Yesterday, I shared how I enabled healthy behavior by getting rid of excuses and other exercise barriers; today, I’m outlining the productivity strategies I used to make time for exercise.
It’s tough to fathom fitting an hour or more of exercise into a day that includes 12+ hours of work, seven or eight hours of sleep and, you know, everything else. Sacrificing sleep to wake up early wasn’t an option (see Priority No. 2 here), so I had to constrict my workday to a more manageable level instead. Whether you’re chained to a cubicle or work from home, you’re sure to find a strategy below that frees up 30 to 60 minutes for exercise.
The Pareto Principle
Also known as the 80-20 rule, the Pareto principle basically states that 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. This rule of thumb helps you identify and ideally prioritize high-value activities. Here’s how I leveraged the Pareto principle and made time for exercise:
- Strung together several well-paying part-time freelance gigs. When put together, my income from these part-time gigs just about doubled my old full-time permalance salary and required less time on my part.
- Delegated low-value work. After identifying the 20 percent of clients that led to 80 percent of my income, I delegated as much low- and no-value work as possible. Earlier this year, I hired two part-time assistants (hi Melody and Carly!) to help me cover my bases, and devoted the bulk of my efforts to writing, networking and similar high-value efforts. Yes, this step cut into my bottom line a touch, but it cranked up my efficiency enough to pick up another part-time client and still have afternoons, nights and weekends off.
- Focused on efficient exercises. I chose to focus on dynamic strength training exercises with kettle bells or free weights and high intensity interval training with bodyweight exercises. My rationale is that muscle continues to burn calories even while I’m at rest, and HIIT is an efficient way to build strength and cardiovascular health. (I’ll dive into my specific workout in a future post.)
After delegating and prioritizing, I freed up a bit of time in the evenings and on weekends, but being the Ridiculously Efficient person I am, I wanted to see how far I could push things. By leveraging Parkinson’s Law and a few other rock-solid productivity tips, I arrived at the supercharged six hours of work I currently do Monday through Friday. Here’s how I did it:
- Firm, challenging deadlines: I set a hard deadline of noon for my day’s work, with two hours in the afternoon to set myself up for the next morning.
- Attractive rewards: After my morning work period, I had the freedom to exercise and enjoy the rest of my day as I pleased — about as tantalizing of a reward as it gets for me.
- Sense of urgency: To complete each day’s work in half the time it would usually take, I had to seriously hustle. To ramp up the sense of urgency even more, I’d schedule salon appointments, hikes with friends and other meetings so that they’d take place in the early afternoon. This forced me to finish my work in the morning and exercise midday so as not to screw up my afternoon plans.
- Track, hack and attack: I’m obsessed with this method because it works. I discovered how much time I wasted in the mornings on social media and began using tools like Buffer, Timely and IfTTT to preschedule tweets.
- Regular audits: I still spend a week each quarter tracking how my time is spent. This spirit of continuous improvement translates to my workouts, too: each month, I make tweaks to my routine to shake things up and push myself even harder.
Next week, I’ll reintroduce you to my muddy buddy Diana, who’s lost 100 pounds and kept it off by prioritizing fitness and reshuffling her schedule to make it all work.
Note: This is the latest installment of an ongoing series. Peruse the ever-growing archive here.