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How to Reclaim Your Time: A Guide to De-Cluttering Your Schedule to Make Room for Healthier Habits

A large part of why busy people struggle to make positive change when it comes to prioritising their health, wellbeing and personal performance, is that many of the things they'd like to achieve involve adding additional elements into their life.

  • Do more exercise

  • Eat more healthily

  • Sleep more

  • Spend more quality time with family and friends

  • Start meditating

The common theme is that all of these things demand time.

When the number one reason for not being able to deliver on all the healthy habits we'd like to achieve is, ‘I don’t have time!’

So, trying to solve the challenge of not having enough time with a load of time consuming solutions doesn’t look as though it will get very far.

Which is why we prefer a slightly different approach.

If you really want to experience quick results, and to be able to establish long-term change with health, wellbeing, energy and how you feel about every aspect of your life, forget giving yourself a whole load of extra work to do.

Instead, look first at what you can remove from your busy schedule.

It’s the ideal way to lay the groundwork for a healthy habits upgrade.

A spring clean if you like of habits, actions, routines and thought patterns that currently consume a lot of your time, but might not need to in the future.

So where exactly can you grab back time?

This is the fun part. 

This is the bit most people we work with get excited about. 

Because once you establish one or two things you can stop doing or do differently to make them more efficient, the process, along with the results, become quite addictive and it's a great challenge to see how much time you can make available to yourself each day


Because a few minutes every day can add up to hours across a week or a month.

And these will all be hours which you can choose to fill however you want.  That’s the ultimate prize.  But we’ll get to that...

Step 1: Improve your awareness of where your time goes

You can do this by keeping simple notes - either on paper, or electronically in the notes on your phone for example - detailing what you do, and how long tasks take.

If it helps you can add thoughts and observations that will help you move to a more positive situation.  Nir Eyal has a useful framework for doing this.  And he knows a thing or two about shaping behaviours.  He designed many of the addictive apps that most of us are now trying to spend less time on.  Thankfully he’s had a bit of a turnaround in his outlook and is putting his knowledge to a different use these days with his recent book, Indistractable, which is definitely worth a read.

In the meantime, his framework is great for raising awareness and planning some new strategies in relation to how you spend your time.

Step 2: Decide what you will do differently or, even better, remove from your schedule

Below are some suggestions of things you can eliminate. Firstly, three things to keep in mind:

i) Rest assured, if you dramatically feel the absence of anything you remove, you can make a conscious decision to reintroduce these things.

ii) Life is constantly changing so the things that are in your schedule and the things you don’t allow to feature will change during specific periods.  So we advise that you review your situation periodically to ensure that what you pay attention to, and what you don’t, is appropriate at every stage.  The key is that you are always making conscious choices.  And you are proactively running your schedule, not reacting to things that steal your time and energy.

iii) You should embark on this elimination routine to the extent that you’re comfortable with.  It could be one thing at a time, one thing a month or a week, or everything all at once.  

So what might you eliminate? 

To start you off, here's a list of 12 things I’ve experimented with living without or doing differently at various times, along with what I discovered from these experiments.

  1. A selection of Apps from my phone. I didn’t miss one of them. I didn’t reinstall any of them. I got back hours per week and probably weeks per year of useful time. I now remove any Apps I'm not using every 3 months.

  2. Email subscriptions. After one week of unsubscribing rather than simply deleting hundreds of messages, there's so much more time and energy to focus on what matters. 

  3. Push notifications.  The only thing they push is your attention away from what you'd rather be doing. Switching them off and checking comms channels periodically is an amazing way to reduce stress levels.

  4. Replying immediately / quickly to all emails. Would you rather receive the quickest response or the best response? Most people would agree with you so finish what you're doing before getting stuck into any distractions.

  5. Saying yes to all meetings. Only attend if you can add unique value or learn something you really need to know.

  6. Agreeing right away to meeting times / durations. Instead ask if meetings can take place within slots that suit you better and can be a maximum of 30-minutes long.

  7. Alcohol. Not one single downside. I got back time, energy, clarity of thought and fitness. This created time to read more and sleep better.

  8. A variety of TV channels from my provider bundle. I got more selective about what to watch which led to finding better ways to spend my time. 

  9. A Sunday morning exercise class.  This used to be great for holding the rest of the exercise week in place but I realised I no longer needed this accountability and there was a better use of this slot.

  10. Meeting friends at the pub. To support the removal of alcohol.  Now we meet for coffee, meet to walk or exercise or focus on some other activity.

  11. Buying lattes from coffee shops. I save hours per month from not traveling to buy these, not to mention saving money along with removing thousands of calories per year.

  12. Buying food on the go. While at first glance a reactive food routine may seem easier than meal planning, thinking about what to grab on the go actually costs a lot of time, energy and focus.  A little planning and some simple preparation for meals and snacks saves time and money.

There are many more ways to create time in any busy schedule - let us know in the comments what you've found successful in the past.

And what you might experiment with this year.

And, of course, what healthy habits you're excited about including in your schedule now that you've created plenty of time to accommodate them!



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