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Saturday, May 17, 2014

5 Strategies to Create More Time in Your Hectic Schedule

Get it organized and you get it done
“You people make it all sound so simple,” my client replied. By “you people,” she meant healthcare professionals, and “it” implied the numerous strategies we routinely tick off to stay lean and healthy.

If you’ve read even a few nutrition or diet books, you know the drill. Eat clean, workout, sleep well, minimize toxic exposure, drink enough water, and de-stress. We can rattle this stuff off in our sleep. Eight hours of high quality, uninterrupted sleep, of course.

My client seemed particularly perturbed about
that last one. “I work two jobs and have a three-year-old,” she snapped. “How am I supposed to get eight hours every night? Not going to happen.”

As I explained how prioritizing duties could uncover what truly matters, I suddenly realized I understood her struggle more than I cared to acknowledge.

My Own Realization
I’ve been a nutrition and fitness expert for decades. I eat and breathe this stuff. Even for me, prioritizing and scheduling can sometimes become overwhelming. I don’t always get eight hours of sleep, and I know how important sleep can be. How can I expect my clients to meet their quotas? It’s not for lack of trying.

You’ve got two options: Scale back or cram more stuff into your schedule. I don’t care how many assistants or money you have: You can’t add hours into your day.

I realized that recently when over a one-month period, I had my assistant schedule the following:

·       Mammogram
·       Teeth cleaning/exam
·       Gynecology check up
·       Skin cancer check
·       Yearly physical
·       Routine blood draws
·       Colonoscopy
·       Chiropractic care to prevent orthopedic issues
·       Eye doctor

Add to that list hair appointments, laser hair removal, a weekly mani/pedi, eyebrow waxing, botox, and facials. “I’m going to need a spa-cation to de-stress from making all these appointments for you,” she half-joked, “and yet that would mean scheduling another appointment.”

Living Healthy is a Full-Time Job

I understood my assistant’s frustration. Juggling healthy-food shopping with gym visits, supplement regimens, sleep quotas, and reading your favorite Facebook fitness and nutrition posts can demand every minute of your day.

How can I expect my client who works two jobs with a child to juggle everything when it’s my full-time job and even I can’t keep up with it? Something’s gotta give.

One recent night driving home, I began thinking about when self-care crosses that line to self-indulgent, self-absorbed, and even narcissistic. You want to live a long, healthy, joyous life. You do that for yourself, but also to help others live their best lives. Glowing health is infectious; your example can transform the lives of your family and friends.

But at a certain point, can that optimal-health pursuit become unhealthy? I’ve read about orthorexia, where people develop food phobias that severely restrict social interactions. I knew a guy who took over 100 supplements and would spend hours every week sorting them. And we all have that friend who prioritizes the gym above her family and friends. At a certain point you just want to say get a freaking life!

Why do we spend so much time, money, and effort on optimal health? We want to look and feel good, of course, but we also want to watch our kids and grandkids grow up. We don’t want to burden loved ones with disease or become confined to hospitals or assisted-living facilities as we age.

I eventually arrived at the epiphany that optimal nutrition and health should be the vehicle, not the destination as they so often are, on that journey.

Prioritize & Minimize
After eight hours’ sleep, you’ve got about 16 hours every day to schedule your life. You get to choose how to fill those 16 hours. I quickly realized overloading them with obligations only created more stress.

Lists have always saved me, and I went home that night and wrote down everything I was trying to pack into my hectic day. I could do nearly everything, but then I would have no free time to wander in the park or browse my favorite bookstore or the many other serendipitous joys that make life so wonderful. And isn’t pleasure a nutrient?

So I got out a red pen (seriously) and started rigorously prioritizing duties. My goal was to create a manageable list of activities that brought me the most joy, meaning, and purpose in life. I found these five strategies helped me streamline those priorities.

1.      Family always comes first. “I wish I’d worked more,” said no one on their deathbed. No one wishes they spent more time at the gym, but I’ve met folks who wanted to more weekends with their kids or family or even best friend. When you prioritize, family time become non-negotiable. I’ve had several friends whose significant other left them because work became a far bigger priority than their relationship. Maybe that’s happened to you. Trust me, you will never, ever go, “I wish I had written that article rather than spend Saturday afternoon with my daughter.”

2.     Streamline. Why do we scrupulously make grocery lists but not life lists? I love these lists because they get you to think and consider your most important life obligations. You quickly become surprised what you deem important (and more important, what’s not important). Here’s how I do it. Make a chart of the four categories I mentioned above – medical, beauty, optimal health, and lifestyle – and choose your top three most important tasks in each area. You’ll probably find you want to jam more than three in each category. That’s where your red pen comes in. Be ruthless. You can’t do everything. If you still have trouble narrowing things down, having a friend do it can become very revealing.

3.     Care for yourself so you can care for others. While you can certainly take it to an extreme, don’t feel guilty for one millisecond about self-care. You might become a diva to your family and friends when you demand the organic greens at their favorite restaurant, swallow a handful of supplements after a meal, or squeeze in the gym before brunch. But without health, you’ve got nothing. You can’t be a good friend or parent or caregiver when you’re tired, out of shape, and otherwise not feeling your best. Remember what they tell you before you fly: Put on your own oxygen mask so that you can assist others.

4.     Designate. You’ve narrowed down obligations and responsibilities that truly feel important to you. The next step is to tweak that list to save you time or money. Can you designate any duties to your assistant or otherwise hire someone to do them? Maybe you’ve got an upcoming presentation yet dread doing the research. Could someone on or even an intern complete those duties? Saving money can also factor in here. Maybe you’ve got a friend who you can barter services with? Pinpoint those areas so you can accomplish your most important priorities within your budget and time frame.

5.     Stop wasting time. This might fall under the duh category, but when you list how you spend your day, you’ll find a lot of wasted time. I realized I spent too much time online shopping and Facebook-post reading in the morning while drinking coffee. I spent too much time with negative people or “friends” who didn’t invest the time I put into them. I’m not implying you’ve got to eliminate every frivolous or superfluous activity. I would never, ever give up Sex and the City reruns or reading tabloids. But rather than passively engaging, making a list allows you to acknowledge you have a choice in how your spend time. If you’d rather spend 3 p.m. reading People Weekly or going to the gym or hanging out with your daughter, those are all your choices.

Have you ever made a list to pinpoint what priorities prove most important in your life? Share what you learned below or on my Facebook fan page.
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Fitness expert and strength coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out now!  Take Jini's "Are you Ready?" Quiz at © 2011 Jinifit, Inc.

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