4 Tips To Make Exercise A Priority (Even When You’re “Too Busy”)
I bet this is how you rank the items on your to-do list:
Top of the list: Most Important Thing
Middle of the list: Next Most Important Things
Bottom of the list: Luxury Items
I get it— you’re busy.
I’m busy, too! We’re all busy, and we’re all tired, and we all want to look & feel good, right? But how do we manage to have time for “luxury” things like exercise when there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day?
I like to think of my day like a suitcase. There is a finite amount of space, which means there’s a limited amount of things I can fit in my suitcase. When I’m metaphorically “packing my suitcase” at the beginning of my day, I’m obviously going to pack the things I deem most important/necessary first, and fill in any extra space with other activities & tasks.
This is what most of us do when budgeting our time on a daily or weekly basis, and it makes sense. It’s good. It’s smart to work from “Most Urgent” to “Least Urgent” in order to be productive and efficient with our time.
What we’ve done wrong, then, is incorrectly categorize exercise as a luxury item and put it at the bottom of the list.
Exercise shouldn’t be considered one of those “least urgent” tasks that falls to the wayside when our to-do lists continue to pile up. (cough, everyday, cough)
Not just because it’s healthy and you should care about your body yada-yada-ya… but because it can actually help you on your quest for productivity and efficiency throughout your day.
In our suitcase analogy, imagine exercise as something that takes up space, but also makes more space for other things to fit inside your day.
When we exercise, we’re not just burning off those break-room treats we just couldn't pass up or toning up our rears for bikini season— we’re setting the stage for more productive work, happier social interactions, better choices & less stressful days.
Sounds pretty urgent to me.
So now the question isn’t why make it a priority but how?
1. Quit thinking of exercise as a luxury.
If we can mentally re-do our thinking to consider exercise as important as picking up groceries or watching our nightly Netflix show, then maybe fitting it into our day will be just as natural as fitting in those other things. It also might be time to re-think your priority list and consider that some of the things you think are of most importance, might not be as urgent as you think.
Of course, you can’t exactly cook dinner, bathe the kids, and wash the dishes while you’re walking the neighborhood or hitting the weight room, but when possible, try to combine tasks. I like to Pin recipes while I’m on the elliptical, listen to a helpful business Podcast and brainstorm blog ideas while I run, or go through boring-but-necessary emails in between weight sets.
3. Consciously focus on the mental benefits.
This can range from the happiness you get from seeing your familiar gym-friends’ faces to the stress-relief you get after some "you time" on a walk around the block. The mental benefits of just 30 minutes of exercise often go overlooked, so it’s important to be aware of them and make a conscious effort to notice and appreciate them.
When you’re taking a lap around the neighborhood, hitting a workout DVD in the living room, or pumping some iron in the gym— stop and think about how great you feel. And when you finish— stop and think again about how your day has improved because of the decision to prioritize exercise.
4. Say “no” to something.
Time is limited. The space in our suitcase is finite. Duties call and some things simply cannot be ignored. Eventually, something’s gotta give. To make exercise a priority, it’s likely you’ll have to say “no” to something or give up something you routinely do. Maybe there’s no time for Starbucks and morning aerobics class. Perhaps you’ll have to trade TV time with the kids for an evening game of tag in the front yard or even a post-dinner walk around the block.
The key to making exercise a priority is simple: honesty with yourself. Be honest and realize you will not ever “find” time to do anything— much less the things you’re not particularly thrilled to do, like exercise. It’s up to you to make time for the things that matter, and being honest means admitting you are either willing or not to re-prioritize and make time for those things.