Happy Friday, League!
Like almost everyone else, I often struggle to find time to fit in all of the things I need to do to stay healthy: get enough sleep, actively reduce stress, eat healthy meals, strength, cardio, and mobility exercise, balance home/work life, and so on. All of that on top of work, taking care of kids and pets, and enjoying hobbies. Taking care of ourselves is really a full time job in itself.
Over the past few years, I have found some tools that help me to be more efficient with my time so I can get (most) things done on most days. As Dan has frequently mentioned, 80% is a great target. If you can aim to hit the most beneficial aspects 80% of the time, you’ll be doing – and feeling – pretty awesome.
Neither myself nor wild gym are affiliated with anything mentioned here. We didn’t get free samples and we aren’t paid for mentioning them. They are just things that I have found that help me to be more efficient so I can make the most of my most precious resource – time.
#1. Time Management with Notion
I have a drawer full of notebooks, planners, and calendars. My Google Drive is so full of sheets, docs, and folders that I can’t find what I need. I have notes, post-its, and random piles of paper stashed everywhere. A tool that works well for one aspect of life, doesn’t work for another. For example, for me to find a recipe I have to know where I saw it: is it a bookmark? Was it on Pinterest? In a cookbook? I’ll buy ingredients when are are shopping and forget what they are for a few days later.
Recently, my son introduced me to Notion which is a website and app that can organize a lot of information in one place. I can use it from both my computer and my phone. I am still figuring out everything it can do, but so far I’ve been impressed and it’s already helped me improve my organization. I can easily link a recipe to each day of the week. I can have a weekly to-do list that I can add things to quickly. If I am on a call with Dan and he asks me to do something, I can put it in Notion rather than write it down on a sheet of paper I’ll probably lose when I clear the table. I can plan my workouts and set goals for my nutrition. The best part is that Notion free for personal use. Other people make their own templates for it which you can easily find and utilize yourself. I currently use functions like the recipe box, task lists, calendar, to-do lists, daily nutrition goals, and lists for books, documentaries to watch, and podcasts to listen to. I can’t tell you how many times I see a podcast mentioned on Instagram that I want to listen to only to forget to add it. I save posts but admittedly almost never go back to look at what I saved. Notion helps me to prioritize and I waste less time looking for my materials.
#2. Nutrient-dense meal planning
I like a lot of variety in my food so I am not big on the style of meal prepping where you cook on Sunday and eat the same thing every day. My tastebuds get bored and then I end up eating junk. It is my goal to get as much nutrition as I can but without having to think too much about it. Every weekend, I plan out my lunches for the week. I don’t eat breakfast and my husband usually plans our dinners which lets me off the hook. Lunch is actually my biggest meal of the day so I pack as much nutrition into it as I can into it.
Even my morning coffee get a boost as I add chaga – which I am able to forage locally so it’s free – turmeric, ginger, black pepper and sometimes nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom. Turmeric/curcumin is one of the few things that is turning out to be worth the hype as science puts it to the test. But it is much more bioavailable when consumed with black pepper. I love curry and eat it often, but I don’t eat it daily and so this is how I can get the benefit of daily turmeric and make it more available for my body to use. It does take a little getting used to having spices in your coffee, I make sure to swirl the coffee in my mug before drinking otherwise I end up with a mouthful of spice at the bottom!
For lunch, I aim to include as many nutrients as I can. For example, today I am having salmon with spring greens+spinach, carrots, red bell pepper, ½ an avocado, and roasted chickpeas and pumpkin seeds with just a bit of fresh lemon juice and olive oil on top. Plus a small bowl of homemade yogurt with foraged blueberries from summer. Adding salmon and avocado to salad means that meal will last me easily until dinner and is packed with healthy fats.
An evening snack might be an apple with some spices. I don’t eat again until lunch the next day. Like Dan, I am not really an intermittent faster, persay, but I definitely notice a difference when I give my body several hours to digest before I go to bed. I sleep better, I have more energy when I wake up, and I just naturally find I am not hungry again until 11am which is when I have lunch.
Other go-tos that make it easy to pack in extra nutrition: a whole grain bowl with roasted veggies and shrimp, curry, soup that I make with home made broth, steelcut oats with walnuts, blueberries and almond butter etc. All of those things make it really easy to pack the nutrients in.
