One Simple Way to Free up More Time For Exercise (or any Recreation)

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It’s one of the biggest forms of internal resistance we face in our modern culture: “I don’t have enough time.”

It’s true that this statement is often used as an excuse, but the bottom line is that we are busy. We feel like we don’t have enough time to do the basic things we need – or even the things we love. There are work commitments, family commitments, and a to-do list a mile long. Most of us are so busy we can barely even think, let alone make time for extra, non-essential activities such as exercise. It’s hard enough putting money in the bank and keeping food on the table day after day.

Let’s face it. We’re busy people.

Well, there is definitely some truth to those statements, but there’s also some truth to the notion that anyone can free up more time in their schedule so they can start doing the things they love. The cool part is that it’s much simpler than you might think. And I’m not just talking about 5-10 minutes here or there – even though that can add up if you manage your time well. I’m talking about potentially freeing up hours and hours of your schedule. What could you do with a few more hours today?

What do the statistics say?

According to the Nielsen Three Screen Report (Q1, 2010), the average American spends over 35 hours watching television every single week! There’s no need to rub your eyes. You read that right. That’s about 5 hours every single DAY. That same report states that adults also spend an average of 27 hours surfing the internet each month – almost an hour each day. There’s more info on cell phone and other media usage, too.

It’s really too bad that Nielsen doesn’t study other activities such as using email and attending work meetings. I’d also like to know how much time we lose from things like procrastination, lack of organization, lack of planning, interruptions, etc.

Now, I know these are just statistics, and I also know the vast majority of my readers are NOT average people who spend all their time watching TV and surfing YouTube. But, given statistics of such magnitude, I’m willing to bet most people have a good bit of extra time at their disposal.

The Garbage Worksheet

Speaking of disposal, here’s one lifestyle strategy that I’ve used successfully to free up more time over the past several years. It’s been called by many names, but it’s little more than a standard method of simplification. This is a basic lifestyle strategy spun from minimalism, and you can read about it all over minimalist-themed websites. I don’t wear minimalism as a badge of honor, but I do try to live by the concept. I like to call this particular method the “take out the garbage strategy.” I know, it’s catchy, right?

Step 1 – Take a piece of paper and draw a vertical line down the middle of it, separating the sheet into two sections. One the left, I want you to make a list of all the things that unnecessarily take up your precious time. These items could be classified as time-wasters. They don’t contribute to anything beneficial, or they distract from those things which are. This can be your list of “Garbage Activities.” Your list will be unique, but some examples of things that you could include are:

1) watching TV
2) internet surfing
3) reading magazines
4) video or computer games
5) watching movies “just to pass the time”
6) regularly staying up too late
7) working too much or too late, etc.

Obviously, this list could go on and on. The key is that you identify things that YOU do so that you know what to look out for. Write that list down on paper. Don’t just archive the data points in your head (this is also known as “forgetting”). Writing has a way of cementing these thoughts into your memory so that they are “on your mind” in the future.

Step 2 – Now, on the right side, I want you to make a list of all the things that you’d like to have more time for. These are the habits you want and need to build; the positive activities that you want to incorporate into your lifestyle. We’ll call them “golden activities.” Some examples include:

1) fitness training
2) games, playing, or other recreation
3) cooking healthy and tasty meals
4) reading one of those books you’ve had laying around
5) getting a little extra sleep
6) practicing some joint mobility, yoga or other “soft” style of exercise
7) taking the dog for a daily walk

Now you’ve got a succinct analysis of some of your lifestyle goals. It should be as simple as swapping out the garbage activities for the golden activities, right? Not exactly.

If I were you, I’d select just one garbage activity to eliminate. Whether you go “cold turkey” or ease yourself off of it slowly is up to you. You know what kind of commitment you can handle. Then I would start integrating your golden activity into the time-frame that you would normally be doing the garbage. Take as long as you need. They say it takes 21 days to build a new habit, but I think it takes longer when replacing an old habit. In the end, you just need to do this exercise one goal at a time until you’re satisfied with your progress.


Keep in mind that garbage is constantly accumulating. Some people accumulate more than others, but it’s always building up. This is a great exercise for “taking out the garbage” in your lifestyle, but it’s important to take this a step further.

You see, the Garbage Worksheet is a quick-fix (you know how I feel about those). Sure, a quick-fix is nice because it works and provides immediate benefits, but this is only a starting point. The next step is to become more in tune with your true priorities, and constantly focus and refocus your efforts on those priorities, instead of allowing other time-wasters to take over your life.

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Fitness Professional

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