Are you feeling out of balance? Do you wish you had more time to eat healthy, work out, and take care of yourself better?
I’ve been there (and often times, I’m still there). Let’s admit it. It’s hard to juggle everything on our plates and sometimes it can be a little overwhelming.
Over the years, I’ve struggled myself and finally come to a place where I feel I have a good system down, and I honestly feel healthier than I ever have in my life. Through many years of trial and error, I have found there are certain habits that can help to structure your days so you can focus on your health, be more productive, and get the most out of life. These are what work for me.
10 Ways to Structure Your Days
1. Plan Ahead
When it comes to focusing on your health, be intentional. Make a double batch of a healthy dinner so you can pack some away for lunch the next day. You’ll get the same nutrition, and bonus- you’ll save $$.
If you plan to work out in the morning, fill up a water bottle and lay out your gym clothes ahead of time so it’s easier to get moving in the morning. Schedule time in your day to just breathe and relax. The point is to think ahead, and make it easier on yourself to make good choices.
2. Wake Up Early
For me, getting an early start is key to being productive throughout the day. I’ve heard it said that “your 5-9 determines your 9-5“. For me, this could not be more true. I generally get up at 5:30am and I’m already finished with my workout by 7am, feeling completely refreshed. It’s the best feeling completing your workout while everyone else is sleeping. Not everyone is this way so do what works for you.
On weekends, I try to get up at early (ok, maybe not 5:30am, but 7am), which makes it easier to get back in the groove Monday morning. Put a priority on your health first thing every day and it will become a habit.
3. Get Moving!
It’s so important to do some research and find which type of workout you love best. I went to typical gyms and fitness clubs for years, never admitting to myself that I actually HATED it, and finally found a workout facility that does group classes (with mostly women). And it changed everything.
I absolutely love working out now and it’s a community where I’ve built some great friendships. Find what works for you and don’t be afraid to experiment with different activities. A typical gym is not for everyone.
4. Get Your Nutrients
To start, I recommend getting your bloodwork tested to make sure you’re getting the proper nutrients. I did and I was surprised that I was missing out on some important ones, even though I consider myself a very healthy eater.
So every morning I drink this protein shake with an iron supplement, and take B-12, Zync and Vitamin D supplements. I am no longer deficient in any nutrients and feel good knowing my body is getting what it needs.
5. Stay Hydrated
Drink as much water as possible, and avoid soda/pop or sugary drinks. I used to be addicted to Diet Coke (seriously, 4-5 cans a day!) and ever since I kicked that addiction in 2010 and only drink water (and the occasional glass of wine), I feel WAY better (and I also lost a few pounds)!
6. Eat Healthy
Think before you eat. I focus on a whole foods, plant-based diet and it works great for me. But it’s about finding what works for you, and it might be cutting out meat once a week and going from there. A few other things I suggest:
- Try to avoid fried, processed foods as much as possible.
- No fast food (places with drive throughs). I’ll still eat at Chipotle or a local sub shop occasionally.
- Limit your intake of simple carbs (white bread, chips, cookies, pastries, white rice, etc.) and focus more on complex carbs (vegetables, brown rice, potatoes, beans, fruit, whole grains, etc.).
- Avoid oils when you can. I use unsalted vegetable broth in the place of oil when cooking veggies.
- Snack on healthy food like veggies & hummus, nuts, rice crackers, celery w/ peanut butter, and fresh fruits & veggies.
- Limit your sugar intake as much as possible.
- And don’t forget to drink lots of water!
7. Be Active
If you sit in an office the majority of the day, get up as much as possible. Go for walks at lunchtime, take the stairs; every little bit helps. When looking for a parking spot at the mall, pick one far away.
Being active is a crucial part of staying healthy, and it just makes you feel good. So aim to do some type of exercise every day, whether it’s walking, running, work out classes, swimming, or hitting the gym.
8. Relax and Connect
It’s so important you give yourself time to relax. I like to make dinner (which is relaxing for me) and watch TV for an hour or two with my husband in the evening. This is our down time and we frequently pause the TV and talk about our days and try to connect with each other (and our cat Chloe).
Read a book, go on a walk, do something you love. Also, try to disconnect from your phone at least an hour or two before bedtime so your mind has time to power down.
Meditation can be an uncomfortable concept at first for some, but this practice is widely known to reduce stress and increase overall happiness. This is a work in progress for me, and I’m trying more and more to find time to meditate and live in the present moment. Stay tuned for future posts where I actually figure out how to do it effortlessly. =)
I highly recommend this website and app. It’s a lifesaver for anxiety. I set a timer on my phone so it will tell me “it’s time to meditate” every day at the same time. Even though I don’t always listen, it’s a good reminder to slow down.
10. Get your Sleep!
Study after study has shown how important sleep is for the body. Getting a good amount of sleep every night is crucial to performing our best when we’re awake, and necessary for good health. It’s also very important to stick to the same sleep schedule; your body will feel more balanced and you’ll have more energy.
Commit to a Schedule
I have found that once you find your own schedule, it’s best to try and stay consistent and pretty soon it will become routine, and your body will want to get back to that routine every time you get off course. Every person’s life is different so your schedule may be different from mine, but the point is to be intentional about your actions!
The 80/20 Rule
You may have heard of the 80/20 rule. It’s definitely a mantra I follow for nearly everything in my life. This can apply to a lot of things, but to put it as simply as possible, this theory suggests that you should aim for 80% good and 20% not-so-good. This 80/20 rule can be applied in many different areas of your life:
- Relationships– 80% of the marriage you are happy and 20% less than ideal or not exciting.
- Work– 80% of the time you are fulfilled and happy with your job, the other 20% you may be doing less desirable tasks like emailing, meetings, etc.
- Health– You eat healthy 80% of the time, but 20% you have the occasional scoop of ice cream or slice of pizza.
- Fitness– You work out 5 days a week, and aren’t quite as active the other 2 days.
- Overall Wellness– 80% of the time, you feel pretty happy and positive, the other 20% you have a bit of anxiety, someone cut you off on the freeway, etc.
We are human and the 80/20 rule is realistic, allowing life some room for error. If you strive for perfection, you will always fail. For perfectionists, this sounds scary but there is so much power in that statement. Own it!
Make Smart Choices and Be Kind to Yourself
In order to focus on your health and wellness, you need to make choices: the choice to get up early to work out, the choice not to eat that brownie at work, the choice to walk instead of drive, the choice to have only 1 piece of pizza instead of 5, and the list goes on. Those are all choices you are in control of.
We don’t have control over everything, so try and make the choices that you do have, those that you will be proud to look back on later. And if you make a wrong decision, or you feel guilty for eating that 5th piece of pizza, forgive yourself! Tomorrow is a brand new day and yesterday will soon be a distant memory. I can’t remember what I ate a week ago, can you?
Evaluate and Improve
Life is a never ending process of trial and error. We all have different priorities, values and life changing experiences happening to us all the time. Our schedules will shift and change depending on where we are in our lives, but the point is to pay attention to it.
Remember that taking care of yourself and your health is the first step to finding peace in your life. If you can find peace and balance as much as possible, one step at a time, your body and mind will thank you for it and you’ll have more time to do the things you truly love.
Want to hear from other experts regarding nutrition? Check out this article for “26 Experts Share Best Tips for Transitioning to a Plant-Based Diet“.