyone, and every time you get one thing done, you add two more. This leads to abandoned projects, giving up on goals, and sacrificing your health and well-being for the sake of appearing more important than you are.
Having free time to play, enjoy life, and pursue personal goals has somehow become viewed as being lazy. I used to be that guy running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Trying to take on any little meaningless task I could to appear busy. I fell into that trap of validation.
Being busy involves little-to-no structure. There are no clear goals, actions being taken, or virtues being met.
But let’s not kid ourselves. Most of us actually do have responsibilities like work, family, and significant others. So how can we juggle all of this, and still find time to work out, eat right, and pursue our personal interests?
CHALLENGE #1: DO ONE THING FOR YOURSELF THIS WEEKEND
Turn your phone, the computer, and the TV off for an entire weekend. Run no errands and do no household chores. Wake up and do one thing for yourself that you’ve put off.
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CONDITIONED TO BE BUSY BEE’S
The good news is that it’s not all our fault we have shitty time management skills. Or associate being busy with being important. Dyana Valentine put it best in a recent interview with Unmistakable Creative.
… We have all these responsibilities, and we’re supposed to want these responsibilities, we have a script we expected to follow. Working through our lives to check of these boxes…
We’ve been conditioned at a young age to play by a certain set of rules. There is a certain path expected for all of us to take. Certain responsibilities we all must have (sometimes by a certain age).It’s a cookie-cutter mold for all of us to fit into.
We try to do everything ourselves, take on as many projects and tasks as possible and fit nicely into that mold so that we sound more important than we actually are.
Our priorities are all jacked up.
Repetitive tasks and errands also take on the role of monster time consumers and ego boosts. We’ll give priority to doing laundry, washing the dishes, making our beds, or other routine activities over our health. Instead of getting in a 20-minute bodyweight workout, we somehow decided that the laundry has to be done this instant and can not wait.
Preparing our meals for the next day is less valuable then sweeping the kitchen floor and dusting the lampshades. Going wine tasting over the weekend is not as important as working on the garage, answering emails, or playing phone tag.
CHALLENGE #2: DO, DELEGATE, DISMISS
One day this week take a good look at some of the responsibilities in your life and assess what you can:
- Do: Complete a task, job, workout, anything that you’ve put off
- Delegate: What is one thing you can ask someone else to do? Even if it’s just a small task once.
- Dismiss: What is one thing you can completely stop doing?
WEIGH YOUR TIME ASSETS AND TIME DEBTS
We all have the same 168 hours a week to work with. Some are just better at managing priorities than others. If you’re a time management ninja and have your priorities straight then good for you.
If not, keep reading.
Identify time assets and time debts
Essentially, time assets are actions or choices you can make today that will save you time in the future. Time debts are actions or choices you can make today that will cost you time in the future.
One time asset I created is using Farm Fresh To You because I wanted to spend less time grocery shopping. I was heading to the grocery store 3 to 4 days per week to pick up veggies, proteins, and other items. The time to get there, plus my time lolly-gagging around was adding up. Now I’m at the grocery store once per week for an hour.
A time debt that I need to improve on is my email habits. I spend a lot of my day in my inbox answering questions from blog readers and clients. This can easily take up hours of my day.
If you’re not sure what some of your time assets and debts are you can create a time journal to help you figure it out.
CHALLENGE #3: CREATE A TIME JOURNAL
Track what you do every hour of the day for a few days. Write down exactly what you’re doing hour-by-hour. You’ll probably find that you spend more time then you think checking Facebook, email, watching TV, and doing non-essential tasks.
An example day:
- 6:30 Wake up
- 6:45 Shower, get dressed
- 7:00 Breakfast
- 7:30 Leave for work
- 7:30 – 8:45 Commuting
- 9:00 At work
- 9:00 – 10:15 Working
- 10:15 Coffee break
- 10:15-11:30 Some work mixed with some social media too
- 11:30-11:45 Walking around aimlessly
- Repeat this process right up until you go to bed
Note: Here’s an app that can help you with this.
What do you notice? Are some serious social media going on? A lot of email checking? Is your Netflix game too strong? Are you making tiny household chores more important than your health?
- Can you do fewer things?
- Are you capable of delegating tasks or cutting them completely
- Can you let go of some of your responsibilities
What are some things you can do today to create more time assets as opposed to time debts?
- Delete some apps off of your phone
- Use a website blocking program to keep you from distracting sites and your email
- Use CSA services like Farm Fresh to You or Thrive Market to help eliminate some grocery shopping time
- Hire a cleaning service, virtual assistant, or use task rabbit to help you with time-consuming tasks
- Hire a guy named Sully to punch you in the gut when you start wasting time
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DO A LITTLE BIT LESS
In his book The Power of Less, Leo Babauta says that you are up to 80% more likely to be able to change a habit if you focus on one thing at a time versus trying to change multiple things at once. I trust Leo. Take a look at some of the things he’s been able to accomplish with this method.
