Time is precious — protect it
Conquering the largest roadblock to building a fitness habit.
I don’t think anyone reading this would be surprised if I told them that physical activity has an amazing effect on virtually every aspect of your life. Whether it be sleep, productivity, sex, physical health, mental health or job performance improving your physical fitness will drastically increase your ability to cope with day to day stressors. Knowing all of this, you would think that it would be easy to commit the time to improving one’s self through some form of physical training. The fact is that the opposite is usually true. Time remains one of the single largest obstacles when it comes to helping individuals build a lifetime “fitness” habit.
Let me preface this point by saying that not everyone needs to give the same type of time commitment as an Olympic athlete in order to reap the benefits of a proper training program. I have worked with individuals at all levels of commitment and they have almost all found success. That being said committing only one hour a week to an endeavor you feel is important to you is a far cry from an optimal scenario to ensure your continued progress. There is no magic formula to this problem. If you want to succeed you will need to give some of your time to the process.
In the end there are very few people who I have met who truly have no time. The reality is that most people who say they have no time either have a) no time management skills or b) have prioritized other things but aren’t able to admit fitness is not important to them or c) have not built a strong enough “Why” for their goals and therefore have not internalized the value making time can bring to their lives. In the end for most people in most scenarios time is not an excuse, it may be limited but most of us still have the ability to choose how we spend our time.
When I begin working with someone who feels they are in a time crunch we go through an exercise called a “Time Audit”. This activity allows us to take an inventory of our days and weeks to see where we can remove roadblocks for reaching our goals. It goes something like this:
There are 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week which equals 168 hours a week to play with. I don’t know about you but 168 hours is a lot of time to fit your life into.
Let’s for the purpose of this exercise give people the benefit of the doubt and say they work 70 hours a week. That is a 14 hour work day Monday to Friday which for most people is way more than they actually work. Some people may sit at their desk for 14 hours a day but the question always remains if you are working or also surfing the web, chatting with friends etc.
Next we assign sleep into the mix. There is no question here and everyone should be trying to get 7 or 8 hours if they have told me that fitness and improved performance is one of their goals. The topic of sleep deserves an article in its own right so I will save that for another day. So with 8 hours of sleep EVERY night (minus those with young kids, you are giving this up for a small amount of time) that totals 56 hours of sleep a week and you are left with 42 hours to play with. So with 14 hour days at work and 8 hours of sleep a night you still have 42 hours to pursue the rest of life with.
This is where most people start adding “I have to commute to work” or “I have to do groceries” or “I need to spend time with my family”. If this is the case, then we assign some generous numbers to these important life tasks. Let’s assign 2 hours a day for commuting (in many towns this is way more generous than it needs to be, 3 hours a week for grocery shopping and errands and 20 hours a week for QUALITY family time (no phones, no computers, no outside distractions).
Once these are factored in you still have 9 hours to train which is way more than enough of a commitment to make a significant difference in your life.
The best part about this activity is that most people doing this exercise with me don’t work 70 hours a week, don’t sleep 8 hours a night, don’t commute 2 hours a day and definitely don’t spend 20 hours of quality time with their family and friends. In the end most people have more than 9 hours a week left over. Where does all the time go? Email, Netflix, text messaging, cat videos, Sports Center and any of the other number of time sucks around us. Its ok to spend time doing these things if you enjoy them but if you are saying that your health and fitness are MORE important to you than these things then you must recognize that they are taking up your valuable time.
You need to take control of your time. Your time is the most precious commodity you have in life so don’t let others or outside distractions control it for you. Treat it like its important and be stead fast in protecting it from outside influence.
If you have not read Timothy Ferriss’s book the 4-hour Work Week I suggest you go pick a copy up as he is known as the master of protecting his time.
Force other people to work around your schedule (whenever possible) and not the other way around. Think about a day in the office and the common question “when is a good meeting time for you?” Most of us rephrase the question and send it back to the other person by saying something like “I’m easy, let me know when and I will be there”. This needs to stop. This question allows you to be the master of your time and most of us simply give away this control. STOP, be the boss of your time.
Think about any medical profession. Can you just call your GP and say “can I please book my annual appointment for 5am on Sunday morning”? No of course not, the doctor will not come in on their off hours just because it is convenient for you. He or she protects their time and so should you. So in the end what do you do? If the doctor says their next appointment is Tuesday at 2pm then you take the time off work and go based on their availability. Why do you do this? Well, because your health is important to you so you don’t have a choice. By this same logic if fitness is important to you then make the time for it by taking control of your schedule.
There are many common time wasters that we can easily control. Here are 3 that crop up with my clients on a regular basis:
The first big one is your cellphone. Whether it be chasing imaginary Pokemon rather than bettering your life or spending time watching click bait pet video, people have no idea how much time they waste on their phones. A strength coach I follow suggests that every time you unlock your phone you do 5 burpees, this will prove how much of a time suck phones can be. There are also many apps out there that can track your screen time each day. Download one and be ready for a shock. I challenge you to put the phone down for non-essential tasks and start pursuing your goals.
The next big time waster is people. I know that sounds harsh but you can’t give everything to everyone and if you want to protect your time at some point you will need to cut people out. I’m sure there are people in your day to day life that waste your time, ask for help when they don’t need it, are just there to gossip or you simply don’t even remotely enjoy their company. Always be kind and nice but know that it is OK to protect your time. This is a hard skill to learn but spending your valuable time with people that add value to your life will only enhance your ability to succeed.
The last big time waster is driving and commuting. Many people drive to do errands on a whim or they commute at certain time just because. Be smart, try and see if offsetting timings and bulking your errands into 1 or 2 trips can save you a significant amount of time. Do whatever you can to avoid traffic as this is pure dead time you want to avoid. For example if you leave for work at 6:30am and that results in an arrival time of 7:45 you may be better off leaving at 6am to avoid all traffic, which gets you there at 7, allows you to do your workout and be at your desk for 8. Be smart with your time and crush your goals.
With all this said I know there will be times in your life where you truly don’t have a lot of time. In a future article I will write some ideas on how to include training into your schedule small bits at a time.
Final Thoughts: Time is precious, protect it, control it, make time for training if it’s something you value and be the boss of your own domain.