If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself constantly rushing around trying to fit lots of things into the day and never quite feeling that there’s enough time. I think the key here is time management – something that doesn’t come easily to me, I must admit – so that’s why for this blog I’ve decided to speak to a number of health experts to get some tips. I’m going to take a look at how to manage your work life better so that you feel less stressed, and I’m also going to look at how to fit more time in your day for fitness, a healthy diet and meditation.
I like to think that I’m pretty organised, but I do sometimes get overwhelmed at work when I’ve got lots of things to do at once. I asked business coach Catherine Billam for some advice on how to be better at multi-tasking and, interestingly, she claims that it’s “a very inefficient way of using the brain.” She adds: “Doing two tasks at once can reduce your performance by up to 50 per cent, and constant emailing or text messaging reduces intelligence by an average of 10 points on an IQ test.” Yikes! That puts my IQ down by several numbers.
Instead of trying to juggle lots of tasks, Catherine advises cutting your day into chunks and focusing on one type of activity at a time. “Have separate chunks of time for admin, phone calls, meetings, emails, dealing with today’s emergencies, planning, creative thinking and writing,” she says.
Catherine also suggests being clever in the way that you plan your day. “Do the most difficult tasks when you have the most energy and the routine tasks when you have the least energy,” she says.
“Most people are at their brightest early in the morning, so do your hardest creative tasks and decision-making then. If dealing with admin or emails is routine, do that when you have less energy. Most people have a dip in the middle of the afternoon. Do routine tasks then.” I’ve always wondered what to do during the dreaded 3pm slump – now I know!
Most of us I’m sure have good intentions to eat healthily and well, but at the end of a busy day at work the lure of a takeaway or ready meal can sometimes be just too much. I asked Barbara Cox, nutritionist and CEO of Nutrichef, for some tips on how to fit in healthy eating around a busy schedule. (And, if besides, I’m getting a bit embarrassed that my local pizza takeaway knows me by name now.)
“You can be busy and healthy as long as you make time at the weekend to plan for the week ahead,” says Barbara. “Start each day with a cup of hot water and lemon to alakalise your system. Then make sure you have a nourishing breakfast, such as a bowl of porridge made with dairy-free milk and a sprinkling of nuts and seeds.
A mid-morning snack of fresh fruit can be followed by a lunch of soup and a healthy sandwich. Remember to heat your soup in the morning and pour it in a Thermos flask!”
I’m guilty of reaching for a bar of chocolate or a packet of crisps in the afternoon (it’s that 3pm slump again), but Barbara reckons a healthy cereal bar is a far better alternative. Finally, for a really healthy dinner, she recommends something like “steamed sea bass (a great source of calcium and essential, healthy fats), served with seasonal vegetables, which provide you with vitamins, minerals and fibre.”
I like to think that I get a fair bit of exercise on a regular basis as I don’t drive a car, and tend to walk everywhere, but I think I’m pretty unusual in that respect.
I asked personal trainer Nick Morrison for some tips on how to fit more exercise into a busy day, and I found that he’s quite worried about the state of our general health: “With machines to do everything from brushing our teeth to carrying us upstairs, our daily energy expenditure is lower than ever before in history,” he said. “This is why we must make choices to keep us active.”
Nick suggests walking up the escalators rather than standing still, which is actually quite taxing at some tube stations, and will really give your leg muscles a workout. He also suggests cycling to work instead of driving, or getting off the bus two stops early and walking. “While you’re walking make any phone calls you need to or send some emails via your phone,” he suggests.
If you’re already doing most of the above and want to up your fitness levels a bit more, then Nick suggests: “try putting aside three to five slots a week in your schedule to really build up a sweat. Build it into your routine, make it habit and keep it easily accessible. In other words, don’t join a gym that you have to drive 20 minutes to, make it a home workout, create a space to have some ‘me time’ and focus on your fitness. And train hard. Make the most of the time you have.”
Meditation is something that I really enjoy and find beneficial, but I never seem to find the time to do it during a busy day. Andrew Johnson, a relaxation expert, recommends swapping one habit for another in order to make more time for relaxation.
He says: “You don’t need a great deal of time – start with 10 minutes a day. Think of all the things you do during the day that aren’t really necessary and use that time to be still.” I’m going to try his advice and swap the time it takes to make a cup of tea each day and use that instead to meditate. I’m thinking that I’ll kill two birds with one stone as it’s a good way to cut down on caffeine, which isn’t good for relaxation anyway!
And here’s why Andrew reckons we all need to find more quiet time in the day: “The more you allow yourself some quiet/still/meditation time, the more your mind will quieten and in the stillness you will find solutions to problems, have more concentration and get things done quicker.
By enabling the body to re-energise and rebuild during relaxation time you will find you have more energy to get things done quicker. The quicker, more energised and more efficient you are, the more time you have to spend on other things.”
I hope you found these tips useful – do let me know if you have any feedback!
About the author: Liz Parry is a writer specialising in holistic health and wellbeing, personal development and spirituality.