how to buy more free time

As parents, family members, partners, friends, employees, volunteers, and Netflix subscribers, many of us feel stretched to our limit, and I’m not talking about yoga here. Who has the time to work out when a new season of Breaking Bad was just released for your binge watching pleasure? Oh, that happened like two years ago? See, I can’t even keep up with that…

In any case, time is what many busy people wish they had more of. Picking the brain of the over-scheduled masses, I’ve boiled down for you the best strategies to DOING MORE with the time you have. That is, doing more in your 6-8 hours that most of us have when we aren’t sleeping or working, and making that time work for your health and fitness.

1.    Multitask

This is sometimes seen as a big “no-no”, but as a busy person I can’t live without multitasking! Now, I don’t mean reading your kids bedtime stories while working on that financial report you HAVE to finish, or cooking while taking your dog for a walk (not sure that is even a thing…), but I DO mean being strategic. Here are some ideas:

·      Work out with a friend and tag on an extra 20 minutes for post-workout recovery beverages – you save all the commute time, enjoy your workout, and socialize

·      Watch your guilty pleasure TV shows while you meal prep and clean up – I got through seven seasons of Nurse Jackie in the last month while doing breakfasts and dinners (28 hours in 31 days)

·      Combine errands and appointments to the greatest extent possible, especially if you have family members you are responsible for – it is well worth the time to reschedule and sync up appointments and save yourself the commuting, parking, and schlepping time!

2.    Outsource and cut back

There are many ways to outsource tasks or lighten your load. Can you afford a housekeeper once in a while – awesome! You just bought yourself some time. Can you NOT afford a housekeeper once in a while – awesome! Just clean less often and you bought yourself some time. I kid, but when practical and affordable, outsourcing or even trading tasks with friends is one way to use your time more efficiently.

·      What can you afford to have other people do for you? If there is a task you really don’t enjoy and have the means to hire someone else once in a while, this is a great way to literally trade your money to get more time. I love this calculator as a starting point to think about how much your hour is worth.

·      Grocery delivery – I’m not kidding! Many metro areas have an abundance of options for grocery delivery or in-store pickup. This is sometime free for your first order, and may be an affordable way to get only what you need without stepping foot in the store. If you are like me,  the $10 you would have spent on sea-salt caramel chocolate bars in the checkout line may cover the cost of the delivery itself (not to mention, avoiding all that unnecessary sugar)!

·      Can’t afford another nickel? Skillshare! If you are partnered up or have roomates (large or small), divide and conquer meal preparation and chores. There are many great apps to help track and assign chores, and many (see Chore Monster) will bring the kid in you.

·      Get a free fitness buddy, hire a personal trainer, sign up for online personal training or join a group fitness class – this really depends on your personal preference. If you are trying to amp up your fitness and are currently, say, walking an hour on the treadmill 3 days per week, the answer is not simply walking more (although of course, it doesn’t hurt). If you are strapped for time you need to think about efficiency (more work in less time) rather than just slogging away on that spinning belt of boredom. Do you have an awesome friend who loves to yell motivating things at you? Get her to do that! Are you motivated by the fun and camaraderie of a group class? Find one that fits your interests! Do you need someone to keep you accountable and push you to improve? Look into a personal trainer or health coach!

·      Just say no – when there are things you don’t like to do and don’t need to do, consider saying “no”. No, you don’t have to learn to knit today, or redecorate your entire house, or detail your car. No, you don’t have to make all organic homemade individually decorated cupcakes for your kid’s birthday party with eggs from your own hens. More power to you if this is what you enjoy, but if it adds stress to your life, and sucks up your time, then try to let it go.

3.    Have fun!

·      Plan your social calendar ahead of time – I am an obsessive user of Google calendar. If it is not on there, it does not happen. I LOVE planning social activities ahead of time, because it lets me also plan my workouts and meal preparation accordingly. Going out with your girlfriends and eating olives from their martinis is depressing (and you’re a mooch). If I have plans to go out for dinner, I take it easy on the pancakes and maybe squeeze in some extra cardio so I can feel good about indulging a little. If my plans are to go for a hike or a run with a friend, then maybe that night I will make the mac and cheese I’ve been CRAVING.

·      Get out and try new things – this may be a repeat of what I’ve already said, but combining exciting activities with friends means you have achieved the trifecta of being fit and enjoying life – new experiences, socialization, and exercise! So many ideas here, but I particularly love finding a new scenic bike route, a hike, or a new fitness class. You can find something for any budget!

4.    Prioritize

This is the most important – what I suggest here may not be your cup of tea. Maybe you enjoy your vegetative TV watching time on the couch doing nothing else. That’s fine (in moderation)! Or, perhaps you enjoy grocery shopping, or learning new crafts, or whatever. The point is, take an inventory of your time and commitments, and see where you can cut back and streamline, and use that time to focus on what is MOST important: a healthy life for you and your loved ones.



*About the author: Megan is a PhD student interested in environmental engineering and policy, and has a background in mechanical and systems engineering. She is a two-time applicant to NASAs astronaut program, which proves that childhood dreams can turn into adult delusions, er, aspirations. Having done races from 800 m to the Boston Marathon, and trying nearly every fitness class from aerobics to Zumba, she most enjoys dancing around the living room with her toddler and husband to clean versions of inappropriate electronic dance music.