Do you know of Tim Ferriss, author of “The 4-Hour Workweek”? We wish we could be like him, but most of us are probably not ready. Still, there are many ways to save time so that we can add regular workout time into our lives. Time management is a very important part of a fitness program, since the main excuse of the majority of people who don’t work out is “no time.”
It sounds like a good excuse: you work 50 hours a week, take care of your family, need to think about finances, and do community work, too. It is really hard to find time for any more activities like going to a gym. But don’t you know some coworker with the same responsibilities, very fit, taking dance classes, and learning a foreign language at the local adult education center. How does she manage that? Read on!
First of all, you really need to decide what is most important in your life. If you have not yet done so, carefully read the “motivation” section of Beginner’s Fitness Programs. You really need to know who you are and what you want in your life. Obviously, your health should be the most important thing. If you are not healthy, not only can you not do what you want, but you also may be a burden for others— family, friends, and co-workers.
Second, know what you are doing during the day. For this, read the “time management” section of this site.
Third, learn to trust others and accept their offers to help you. This is closest to Ferriss’ “out-sourcing.” You don’t need to do everything. Often you do, since you believe that you are the only person who can handle it all. Trust others and delegate the work. It may take more time initially, but in the long run you will save time. For example, give a couple of household chores to your kids. Of course you need to pay them, or give some type of privilege in return, if they accomplish the tasks. (This is out-sourcing.) You may need to spend some time teaching them how to do it “right”, but eventually you can trust them. One caution – NEVER criticize them if they fail, especially at the beginning. You must take responsibility for the “failure” so that they can do things without fear of failure. If you do that, they will do more and more things for you.
Fourth, learn how to say “NO”. This is a very important skill you need to develop. Don’t accept obligations you don’t want, or more than you can handle. This can be easy, if you know exactly what you want in your life. For example, if you know you must go to the gym to work out, you can say “no” to your co-workers’ invitation to go out for a drink. If you don’t know exactly what you want, you may choose to go with your co-workers, since you worry about being isolated at work, but if you explain what you need and why, they will respect you. Yes, it can be a difficult skill to learn, but you need it.
Fifth, know what you are going to do ahead of time. If you don’t know what you need to do, you won’t do it. Make a plan so that you know exactly what you need to do when the time comes. Of course the schedule must be flexible since life is not always predictable. That is why we use a block-scheduling system. (See the “time management” section.)
Sixth, make a plan for 15 – 30 minute blocks. It is well known that most of us cannot concentrate more than 30 minutes on the same task. If you try to do more than that, you lose concentration and efficiency. You can either change tasks every 30 minutes, or take a short break (say 5 minutes) and go back to the same task. It is also important to force yourself to continue and concentrate on the same task for a predetermined length of time. Don’t check emails, phone messages, or go to the coffee machine!
Seventh, develop a habit. Certain things can be fixed at certain time slots and/or locations. A habit is great since it makes things more automated and therefore more efficient. For example, make a habit of going to the gym. Even you are very tired and can stay only 20 minutes because you worked late, you should still go to the gym. Change clothes, go to the floor, do a couple of workouts or step on a cardio machine for those 20 minutes. Eventually it will be a habit, and you feel funny if you don’t go to the gym. Once you are on the floor, you just work out without much thought.
Eighth, don’t aim for perfect, but measure twice! Many people procrastinate since it is not the best time to do something or the environment is not right. Ninety percent of the things we need to do can be done regardless of these concerns. Just do what you need to do. At the same time, however, you need to “measure twice,” before beginning it. If you make a mistake, it takes more than twice the time (you need to undo the task, and then redo it). First, you need to plan the task. Then rethink the process one more time before beginning. If something appears to not be right, you can change it there. For example, you are planning to go food shopping. However, it is one hour later than originally planned, running into heavy-traffic time and it has started snowing. If you now drive to the super market, you may be stuck in traffic for an extra hour. So change the plan, do other chores at home, and go shopping later.
Ninth, multi-task, but carefully choose what you do together. Most of us are already doing some kind of multi-tasking. We talk on the phone while walking or listen to music while reading a book. It is well-known that we cannot concentrate on more than a few things at the same time, and even if you are doing two things, if they are not combined appropriately, efficiency will suffer. Here is one way to save time at the gym without losing too much efficiency: Select two different muscle groups, and work them alternatively without taking breaks in between. For example, do a bicep workout first, then without taking a break, do a tricep workout, and back to a bicep workout. Doing this can cut your workout time in half, and you actually get more of a workout without taking a break between each set.
Tenth, rest. If you are not well-rested, efficiency will go down. A good night’s sleep is important, but it is also very important to take short breaks throughout the day, and take off a week or more from your work once in a while. Recharge yourself and enjoy life. It will energize you and your efficiency will go up!
The 4-Hour Workweek, Expanded and Updated: Expanded and Updated, With Over 100 New Pages of Cutting-Edge Content. Timothy Ferriss (Crown Archetype, 2009)
First Things First Stephen R. Covery et al (Free Press, 1996)
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen R. Covery et al (Free Press, 2004)