Making time for healthier habits

make-timeSarah’s Rap: This month Melissa and I have shared some posts on establishing healthy habits. We hope you have been following along! If you’re like me, you may have made some well-intentioned lists of habits to start and steps to get started a little at a time. The one thing I have found though, is that it is so easy to get caught up in the daily grind that fitting in these actions on top of all the other things we juggle each day often seems like an insurmountable task. Adding in a workout, for example, on an already packed day can actually make me feel more stressed, rather than less.  Cooking healthy meals rather than eating out takes time too.

Someone told me once that we make time for those things that are important to us. I’ve always thought of that over the years whenever I hear myself say “I don’t have time for X”, and I’d apply it in occasional circumstances to talk myself out of putting something off. But it wasn’t until I consciously started to work on adding more health and wellness activities into my life that I realized I need to take a serious look at my life and start prioritizing.  If you also have the same problem of not making time for the new healthy habits you want to cultivate, read on!

Sadly, I do not have one of those time turners that Hermione used in “Harry Potter: Prisoner of Azkaban” to get more stuff done in a day (I wish!). So I need to figure out how to make time for new activities without adding additional stress to my days. When I step back and analyze where I’m spending my time, I realize that there are some time wasters that I can eliminate or cut back on. I mean, do I really need to spend so much time reading romance novels with gushy happy-endings? I’m tempted to answer YES because they do make me happy, but maybe some of the time I can switch to the audio version and listen while I take a walk.

Before I can determine what activities should stay and what can go, I need to figure out a few things first. It is very important that I think outside the box when answering these, so as not to impose any constraints on my answers. I don’t want to limit myself prematurely. Big changes might be required, but with enough motivation and commitment I believe we can make anything happen!

Current situation:

  • What activities and habits do I currently do? For each determine the following:
    • Time spent per day / week?
    • Is the activity required? By whom?
    • Do I enjoy the activity?
    • Does the activity cause me stress or have a negative impact on my health?

Future outlook:

  • What habits would I like to cultivate this year? What new activities would I like to add? (This post by Melissa might help you narrow down the list if you don’t have a list yet)
  • For each new habit determine:
    • Time needed each day / week
    • HAPPINESS RANK: Rank them, with those that will bring most happiness and/or wellness first  (with 1 being the one to bring most happiness / wellness)
    • Read another of Melissa’s post to help me plan what steps are required to make them happen
    • LEVEL OF EFFORT RANK: Now rank them by level of effort, investment and/or number of changes required to get started (lowest numbers are “low-hanging fruit” and easiest to get started)
    • Add the HAPPINESS rank to the LEVEL OF EFFORT rank to get a FINAL rank
    • Who can support me in forming this habit?
  • Are there any activities I am currently doing that I can stop? If so, what is required for me to stop it?
  • Are there any “required” activities that cause me stress or make me unhealthy? How can I replace these with healthier habits? Can I delegate it or pay someone? Can I think of a better way?
  • Can I reduce the time spent on any current activities? If so, what is required for me to do so?
  • Can I combine any current activities with each other or with a new one (i.e. my example of listening to audio books while I exercise)
  • If I had an ideal day, what would it look like?

These are not easy questions to answer. Once I work through these, I am going to start replacing non-required and/or stressful activities with the new activities having the lowest FINAL ranks. Once I’ve conquered those, I’ll move on down the list.

I’ve already started to make some changes to make time for healthier activities and to reduce stress in my life. I need to get to a healthier me, for my sake as well as my family’s so I have requested a reduction in hours at work. This is not often done in IT, but I work for a large, flexible company so I thought it might be possible. It never hurts to ask, is my motto! With little effort, I found a manager willing to support a 30-hour work week. This requires me to switch teams and yes, take a 25% pay cut, but if it helps me to regain my health and happiness the upheaval will be worthwhile. I am eagerly awaiting this transition! I plan to use the extra time to do yoga, take care of my doctor’s appointments, get stuff done at home that I now have to do at night, and getting out in nature.

Not everyone can reduce their hours at work, I know, but there are other things you can do to make time for healthier habits such as exercise,  meditation, fun, healthy eating. For example, do you cook every night? Can a spouse or teenager take over some cooking or cleaning duties? Can you cook in bulk? Can you afford a house cleaner, even once a month? Can you take the stairs at work instead of the elevator to get in more exercise? Do you have a time-suck activity that you are doing which can be cut back on so that you can get a full-night’s sleep. If you have a stressful job or work a lot of overtime, can you find a job that is better for you and your health? Do you go out drinking multiple times during the week? I know this is fun, but can have an impact on your health. Can you reduce the nights you do and instead take a fun exercise class, volunteer, feed your artistic side with a creative activity or even have a cooking-party where you and your friends cook healthy meals for the week and share? You can even indulge in some wine while you do the latter!

I hope this helps some of you to think of ways to make more time for activities that count. Remember, we CAN make time for the things in life that matter. Let’s stop using the words “I don’t have time for that” or “I can’t”. We CAN do amazing things when we put our mind to it. It’s not always easy, but if we visualize the end result it can help. If we work on it together and support each other, it will be even easier!

In closing, I wanted to share the healthy habits that I am working to incorporate into my life. I will let you know how this goes and what other changes I’ve make to get there!

Every day:

Walk 30-60 mins

Take a picture of something I appreciate

When I am stressed, visualize something happy

Make lunchboxes right after dinner then stay out of kitchen

Workout, yoga, massage, sauna and/or progressive relaxation

Have only one snack – between lunch and dinner

Every Sunday:

This is my day to do things I love: blogging, writing, walking, getting outside, relaxing, playing with the kiddos. Protect this day on the calendar at all costs!

Habits to stop:

Eating while at computer (chew gum, drink tea, listen to music instead)

Snacking after dinner

I hope you have enjoyed our habit posts this month!




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