Similarly, in his book The 4-Hour Body, Tim Ferriss talks about discovering your minimum effective dose (MED).
The minimum effective dose (MED) is the smallest dose that will produce the desired outcome and anything beyond that is a waste of time and energy. For instance, water boils at 100 degrees celsius at standard air pressure. Water does not become and “more boiled” if you add more heat. The only thing you’re doing by adding more is increasing your gas or electric bill.
CHALLENGE #4: DO LESS FITNESS
What’s 1 small fitness and nutrition habit you can practice consistently for the next 30 days? Need some ideas? Check these out.
YOU CAN NOT HAVE IT ALL
Most people like the idea of six-pack abs, 8% body fat, or an ass you can crack walnuts on. However, most people don’t like the tradeoffs that it takes to achieve those things.
But the good news is most people don’t actually want them (not really anyhow). They just want a body that they’re proud of.
Identify what a body you’re proud of looks like, feels like, and what are some things you can do with it. Now identify some of the tradeoffs you MAY have to make to achieve it?
- Passing one some happy hours with your boys
- Getting to sleep a little earlier or waking up earlier
- Saying no to a new project or another responsibility
- Being “that guy” or “that girl” that orders a lean steak and veggies at dinner when everyone else is getting pizza.
Maybe your highest priority right now is getting in the best shape of your life. Ok, so do it and when you get there to revisit those priorities and see if you’d like to shuffle them around a bit. Hugh Jackman is a great example of this. The dude stays in pretty good shape year-round but when it’s time to play Wolverine his training becomes a top priority.
CHALLENGE #5: IDENTIFY AND ACCEPT SOME TRADEOFFS
Instead of asking yourself what you want a better question might be what are you willing to give up to get it?
GET SHIT DONE
David Allen has a famous book written all about the art of getting things done. He also has a cool site dedicated to the practice as well. Although I’m not David Allen, I think I have some pretty cool insight into spending our time being more productive so we can pursue more of what we love and less of what we don’t
Productivity is a matter of engagement. If you enjoy what you are doing you’ll be more productive.
Pretty sure I just heard some of you gasp. Yeah, I’m serious. Do absolutely nothing. If you need help doing nothing, visit this site and check back with me. Doing nothing takes practice. Like I said earlier, we have been conditioned to be busy, and to equate being busy with something that is good and important.
Start small. 1-2 hours a week.
Take an hour one day a week to sit and breath. Turn off the phone and any other distraction, don’t even talk. Just sit still and relax. Go outside and take in the sun while you’re at it.
Plan every day.
I’m all for spontaneity, but when it comes to GSD most of us need to plan out our day. The easiest way to do that is to take time out before your day is over and schedule tomorrow for yourself. Make appointments, not only with others but yourself. Take out a pen and paper, or use a cool app like re.Minder, remember the milk, or toodledo.
The key is to not overwhelm yourself with writing down every little thing. Writing down “do the laundry” is not necessary. Pick three things that need to get done the next day. These are the three things, that if you do not get done would make the day feel like a waste.
It’s also an excellent idea to estimate how long it is going to take you to complete the task. If getting in a workout is on your list, try to factor in the time you will need to complete it. Do you need to drive to the gym and shower after?
Tough things first.
Piggy-backing off number two here, the first item on that to-do list for the day should be the toughest task or the one that you struggle with most. If you’re always skipping a workout later in the day, this is a great time to create an appointment with yourself and get it done. When I was trying to read 52 book s in 52 weeks, I made sure I set aside at least 30 minutes every morning to read.
This will also build momentum for the rest of the day. If you can knock that toughest thing out first, I guarantee it will be a weight off your shoulders.
Honor thy appointments.
If you make an appointment with yourself, or with anyone else for that matter, DON’T cancel it. Especially with yourself. As humans, we have this weird quality where we strive to not let anyone else down. But somehow it’s ok to let ourselves down. If you scheduled an appointment with yourself to workout, keep it.
Limit commitments as much as possible.
If you don’t want to do something say NO. Take on commitments that play to your strengths and values. If someone asks you to help out with a garden and you have no clue what you are doing. Pass on that commitment.
Batch the mundane.
All those small little tasks that we make important, batch. I like to dedicate a couple of hours one day a week to taking care of those little tasks like household chores and errands.
Laundry, yard work, grocery shopping, and the like, are all done here. It usually takes a couple of hours, but when it’s all said and done, I know I have the rest of the week to concentrate on dominating.
