A friend asked me recently:
how did you fit exercise into your life–how did you actually make it work? I know what it’s like to work at Premera … plus you’re a husband and father. … I think a lot of people struggle with daily life taking over.
That’s 100% true. The struggle is real. The answer: I just make it happen.
How? Make it a priority and let other things fall by the wayside.
I read this answer from former Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca more than a few years ago and it has always stuck with me:
‘How could somebody as busy as you go to all those swim meets and recitals?’ “I just put them down on my calendar…”
Yes, he was talking about making appointments to be there as a parent. That’s one thing, and important. But, why stop there if it’s a priority? Just put it down on your calendar.
I’m a successful health insurance executive and I currently have on my work calendar a twice-a-week break in the middle of the day where I go to a nearby, outdoor pool for a lap swim and then come back to work. That’s just during the summer because swimming outside is great for both my physical and mental well-being. And if there is a true need or conflict at work, I won’t be able to leave. It also doesn’t detract from the amount of work I still have to accomplish in any given week. But, it’s just on my calendar.
Can everyone leave work in the middle of the day like that? No, but you can find time at some point in the day to focus on your health. Since my daughter is not yet 16, my workout schedule this past school year often revolved around her. I frequently worked out before taking her to school (for a painful 7:20 am start time)…and/or took a yoga class while she was at dance classes in the evening.
The same principle of prioritizing and making it happen applies to the rest of my life. I have four big priorities right now: being a husband, being a father, being a professional, and being healthy.
I don’t have time for more if I’m going to give those the attention they deserve.
Not on that list anymore:
- Watching TV shows, except Game of Thrones and Vikings (both of which have concise, limited seasons).
- Paying attention to politics. That used to be one of my things. I hardly follow it now, let alone participate.
- Playing video games or related entertainment. Do I like that stuff? Yep. Don’t have time for it though.
You know what else I don’t have time for? Wasting time at work.
I have a demanding job with a lot of responsibility. I’m very intentional now about being as efficient as possible, declining meetings I don’t need to attend, and trusting my team to do their work well. Otherwise, my job could suck the life out of me. And I’m a much better professional when my life is in balance anyway.
The root of that balance is when I started time-demanding training for a Tough Mudder, which pretty much required me to prioritize to stay sane. It helped then that my hardest training was when my kids were out of school for the summer. But, it still required me to set those same four priorities I hold today.
Why have I kept them? The husband, father, and professional ones speak for themselves. But, being healthy? Bluntly: I found I feel amazing when I’m eating well and staying fit, with related benefits for my mental, spiritual, and emotional health. Trust me, that’s so very worth it.
How do I stick with it now? Being relentless about not dwelling on things. This riff from a college friend resonates with me:
Q. What everyday thing are you better at than anybody else? A. Compartmentalizing. I have several fulltime focuses, but only a limited amount of emotional and mental energy to devote to each one. Here’s a visual for my process. Pretend each item you’re dealing with in life is a room where you have to walk in and solve an equation on a white board. You have a countdown clock with less than an hour to get the problem solved, or take a single step in the right direction, and then shut the door and go into another room equally as important. You spend your entire life going from compartment to compartment, and if that sounds hectic, that’s because it is. But I get a hell of a lot done and usually don’t get overly hung up over anything.
What’s your balance? What will allow you to move from room to room without getting hung up?
Find it. And do whatever you need to do to keep it.