How To Achieve More In Less Time: Productivity Strategies for Work, Fitness, and Nutrition
How often do you find yourself scrambling between tasks to get all of your work done before the end of the day and feel so scrambled that you skip the gym, again, and head straight home to order takeout because you don’t feel like cooking dinner?
This is a common scenario for a lot of people and you wonder why we lament over the health of our society as a whole…
The underlying problem here is a sense of not having enough time. Admittedly, there may be some habits that need upgrading but even the most type A personalities will revolt against every second of their day being scheduled to perfection. Wanting to achieve more with work, fitness, and nutrition is perfectly normal; doing so in less time is the holy grail that leaves us with free time to watch tv, read, or endlessly scroll through Instagram.
Here’s What You Need To Know:
- Practice Productivity - use the principles of Deep Work and the Pomodoro technique to get more important work done in less time.
- HIIT It - Use circuit training and WODs to get more exercise done in less time.
- Cook up a Storm - Batch cook or ‘meal prep.’ for the week on Sunday and Wednesday to have all your meals ready to go.
Here’s how you can win over all three areas of work, healthy eating, and exercise without feeling like your entire life is dictated by these things.
Work - Techniques For Improving Productivity
While many people are stuck in the office for their 9-5 with no wiggle room, virtually every type of job can benefit from a re-organization to enhance the workflow and resultantly the well-being outside of work. There’s an overarching philosophy, known as Deep Work, as well as a specific technique that if you figure out a way to apply more to your work life, you’ll get more done in less time and drastically improve your life outside of work as you won’t be stressing so much about the office.
Deep Work, from the book of the same name by Cal Newport, refers to structuring specific periods of your work day into units of complete and uninterrupted focus. Most workers won’t have the luxury of going into a cabin in the woods for weeks at a time to focus on life’s great mysteries, but what anyone can work on applying is setting certain times in the day where you are going to work on your biggest and most challenging tasks whilst turning off all notifications and ideally blocking internet access. You want to be inaccessible to the outside world as much as possible so that your brain can operate full steam ahead on tackling problems. Most people seem to operate well up to an hour or so like this but even that might not be practical for you.
That’s where the Pomodoro Technique comes in.
The Pomodoro Technique works by setting a timer for 25 minutes of uninterrupted focus on your work, followed by giving yourself 5 minutes to go outside to smoke, hang by the water cooler and gossip, or see how many rotations you can get with just one push on your office chair. Whatever you choose to do, it shouldn’t be the same stimulus as your work provides, so if you work on a computer, you shouldn’t be checking your email during this time. If you have to check your email during your focus time, it is usually recommended that you sit and twiddle your thumbs until the 25 minutes is up and then do it during your 5-minute downtime to maintain the discipline of this uninterrupted workflow.
A mere hour of this style of work and you will have provided yourself with 50 minutes of what will likely be your most accomplished time for the whole day. Several hours of this during the start of your shift will have you well-ahead of the productivity curve. This will leave you with the typically less-productive second half of the day to do less demanding tasks like answering emails, making phone calls, etc. Finish up the day by reviewing a task list and creating a new one for the next day or highlighting the tasks that have to get done first and you’ll be better able to leave your work at work instead of mentally bringing it home with you.
Nutrition - Meal Prep Madness
One of the most commonly suggested strategies for diet success is to batch cook your meals in what is better known as meal prep.
Finding a frequency of meal prep that works for you is important. For freshness of food, it’s best to prep food at least twice per week. Commonly Sunday afternoon and Wednesday are good for this. Other people will use the first 45 minutes or hour of their day to prep all their meals for one day. You are much less likely to cheat on your diet or waste money on takeout if you’ve got food ready to eat, so really give this a try. Make sure you’ve got enough large containers for the food as well as individual meal-sized containers to take with you day-to-day. I suggest you splurge and buy glass containers - they clean out better, last longer, and are the most inert to avoid the potential of leaching chemicals into your meals.
Breakfast of a smoothie or omelette can usually be made in an instant and doesn’t need to be prepared ahead of time. If you’re a foodie, you can save Friday night or Saturday night dinners for your times to cook great meals or go out to eat. This will still leave you with a great adherence rate on the diet that you’ve committed to sticking to.
Fitness - Speedy Circuits and Workouts of the Day
If you’re not all gung-ho about going to the gym and see it as more of something you simply must do for health, maximizing your efficiency to get in and out will work well for you. Depending on how frequently you hit the gym, find a circuit-style of training where you perform exercises back-to-back or with little rest to accomplish more in less time. Recruit the help of a personal trainer or online coach to develop these workouts with you if you need assistance. There are also many websites and gyms that regularly list new workouts and have quick 30-minute circuit training classes offered. These are also great ways to become a part of a like-minded community that cooperate to push each other. For example, my friend Josh at his gym, 24 Seven Family Gym, challenges the members each week with Whiteboard Workouts and also has new 30-minute circuit 'TEAM workouts’ every weekday a lunchtime.
If you’re struggling to accomplish everything at work while still balancing free time, good nutrition, and fitness, try applying ideas like these to improve your efficiency and get more done in less time.