In my health coaching practice, the most successful people I see are usually the busiest: Traveling regularly, always on the go, and consistently achieving at the highest of levels. Yet despite their non-stop schedules, these highly successful people are usually my healthiest clients.
Why? Because they know that their time is a precious commodity and it should be spent on something equally as valuable: good health.
Indeed, the myth of “I’m too busy to be healthy” doesn’t apply to these individuals. They’re equally as pragmatic about their health as they are their careers; they recognize it’s a far more advantageous use of their time if they take a proactive, efficient approach to wellness now than to spend precious hours dealing with poor health later.
As a busy professional myself—a marketing exec-turned-health coach—I acutely understand the conflict that can arise between having time and having good health. But, as evidenced by my rock-star clients, I see firsthand that having a busy schedule isn’t an excuse to let healthy behaviors slide. Ahead, I’m busting the myth that “busy” means “unhealthy,” and showcasing some ways I’ve helped my clients have a loving relationship with time and, consequently, their health.
1. You have more time than you think.
The most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report notes that on average, men and women have about five to six hours of “leisure time” per day—this encompasses doing things reading, exercising, watching television, and using a computer for “fun.” Within that chunk, nearly three hours (on average) is devoted to watching television (don’t even get us started on Facebook). That’s a pretty high number in retrospect, especially given that watching television is a sedentary, slightly mindless activity.
The first step, then, to “finding” time to be healthy is to think long and hard about the time you already have. Spend several days jotting down what you do with your free time. Ask yourself: Could those couple of hours be used in a more healthy way—going to the gym, preparing the next day’s lunch, or engaging in a mindful activity?
2. Efficiency is everything.
In the grand scheme of things, however, three hours of free time can feel like a very narrow window in a 24-hour day. This is why I’m a proponent of healthy efficiency. When it comes to working out, there now exists an increasing amount of research touting the benefits of short, high-intensity workouts. In other words, working out very hard for 15-20 minutes at maximum effort might just be as effective as slogging on an elliptical at the same pace for 45 minutes (depending on your body and level of fitness, of course).
3. Boundary setting is a time management tool.
It’s amazing. Many of my clients have no problem hitting tight, unrealistic deadlines but can’t seem to find the time to make themselves a simple dinner. I’ll give you an example. At a recent corporate wellness workshop, I met a woman who told me that she “hated sleeping.” As a huge sleep proponent, I was intrigued by her attitude and offered to coach her one-on-one. It turned out she didn’t like to sleep because it got in the way of “living.” In time, I realized that this woman was working constantly and totally over-scheduled. Resultantly, she quite literally didn’t have the time to do things that brought her joy—such as seeing friends—and resented sleep for occupying her precious “living” hours.
Sleep, of course, is a critical component of our existence; the real problem, here, was she was not setting boundaries in her job and spending too much time at her workplace. We worked together to help her set up those all-important boundaries: Such a saying “no” to unrealistic commitments or leaving the office at a reasonable hour. This boundary setting technique enabled to manage her time in a healthy way, find space to do the things that brought her joy, and fall in love sleep again, too.
4. Schedule wellness and commit to it like you would a business project.
You would never miss a deadline, cut a corner on a project or skip a necessary meeting, so why would you do that to your body? Look at your calendar a week or two out—or a month, depending on how quickly you get booked up—and slot in time for workouts, doctors appointments, acupuncture and whatever else if part of your self-care routine. Then, honor these appointments like you would a business commitment. Doing so will force you to be more mindful with your time elsewhere. (If you know you’ve committed to a 7:00 a.m. workout, maybe staying later at the bar isn’t a good idea.)
5. When all else fails, know your minimal viable wellness plan.
In some cases, we really don’t have time to make a healthy breakfast or hit the gym. When those instances strike, we need to fall back on healthy coping strategies. I have all of my clients create a minimal viable wellness plan (MVW). What is the minimal viable amount of effort you need to put in to feel good? This plan is your go-to when the times get tough—when you’re over-scheduled, traveling or sick. For many of my clients, that means they might skip the workout, choose the next best thing off a menu instead of cooking at home and push to six hours of sleep. But they are doing their best and making the best choices they can for the situation they find themselves in.
In other words, when time is an issue, find out where you can take back your power and just do it—no need for permission. Your time is yours alone.
Amina AlTai is a healthy business advisor & nourishment expert from Brooklyn, New York. With a B.S. in Marketing and Advertising from NYU, AlTai started her career in marketing atCartier, and then went on to co-found a marketing agency. After more than seven years working on start-ups and Fortune 500 companies, she then led marketing efforts for Spafinder Wellness and Bliss. Grappling with a fast-paced career and two autoimmune diseases eventually led her to seek out training in nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness through some of the greatest wellness teachers and schools of our time.
AlTai has partnered with companies such as Deloitte, Outdoor Voices, NYU, and HUGE for training that breaks the mold and makes a difference. In addition to penning pieces for digital destinations like Thrive Global, mindbodygreen, The Observer, Spafinder, adn Barry's Bootcamp, she is polishing off a book project. Learn more about her at aminaaltai.com.