Respect the law of diminishing returns.
The idea is that the continued application or repetition of a skill, task, or project is subject to a decline in effectiveness after a certain level of achievement has been reached. Long story short, know yourself and how you operate.
If you start to feel a decline in productivity, try working 5-10 more minutes past that point to build-up resistance. Allow yourself to get to the point where you feel a little anxiety and frustration being at it so long. Then take a break. If you’re at work and you get to that point try stepping outside, get some sunlight and knock out a few push-ups, lunges, or jumping jacks.
Review the day.
Take time at the end of your day to review what you completed. Was your most important task completed? If not, where did things go wrong and what can you do to fix it tomorrow?
CHALLENGE #6: PRACTICE SAYING NO
For 1 to 2 days anytime someone asks you to do something, just say no. No explanations, just say no. You can add “I have an appointment with myself” if you’d like. It’s not being rude, it’s just showing yourself that it’s OK to say no sometimes.
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STOP DEBATING MINUTIAE AND FOCUS ON THE FUNDAMENTALS
As a society, we love to debate minutia especially when it comes to our health.
- If I eat a grapefruit every morning I heard it will help me lose fat
- I read that if I stop eating carbs after 6 pm and only eat protein I will be able to add lean muscle and lose fat
- I heard that if I run on a treadmill for 7 minutes while rubbing my belly and head at the same time….
Following a weird diet for the next 3 months may help you get in better shape but the odds are you’re going to hate every minute of it, gain all of your weight back after the 3 months, and repeat the process all over again. Instead, protein, veggies, and healthy fat in the right amounts is your best bet.
Everybody has the same basic body and needs, and we have to have the courage to train the fundamentals, the basics, at least 80% of the time. Sure, add some spice in there now and again, but focus on the basics. — Dan John, Strength Coach
- Move your body in meaningful ways every day. Walk, yoga, box, hike, dance. However, you like to move your body. Do more of that. It doesn’t take motivation because you already enjoy it.
- When you do workout focus on basic movement patterns regardless of whether you lift weights or not. Squat, lunge, deadlift, press, and pull
- Use progressive overload: Add a little more weight to your lifts/ Slow down the tempo at which you move your weight or body (try taking 5 seconds to lower your chest to the ground when you do a push-up). Shorten your rest in-between exercises
- Eat slowly and until 80% full
- Include a serving of protein and veggies with the majority of your meals
- Cook meals at home as often as you can
- Use your favorite method to measure serving sizes (track calories, weight and measure, hand servings sizes)
- Adjust meals based on the feedback you get (weight, girth measurements, body fat). If you’re not losing, you’re most likely eating too much. Even if you think you’re not.
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STILL NO TIME? TEMPTATION BUNDLE
Hey Justin, all of this is great but I still don’t have any time brother. What the heck can I do?
A nod, wink, and fist bump to Steve for introducing me to the idea of temptation bundling. Wharton professor Katy Milkman defines this as combining something that needs to be done with something you want to do.
When you bundle health and fitness it becomes an amazing time saver.
For example, my buddy Jonathan Mead as a squat challenge. I like to do this when I’m writing articles for the blog. Instead of sitting on my bum. I’ll get down into the squat position and type away.
If you’re a bookworm like me, grab a good book and walk on the treadmill. Books aren’t really your thing? No worries, watch an episode of Dancing With The Stars or American Ninja Warrior while on a stationary bike.
Hate cooking but love binge-watching Mind Hunter? Throw that shit on and get to cooking.
What are some things you can bundle to create more fitness in your life?
- What about putting the babies in a stroller, heading out for a walk, and doing some squats or burps every 10 minutes?
- Are you capable of getting up from your desk at work every 25 minutes and knocking out a few push-ups and walking the stairs for 5 minutes?
The idea is to take things you already do and enjoy. Then add a fitness and nutrition component to it.
YOU CAN’T DO WHAT YOU USED TO DO
Growing up, I worked out six days a week for about an hour and a half to two hours each day. That was, of course, before I had any real-world responsibilities.
I’m sure you’re also trying to juggle work, family life, hobbies, leisure, and other responsibilities. There is no way in hell you can work out six days a week for 90 to 120 minutes a pop. That’s why the 20 minute workouts featured in this program are quick and to the point.
However, I know that for some of you, even those workouts might take up too much of your time.
Before we jump into how to simplify your workouts and nutrition plan, I’d like you to do these things for me to promote a healthier lifestyle.
Set up your day so that it includes more movement:
Park further away from work so you have to walk, take the stairs whenever possible, jog to the restaurant you’re having lunch. Redefine fitness for yourself.
