Wednesday, 7 March 2012

We're working for CONTROL 99, not KAOS - 10 Tips and Tricks for Busy Lifestyles

I have worked in jobs where the hours are erratic, long or driven by events oustide your control and where overseas travel frequently interrupts 'normal' life.  I have, however, managed to lose weight while being pulled in a million different directions.  If the excuse "I'm so busy" is one that causes you to lose your motivation or give up 5 days out of 7, here's some tips and tricks that helped me Get Smart about sticking to my goals that might just work for you.


Up front, be totally honest with yourself and say "I am completely committed to reaching the goal I have set myself for this month." If you can't do that, don't bother trying to hold yourself to a standard you never intend to reach and then find at the end of each week you're saying to yourself "I missed it by that much"  All it does is set you up for failure and a conversation in which you beat yourself up.  No gunnas or woulda-coulda-shoulda conversations.  Just say, "I AM doing this."


For those who remember the TV show Get Smart, you'll know the inside joke about this one but for super busy people, you need to be organised.  If you work in a client-driven role or one where tight deadlines are a feature of life you need to get your exercise done in the morning.  Diarise it.  Really.  Diarise it.  When someone wants your time and you look in your diary, it will be there as an appointment that can't be moved.  Remember, most clients are flexible.  If the proposed time for a meeting clashes with your workout, go back with 3 possible time options that you can do.  You'll be seen as solution-oriented.

If you have a breakfast meeting, diarise your workout for lunchtime or the evening and GO.  Or get up earlier.   And go for the most convenient option.  If that means joining a gym 1 block away from your office, then that's the one to join, not the one that you are unlikely to get to.

Make sure you use time in your weekend to plan and shop for the week ahead.  Whether its cooking up a batch of meals you can freeze, having all the groceries you need for the week or diarising your workout - do it.

Planning also stops you from going through a whole week where you rollercoaster along out of control and then spend Friday night after drinks at the pub online with Calorieking trying frantically to remember what youv'e eaten, praying somehow you didn't blow more than 1200 (hopefully nutritious) calories on any given day and then finding you're scheduling in 6 hours of gym time on the weekend to make up for workouts you didn't do and lack of control over your food during the week.  If you think you're fooling anyone with that routine, the scales and your body will set you straight real quick.


There are times when working back late is simply unavoidable.  Typically your boss wants to lessen the burden of the team staying at work until midnight, so he / she orders pizza for the team.  My rule of thumb with office pizza is, each slice is another piece of fat on my ass and acknowledgement that I've lost a piece of time in my life for other things. I don't do pizza.

There are 2 tricks;

a) if you have a freezer and microwave at work, keep a frozen meal e.g. Penang Chicken, Mexican Cottage Pie (Lean Cuisine if you must) that you cooked on the weekend in the freezer at work or buy a salad at lunchtime you can keep in the fridge if it looks like you're going to be back late.  This way you have a healthy option on hand you can reheat or access while everyone is tucking into pizza.  I promise there will be people eyeing off your healthy option wishing they were eating that instead.

b) if you can call for pizza, you can call for healthy food too.  If you work in the CBD or a business area, chances are that local restaurants will do take out.  Grab a menu and have it on hand in the office.  Is there a local Japanese where you could order a bento box, Chinese where you can get a vegetable stir fry?  Try ordering that instead and be prepared to pay for something healthy if the boss won't.


Make your lunch at night before you go to bed and grab it in the morning to take with you.  This means you don't have to leave the office at 3pm searching for something to eat and finding all that is left is the last of greasy food or Maccas because the salad and sandwich shops have packed up for the day.

Keep snacks - fruit, muesli bars, rice cakes - at the office in an airtight container near your desk so that when you have a morning coffee, you are not tempted by the biscuit jar.  I can attest that the biscuit jar was one of my worst downfalls - ever!  I also think cleaning your teeth after lunch is another way to stop the afternoon munchies.

Eat your afternoon snack before you leave the office at night.  This will stop your car driving on autopilot through the fast food drive thru to pick up fries when you realise you've yet to cook dinner and you're starving. 


