Do you want to exercise more and eat healthier, but feel like you just don’t have the time to fit wellness habits into your day?
For those of us that work full-time jobs, especially in a corporate setting, it may seem like there are never enough hours in the day. When you’re feeling crunched for time to simply get your work done how can you possibly find time to cook healthy meals or exercise for an hour?
The great news is, you don’t have to clear your schedule or overturn your work-life in order to build some healthy habits. I know how hard it feels to find a free hour in the day, and that’s why I help my clients build healthy habits that fit into their existing schedules.
You don’t need hours of free time to be healthier. Here are 6 strategies I have used to improve my health and the health of my clients that don’t take a lot of time to implement!
1. Move for 10 Minutes (or 5!)
Who says you need to have a full hour available to get some cardio in? Doing any physical movement is great for your body, and you don’t have to do all of your movement in the same time block. If you have 10 minutes free in between meetings, you can move for 10 minutes.
The next time you find yourself with some “in between” time — the 6 minutes between finishing a report and starting your next meeting, the 15 minutes spent waiting for your child’s school bus to arrive, or the 10 minutes between hanging up the phone and opening your email — move your body!
Moving can mean going for a walk around the block (or just the perimeter of your backyard), stretching at your desk, or even jogging lightly in place.
Moving your body in a healthy way for even one minute is better than moving for zero minutes. So, when you’re waiting for the next scheduled event or transitioning between tasks, ask yourself: is this a minute where I could be moving?
Try to up your movement just a little bit, and over time, your body will get the benefits of more consistent activity: you’ll start to feel more energetic and less tense. The best part? This strategy fits into any schedule, and you don’t need to clear a spot on your calendar.
2. Meal Prep or Batch Cook Ahead of Time
When you work a full-time job, it’s difficult to find the time to cook a meal every night of the week. For many of us, this makes it tempting to turn to takeout options, fast food, and other ‘quick’ meals that may be less healthy for our bodies.
If you don’t have time to cook during the week, can you instead fit it in as a weekend activity? Batch-cooking, or meal prepping, is the strategy of spending a couple of hours preparing multiple meals ahead of time.
Clear a block of time on Saturday or Sunday (or whatever day works best for your schedule), and cook all of the protein and veggies you’ll need for the week ahead. Then refrigerate or freeze your food as appropriate. Cooking enough for a few meals at once is more efficient — since you can use (and clean) your pots, pans, and cooking utensils all at one time.
Each weeknight after work, all you’ll need to do is heat up the meal you already prepared. (Even better, this saves you from having to decide what to eat each evening!)
3. Buy a Pre-Cooked Rotisserie Chicken
Eating healthy does not require you to cook all of your food from scratch. A lot of people mistake “healthy” to mean “home cooked” — while it’s great if you have the time and enjoy cooking homemade meals, you can easily eat healthy meals made with store bought (and store-cooked) food!
One of my go-to strategies to make meal prep easier is to buy a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken at the grocery store. (Tip: Whole Foods usually offers both organic and conventional options.)
Spend just 10-15 minutes breaking down the chicken, and you will have a healthy and delicious protein ready for the next several meals! Chicken is a versatile meat that you can use as a main dish or incorporated into salads, soups, bowls, sandwiches, and more.
Check your local grocery stores for other healthy, pre-prepared foods that you can easily use to create your meals. Some of my favorites include grains (Seeds of Change has great options that can be ready in 90 seconds), and steamable veggies (organic frozen Cascadian Farms and Greenwise can be thrown in the microwave on a busy weeknight for a healthy and delicious side).
Pro-tip: Add your favorite seasoning to your veggies after they come out of the microwave for some extra flare and personality!
4. Get the Right Tools
When it comes to saving time, having the right tools can make all the difference. If you work full-time, you know that having the right tools — from the software you use to the laptop you’re working on — can make the difference between getting a task done in a few minutes or a few hours.
Similarly, in the world of nutrition, there are a lot of helpful tools available for making healthy eating easier (and quicker) to accomplish.
If you find that one of your barriers to eating healthy foods is the time it takes to prepare them, is there a tool out there that can help you do it faster? Getting a simple pressure cooker, slow cooker, or air fryer can make it quick and easy for you to create healthy meals. Or, grab one device that does all 3 (my personal favorite is the Instant Pot Duo Crisp & Air Fryer).
An air fryer acts as a small convection oven that sits on your countertop. It fries food quickly and evenly, and uses no oil so you get the same crunch without the added trans fats!
A slow cooker is a perfect tool for making a set-it-and-forget-it meal. Most slow cooker recipes can be prepped in a matter of minutes, and then left alone to slow cook for hours. When you’re ready to eat, just grab your plate or bowl and you’re ready for dinner!
The Instant Pot Duo Crisp & Air Fryer is a slow cooker, rice maker, pressure cooker (think of this like a slow cooker on steroids) air fryer, and more all in one convenient device. This versatile tool can help you make multiple days’ worth of meals in just a few hours, and with far fewer dishes to clean up!
5. Schedule Your Workout
For many working professionals, our calendars dictate our lives — what the calendar says, goes.
Schedule your workouts just as you’d schedule any work-related call, meeting, or task. Once it’s on your calendar, make it a non-negotiable. Consider signing up for workout classes, whether virtual or in-person, to give you a tangible appointment that you know you will meet. I offer plenty of options for all types of fitness levels and workout needs in my Slay & Namaste On Demand Membership. The important thing is to find what you like — an instructor you enjoy, or an amazing playlist — and you’ll find your workout will easily become a non-negotiable on your calendar.
Putting something on the calendar shows a concrete commitment to yourself that your wellbeing is important, and you don’t have to worry about spontaneously “squeezing in the gym.” Plus, your calendar alerts will remind you to change into your workout clothes 5 minutes beforehand!
6. Find Accountability with a Friend or Coach
One of the best ways to stick to your exercise and nutrition goals is with accountability. At work, you may be accountable to your boss, your clients, or even your coworkers. For many people, this provides the motivation to get projects done on time.
When it comes to your personal goals, why not use the same motivation? Hiring a coach can give you the accountability you need to follow through on the fitness and nutrition goals you’ve set. A coach can also take the guesswork out of the process (and save you more time) by crafting a plan for you, and telling you exactly what you need to follow for your workouts and/or nutrition goals.
Not ready for a coach?
Ask a friend to be your accountability partner, or join my free Facebook group for a community of support that will hold you to your intentions. Perhaps you schedule your workouts at the same time with your friend, so that you feel motivated to show up for them. Or, you may have a friend who is willing to plan recipes together and share the same meal prep day. Be sure to choose a friend who is willing to check in with you regularly and be firm with you.
If you aren’t comfortable asking a friend, or your friend cannot provide enough accountability to keep you motivated, finding a coach is a great option. A fitness and nutrition coach will keep you accountable to your goals, while providing support and structure to help you build your healthy habits in a way that fits the time you have.
Looking for some motivation to jumpstart your healthy habits in 2021? Join my OnDemand membership and get access to my live virtual HIIT & yoga classes each week, plus over 70 HIIT & yoga workouts available OnDemand to fit your schedule. Come meet me on the mat!
About the Author
Alexa Hanshaw is a health and stress management coach who helps women be the CEO of their stress. She empowers her clients to push past the confusion of the health and wellness industry to create lifestyle habits that bring them energy and work with their bodies instead of against it.