Use the 90/10 rule:
Research from Peretz Lavie on “ultradian rhythms” suggests that longer productive sessions (of 90 minutes) followed by short breaks (of no more than 15-20 minutes) sync more closely with our natural energy cycles. This will allow you to maintain a better focus and higher energy level throughout the day.
Use that 20 minutes to get outside for a walk, perform one of these 10-minute workouts, or prepare a healthy meal.
Look at how you’re spending your free time:
If you didn’t participate in the time logging exercise, take a look at what you did today. How many times did you check Facebook, email, chit chat for no particular reason or watch TV? All of these are time consumers that could be eliminated in order to make time for your health.
I don’t have time really means that it’s not a priority:
A recent Wall Street Journal article discussed how simply changing your language may just be the key you need to find “the time.”
Instead of saying, “I don’t have time,” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels. Often, that’s a perfectly adequate explanation. I have time to iron my sheets, I just don’t want to. But other things are harder.
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THE BUSY (WO)MAN’S GUIDE TO EXERCISE
Here is a plan you can follow to help you lose body fat, build lean muscle, and create healthy habits.
The workouts here require no equipment. They are designed this way so that you can perform them anywhere. If you do have time to add some weights or get to the gym, then do so.
- (2) Full-body workouts per week (20-30 minutes)
- (2) Sprint workouts per week (10-15 minutes)
- (1) Long cardiovascular workout or fun/play (45-90 minutes)
Your main focus for these workouts is on progression, intensity, and consistency. That little formula right there will get you results, remember it always.
What this means is you will constantly be trying to go a little faster, do one more rep, increase the weight, or difficulty; to always work at a high level and push yourself beyond your limits; to be committed and consistent in your exercise and nutrition habits.
Remember to take a look at your schedule and see when you can commit to these workouts. Try and keep the full-body workouts separated by two days if possible.
QUICK WORKOUT EXAMPLES
Full body workout #1 (Monday): Perform all exercises in a circuit. Rest one minute after all exercises are complete and repeat five times.
- (20/10 per leg) Walking lunges
- (10) Inverted rows ( or door pull-ups)
- (10) Push-ups
- (50) Jumping jacks
- (10) Burpees
Full body workout #2 (Friday): Perform as many reps as possible of each exercise in 30 seconds. Rest 10 seconds, and then move on to the next exercise. Repeat five times.
Now, rest for 60 seconds after completing the broad jumps and repeat the circuit.
Sprint workout #1 (Tuesday)
- 3-minute warm-up (light jog, etc..)
- Sprint all-out for 30 seconds
- Rest/walk, 30 seconds
Repeat eight times then follow with a three-minute cool-down (light jog or stretch).
Sprint workout #2 (Thursday)
- 3-minute warm-up
- Sprint all-out for 20 seconds
- Rest/walk 10 seconds
Repeat ten times with a three-minute cool-down (light jog or stretch).
Long cardiovascular day/Fun/Play (Saturday):
On this day I just want you to be active. Go hiking for an hour, a walk, a light jog, play basketball, try a dance class, boxing, or participate in some other active hobby that you enjoy or have been looking to try.
This is a great opportunity to make this social and invite friends, spend time with the wife and kids, or go the solo route and de-stress.
WHAT WILL YOU DO
Being busy usually equals being overwhelmed and what happens when we get overwhelmed? We fall back into old habits because they’re easy.
Stopping at the fast-food joint for dinner is much easier to do after a long stressful day at work than trying to figure out what to prepare for dinner. Skipping your workout and watching your favorite show is much easier after a long day of studying for school.
Instead of trying to overhaul your life and change everything at once what about just picking 1 exercise and 1 nutrition habit to practice for the next 30 days, measure your progress, and make adjustments when the 30 days is up.
Consistency over intensity will win out most of the time. Do what you can with what you’ve got. A 10 minute workout is going to be better than nothing and if 10 minutes seems like too much time – how about 5?
Don’t have time to cook? Ok, cool then pick up your meal from a window but how about trying to do a little better than you normally would. Turn that burger and bun into a burger with a lettuce wrap or even better – a salad loaded with one of your favorite protein sources.
No one is going to give you extra time, you can never regain it, and you won’t be able to accrue more of it. But you can decide how you spend it.
How will you be spending your time?
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
All of us have the same 24 hours in a day. If you have to get up 30 minutes earlier to sneak in a quick workout, then do it. If you have to eat at your desk and use lunch breaks for exercise then do that too.
It’s time to get real with yourself. Is this a priority or not for you? If it is, you will take the time necessary.
Purchasing a kettlebell, adjustable dumbbells, or some Iron Woody bands would be a wonderful investment and are a great way to add some variety to your minimalist workouts.
Best of luck to you and continued success on your journey.
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