#3. The Instant Pot
I cannot sing the praises of this electric pressure cooker enough. I have had the Instant Pot (IP) for quite a few years and it’s been a game changer. There are so many things I can make it in without having to babysit the food. I love steelcut oats in the winter, but I don’t have the time to stand at the stove for 40 minutes while it cooks, but if I don’t stand there, I will forget and burn it. I can put them in the IP and they are ready in half the time, plus they will keep in there until I get to them. I also use it for boiled eggs, soups, and my two favorite things: making broth and yogurt.
Instead of putting a pot of bones and veggies on the stove to simmer for a whole day, the Instant Pot can get it done in a few hours. Plus because it is sealed you don’t lose anything to evaporation.
Not all versions of the IP have a yogurt function, but it’s worth the investment in my opinion. Decent Greek yogurt here is $3 for a small cup. For the cost of a gallon of milk I can make 3 quarts/liters of yogurt. I also don’t have to weed out the added ingredients you often find in the store bought yogurt. If you have an IP and want to try the yogurt, this is the recipe I use.
The IP makes the list because of how much time it saves me. It also has the benefit of the foods retaining their flavors, compared to a slow cooker which (at least to me) tends to make everything taste the same.
#4. Rituals, AKA Routines
Even though part of me resists feeling restrained by routines, I actually enjoy all the little rituals I set up throughout the day. Calling it a “ritual” instead of a “routine” makes it feel like more of a choice I get to do that has a purpose rather than a demand.
If I don’t have rituals, nothing gets done. You know that law of physics that says “An object in motion stays in motion (or at rest) unless acted upon by an outside force”? That’s me. I have to produce the outside force that gets me moving, and it’s not something I excel at. Once I get busy with my day, I can stay busy for hours. But if I start my day by looking at Reddit, I might be there for hours. I don’t go to bed on time, I don’t eat until I am entering hangry space, and I don’t accomplish the things I wanted to.
I am lucky to have a lot of flexibility in my work, but for me, having too much free time can make it harder for me to get anything done. I feel like I have endless time and then it’s 5pm and I have no idea where the day went. Rituals keep me on track. I don’t necessarily follow a strict time for everything, it’s more a flow that carries me through the day. I have rituals for: morning, lunch, work, workouts, evening, and bedtime. The morning and bedtime ones are the most vital to ensuring my day is off to a good start. Even though the evening and bedtime routines happen one day, they are really about ensuring a good tomorrow. It makes my day feel like the ocean tides that I can flow along with rather than a tsunami I have to fight against.
This is how I get the junk out of my head. I know not everyone is like this, but I have a stream of 4-5 “conversations” going on in my head at all times and it can make it difficult to figure out which ones need priority, and which ones are worthy of listening to versus the ones that like to bring intrusive thoughts.
Every morning I sit down and write. Some days I might fill a page, other days I am there for an hour or more funneling out the junk so I can make use of the good stuff. Journaling is what allows me to set priorities and to not get lost in my monkey mind. It reminds me of how we used to defragment computer hard drives. The information gets sorted into something that makes more sense, weeding out the junky thoughts and organizing the useful information. Journaling helps me to use my values to direct my decisions rather than getting lost in negative thought patterns. I just put the pen to the paper and see what comes out. Sometimes I write about the happenings in our family life or work. Other times I write about random memories. The funny thing is that no matter what the first few sentences are, I always land in a very different place. Sometimes it’s just bushwhacking a path to clear my thoughts and other times I arrive at meaningful insights that I didn’t expect.
My favorite journal is the plastic-covered Mead Composition Notebook. It’s a great size and the plastic cover means that it’s protected, so when I bring it with hiking or on a trip, it doesn’t get worn and dirty. For journaling, I absolutely have to do it on paper. I don’t get nearly the same result by typing as I do writing. Different information comes out when I writing versus typing. My time spent on the computer is largely logical and analytical, so when I type, that is what tends to come out rather than being able to dig into the deeper stuff that really gets roiling around in my head. I use both mediums, it’s just that typing tends to put me in a particular mindset compared to writing which lets things flow more creatively. For my fellow pen lovers, my favorites are the Twsbi 580 Diamond fountain pen and the Pilot Precise V7.
These few areas have helped me to be more efficient with my time so I can put my thoughts and focus where it’s needed the most. Being more efficient leaves me more time and mental bandwidth for what matters the most.
What kinds of tools and hacks have you found to be more efficient with your time or space so that you can still focus on your health goals when life gets crazy? I’d love to hear about it!
Have a wild weekend!