On Monday I was too busy to do yoga. At least that’s what I told myself. I had four meetings, an overflowing inbox of emails I needed to respond to, problems to solve, dinner to cook, plans to make … you know the drill. So my mat stayed rolled up in the corner. And my shoulders stayed tense, my headache persisted and my anxiety prevailed. By the end of the day I felt drained. And, ironically, unproductive. I'd certainly been busy, but not focused.
The next day’s schedule was just as full but my mindset was different. I wanted a better feeling at the end of the day and I knew that meant I had to show up differently. My new plan? Feel good, then take action.
As a result, my mat not only got rolled out, but I used it multiple times throughout the day. I took dance breaks, did yoga, got inspired and took care of myself. I ended up getting far more done in less time, I had better ideas and I took action on things that mattered.
The surprising keys to maximizing productivity? Slow down a bit and take care of yourself. You'll find leverage in the feeling of inspiration that no action taken out of desperation can ever compare to. Here are my tips for starting up and sticking with an exercise routine, no matter how crazy-busy you are.
1. Get clear on your priorities.
When we’re busy, it’s easy to go into victim-mode: “I have to do this. I can't do that. I have no choice." But the reality is that you do have a choice, lots of 'em, actually. Start to notice all the choices you have the power to make in your life. When you feel stuck, ask yourself, “How can I see this differently? Where’s my choice here?”
Start to get really clear on the underlying priorities driving your choices. You may realize that a lot of things you choose to do or not do are driven by your fear of what others think of you or the fear of not being good enough. But what if, instead, your choices were driven by inspiration, expansion, curiosity, fun, connection, etc.?
What are your top priorities? What’s important to you? Use your list as your compass. See how often you can make choices that align with your priorities. You might notice exercise becomes more consistent in your life when your priorities are clear. I certainly do.
2. Get support.
Not only is there leverage in inspiration, but there’s also leverage in connection. When you know someone’s got your back no matter what, that’s an amazing feeling. We all need a space where we can be human and share our mistakes and be a mess. We also need space where our successes are celebrated and we’re reminded of what we want.
3. Don’t expect perfection. Give yourself a break.
I eat pizza, drink too much wine and coffee, and skip my workouts sometimes. Things like this used to freak me out. I strived to always hide my imperfections and felt ashamed when I couldn’t. When I’d miss workouts, I’d be scared I would gain 10 pounds overnight.
Now, I’ve simply made the decision to be kinder to myself. To expect and embrace imperfection. To be flexible and in the flow with life. To give myself the benefit of the doubt and a break. To trust that I’ll get “back on track," and knowing that being "off track" is part of the process.
4. Consistency over intensity.
Our brain is scared of change; we’re wired to think it's is dangerous. This helped our ancestors survive a long time ago, making them alert to predators in new places. Unfortunately, it doesn’t serve us super-well now.
It’s a good thing to be aware of, though, because sometimes when we try to make big changes too quickly, we self-destruct. It’s often an unconscious coping mechanism. Our brain doesn’t distinguish between “good” and “bad” change. Therefore, if change = dangerous, self-sabotage = safe. The solution? Baby steps.
Instead of committing to getting to the gym five times/week for an hour, what if you started with 10 minutes of movement tomorrow morning and 10 minutes of movement tomorrow afternoon? Give yourself permission to set very small goals. Then, commit to them wholeheartedly.
5. Find movement you love.
There are a million ways to move your body. Why waste your time and energy with a form of exercise you hate? It’s incredibly difficult to stay consistent with something you don’t enjoy. So, don’t try. Instead, find movement that’s fun and feels great. Then, it will be something you look forward to instead of feeling like it’s a chore.
6. Make it about something other than the numbers.
Pounds. Calories. Time. Level.
Most of us go straight to fear, doubt and anxiety when we measure our success through numbers. Are there times when numbers can be helpful? Sure. But, when you make your exercise routine more meaningful than numbers it’s easier for exercise to become a more fun, impactful, and consistent part of your life.
Ask yourself, “If I had the perfect body now and knew I always would, why would I still exercise?”
My answers: to feel good, to feel strong, to feel powerful, to get out of my head and into my heartspace, to feel better, to feel healthy, to feel vibrant, to feel connected, to get inspired.
7. Let music move you.
I love working out to music. Some days it soothes my soul. Other days, it wakes me up and amplifies my energy. Create playlists you love. If you’re not feeling like exercising, start the music and see if it persuades you towards movement.
8. Notice how you feel when you’re done.
A few years ago, I was having a hard time following through with my commitment to get up early and workout. So I put my alarm in my shoes, put my shoes across the room and added a sticky note that said, “You always regret it when you go back to bed. You never regret it when you get up and move.”
Have you ever regreted taking the time to do something that’s good for you? Have you ever thought, “Man, I’m so disappointed in myself that went on that walk.” Or, “I really feel worse now that I did yoga.” No. That’s not how it works.
9. Show up.
To help you get over the battle in your mind, begin to soak up the feeling right after you’re done exercising. That’s what savasana is all about: soaking up the benefits of what you just did with your body. When you allow yourself to really soak up the good feeling, you’re more apt to remember it’s always worth it and you never regret it the next time you’re trying to decide whether or not you’re going to get your buns movin’ and make feeling good a priority.