So you've left the office, you're on your way home and realise there's nothing in the house to eat.  You stop at the supermarket and suddenly aisle 4 is whispering chocolate to you and aisle 6 is screaming CHIPS!.  Remember this - shop the perimeter.  Supermarkets put all the fresh healthy food on the perimeter of the store and all the 'dead' food in the middle.  Stay on the perimeter and you can grab fruit and veg, meat, milk, bread and eggs - enough to whip up quick stir fry when you get home and have something healthy to get you out the door in the morning.


Client meetings or events that become lunches and dinners are unavoidable however most CBD restaurants have their menus online.  Check out what you are going to order before you get there. Order entrees only.  Go for something healthy. Avoid the breadbasket.    If its a set menu, eat only 1 course, or eat a third of an entree and a third of a main course, skip the dessert.

Don't underestimate that clients are sometimes very happy to have meetings during office hours.  Everyone values their time, use yours and your clients effectively.  Client lunches 5 days a week may not be necessary.  Look around at the men and women who are Sir Lunchalots - do they have the body you want?


I've worked in some seriously high stress jobs but often never felt stressed.  That's because I used to eat my stress;  biscuits, muffins, raisin toast in the morning, and lollies, chocolate, cake in the afternoon.  None of it filled me up, it only made me crave more.

Sometimes when I was in a job I hated, I'd get out of the office for 5 minutes and go for a walk or to eat lunch at 3pm and find myself eating garbage for something to do or to make myself feel strong enough to go back into a toxic work environment.  I should have addressed my work situation not medicated myself with food.  The trick was to listen to what was really going on in my head and deal with it, not avoid it, and to value myself enough that I was in control of my time, not at the mercy of pleasing everyone else.


I've worked closely with a number of CEOs, company chairpersons, and the like.  I can assure you, most of them have a pretty balanced life.  They have reached the top because most of them know how to delegate, how to prioritise, how to stay focussed on reaching their KPIs and goals that they have to present to a board each month.  Most consider their time very valuable, not only in a monetary sense, but in terms of how they spend it.  They are conscious of the fact that because they are constantly in demand, they have to control and set the framework for when they are and are not available, not say yes to everything and hope to god it works out.  They are expert at being visible within the organisation and being invisible.  They do go to the gym or go for a run.  They do switch off technology at certain times of the day.

For some of us it is a difficult but necessary lesson to learn (and it was a painful one for me) that the words 'doormat' are not tattooed on your forehead.  You have to learn when to say yes and no, when it is reasonable to do so, and understand that you don't have to explain your reasons.  It is enough to say "Sorry about that but I am not available that night, I have an existing committment I can't change."  or "That time is already taken but I do have these dates and times available."  If you tell people its to get to the gym or to have a life or to have time to cook dinner, they will make judgements about how to spend your time based on their values, not yours.  Don't feel the need to always explain yourself or be talked out of what is important to you.


I guarantee, the moment you look at your email, listen to your messages, or open your office door, the day can very easily get away from you.  I'll confess there are times at night where I'm alone in the office and loathe to shut down my computer because I have the vain hope that answering a couple more emails will somehow lessen the burden of my workload the next day.  Guess what?  It won't.  They will still be there along with a thousand other things. 
Use your time wisely.  Don't make work for others by, for example, sending 'cover-your-ass' emails and you'll notice others will start to reciprocate.  Use meeting times effectively.  Learn that you don't need to be first to know or at the centre of every bit of news, gossip and announcements.  Technology is designed to assist us, not drive our lives.

Stress and 24/7 lifestyles release cortisol into our bodies which makes it harder to lose weight (another lessen I learned the hard way).  Make sure you take time to do things you enjoy and have some quiet solitude and time for yourself.


Put a note on your bathroom mirror, or in front of your computer of positive statements about yourself or your committment and read it aloud each morning to keep it fresh in your mind.

At night have a journal beside your bed.  Each night, write a page of whatever is on your mind so that you can park your worries, clear your head, and leave behind the cares of the day.  Taking care of your mind is vital to taking care of your body.

Losing weight and being busy can be done but you have to be prepared to do the work.

I will write tips in another post on losing weight while travelling.  Are you busy?  Do you have any tips that work?  Please feel free to share them here.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic post Jacqueline - very thought provoking and problem solving.... sounds like you've had a lot of experience in figuring out these strategies. Thank you!