Ask most people what prevents them from exercising and eating healthy meals and they’ll probably talk about lacking motivation or the convenience of not-so-healthy food choices. However, digging a little bit deeper usually reveals the real common denominator: a lack of time. In fact, effective time management is the key to leading a healthier, more productive life. And when healthy lifestyle choices become a priority, questions of motivation and convenience resolve themselves.

This post discusses the correlation between time, stress and unhealthy eating habits and also suggests ways to overcome them.

The Relationship Between Time and Stress
It’s not uncommon for people to feel like they always have too much to do. The assignments are piling up at work. The house never seems to be clean. The kids have to be driven to various activities and appointments on top of needing help with homework. Preparing meals, doing laundry and juggling projects at the office can become overwhelming.

The problem is that there is too much to do and not enough time to do it. Feeling overburdened at work and at home piles on the stress. Too often, important factors like a healthy diet and regular exercise get shoved aside in favor of tasks that never seem to have an end.

How Can Time Management Help?
Most of us aren’t born with innate time management skills. Instead, time management techniques must be practiced and learned, allowing ourselves to discover which methods do and do not work for us. Effective time management results in;

  • Reduced stress levels,
  • Increased capacity for personal fulfillment and
  • Leading to a more rewarding lifestyle.

With so many benefits, it’s clear that time management really is the secret weapon for healthy living.

Have a Daily Plan
Scheduling tasks to be completed on certain days clarifies what needs to be done and makes it possible for us to prioritize. A to do list can be a powerful tool that helps keep the day on track. Because things that don’t get done today can simply be moved to tomorrow’s list, make it a point to include exercise on that to do list. Scheduling time to work out is just as important as is a doctor’s appointment or a meeting at work.

Look for Ways to Sneak in Exercise
Even on days when a trip to the gym isn’t possible, exercise can still be a part of the plan. Here are some ideas:

  • Take a lunch hour walk
  • Choose the stairs over the elevator
  • Spend quality time with friends and family playing in the park
  • At work or in the grocery store or at the mall, park far away from the building for an extra hike

Even though there isn’t necessarily time for a vigorous workout every day, even small physical activities add up to something big.

Strategize for Healthy Eating
Nutritious food choices rarely happen by accident. Being deliberate about healthy meals is the best way to ensure a healthier lifestyle.

Give advance meal planning and preparation a try. Create a meal plan for the coming week, focusing on snacks and meals that provide lean proteins, whole grains and fresh fruits and veggies. Then, make that plan a reality by preparing some food in advance. This might involve things like:

  • Cooking several chicken breasts at once
  • Cutting up fruits and baking healthy breads to be enjoyed as snacks throughout the week
  • Whipping up a big batch of soup or stew to be portioned out

Another wonderful benefit of making a healthy meal plan is that it probably means eating fewer processed foods, which is definitely a more nutritious option.

Good time management is a skill that anyone can learn. With practice, people can find themselves feeling less stressed and able to enjoy healthy lifestyle choices like healthy food and regular exercise.

For more information, visit Careworks.

Author:  Michelle Holincheck, FNP