Top tips for healthy time management
Updated: Nov 6, 2020
Working a full time professional job, volunteering, sitting on committee boards, keeping active, cooking healthy meals, keeping the house tidy…the list can keep on going! I know that I’m definitely not alone with the amount of things that we try to squish in to the roughly 16 hours we spend awake each day (assuming we also get our much needed 8 hours of sleep!). With the busy lives that we all lead it can be difficult to keep our health and wellbeing on our priority list, and often things such as exercise and healthy eating can be the first things we neglect when life gets hectic.
Unfortunately if you’re not focusing on your own health, it makes it even harder to be the best version of ourselves in other areas of our lives. I’ve noticed that when I’m not looking after myself everything else suffers, so over the years I’ve both consciously and subconsciously developed a number of habits, hacks and routines that help me get the most out of each day and try to accomplish everything that I intend to while still managing to eat healthy and exercise. I know some of you might do most of these already but hopefully you can find one or two that you can try yourself today!
1. Plan your meals (at least your main meals)
I never used to do this as I didn’t want to feel like I was restricted and following a diet or meal plan, but then I realised that planning meals in advance was actually just good organisation and would help me stick to eating the way that makes me feel the best. I sit down for 15 minutes or so at the end of each week and write out what we’re going to have for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the following week, and sometimes snacks if I feel like I’m going to be super busy and need more structure. I do this prior to any grocery shopping so that I can look at what ingredients I need for each meal and write a grocery shopping list.
You can sit down on a day that suits you and plan as far in advance as you like – personally I’ll do my meal plan on a Friday for the upcoming weekend til the following Friday, but it’s all about what works for you! I also use a super basic table I created in Word that I stick to the fridge so we all know what we’re eating but it can even just be a handwritten list if you don’t have the time. I find that if your meals are planned out and written down, it takes the thinking out of your healthy eating habits.
2. Streamline your grocery shopping
I don’t know about anyone else but I’m really not a fan of grocery shopping, which is suprising for someone who loves food as much as I do. As I mentioned I make a grocery shopping list after planning out my meals, as this makes sure I have all the ingredients I need for the week ahead. I like to do one big shop and get everything that I need in bulk which stops me from needing to make multiple trips to the shop per week and saves time that you can use for other things in your day.
A massive game changer for me has been ordering my groceries online – life changing! I live in small rural country town who luckily has a Woolworths, so I use their Click and Collect service as they don’t offer delivery. I actually prefer to pick my orders up as it’s free and doesn’t cost me any more than doing the shopping myself, and I can sit in my PJs and order what I need from home. I love this healthy tip because it also stops me from browsing the shelves and buying things I don’t need (hello chocolate aisle) which saves money too – bonus!
3. Have quick go-to meals and stock up on convenience food
Sometimes when I’m planning my weekly menu I get stuck on ideas for meals, so it’s a good idea to have a few easy and quick recipes in your repertoire that you can quickly add to your meal plan rotation. For me I love recipes from JSHealth, Lady Lolas, Health with Bec and The Active Bod as they are quick and super simple, or even just making no-recipe throw together stir-fries, curries and soups.
I can’t recommend enough keeping foods like microwave rice, frozen fruit and vegetables, and frozen proteins (meat, tofu) on hand for the times you might not have had time to plan something to eat and need to quickly put something together. Keeping healthy convenience foods stocked in your house means it’s more likely you’ll make healthier choices when you’re short for time and/or hangry.
4. Meal prep
Meal prepping is all the rage at the moment, and for a good reason – it’s an additional organisation method to save you time and help you stick to eating healthier. Meal prepping involves setting aside a block of time (usually on the weekend) to cook/prepare meals and snacks in bulk for the upcoming week.
I used to meal prep a couple of years ago, but I found that it didn’t work for me as I didn’t like spending time in the kitchen on the weekend and would cook dinner fresh every night anyway, and that was just my personal choice. I find that just planning out my meals in advance and making sure I have all the ingredients works well enough for me, so find what works for you and what you enjoy as you’re more likely to stick to it and make it a habit. So if you enjoy meal prepping it’s definitely a time-saver that can be another great healthy hack to add to your toolbox.
5. Cook once, eat twice
Another game changer for me has been making the most of leftovers and actively planning my lunch to be whatever I had for dinner the night before. I know some people absolutely hate leftovers but honestly if you’re making dinner fresh every night anyway it is so easy to just make another portion for each person to have for lunch the next day. I love cooking in bulk as it means one less meal you have to spend time prepping for! Another great way to utilize leftovers is to freeze them and keep them on hand for when you’ve got nothing planned (see above convenience foods tip), which means you’re less likely to reach for something less nutritious when you’re time-poor or not organised.
6. Find movement that you love – and plan when you’re going to do it
So you’ve got you healthy eating habits down pat, now it’s time for you to get that bod active! Find exercise that you enjoy and move your body in a way that makes you happy, whether that’s lifting weights, going for a run, doing a dance class, playing sport or going for a swim at your local beach (or muddy brown river if you’re as lucky as me). I try to move my body every day in some way as it makes me feel my best mentally and physically, I love to mix it up with bootcamp-style weight classes, jogging, yoga, Pilates, swimming and good old walking. Even on rest days I walk my dogs every single morning, and notice on days I don’t that I feel more tired and my mood isn’t as boosted.
Part of this tip is to then schedule in whatever activity you’re choosing to do as a non-negotiable, and treat it like you would any other obligation. On Sundays I sit down and plan out in my diary what exercise I’ll do each day for the week ahead and stick to it as best I can, and find that seeing it written down for the day keeps me accountable and also takes the stress out of trying to decide on what activity to do when you’re not as motivated.
7. Prep your gym gear
Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, a great way to keep yourself motivated is to get out your whole outfit and pack your gym/exercise bag in advance. And I mean “totally ready to go packed” – I even fill my water bottle and make up my pre-workout so there's nothing left to do except get dressed. I’ve found that at least getting your outfit and basics prepped, and seeing them there when you’re trying to motivate yourself to get active, can save you time and give you that little push to get active.
8. Start a morning routine
I’ve heard quite a few people lately talk about the importance of having morning and night routines, and while I personally try to do both I find a morning routine is a great addition to your time management when it comes to your health and fitness. It doesn’t have to be long or extreme, but a great way to get more out of your day is to set aside 5 – 10 minutes to think about your to do list for the day ahead and write down your top 3 priorities to help you focus on the things that you really need to get done. I also love to move my body first thing in the morning as that way it is done before I head to work, as I found that work and too many other things would get in the way of afternoon workouts (but once again it’s all about finding what works for you!).