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How to fit in all your wellbeing to-dos each day

We all want to be calm, clear-headed and fit, but it can feel like you need to hire your own EA or quit your day job if you want to tick all of the recommended “wellness” boxes each day.

There are only so many waking hours and fitting in all of that strength training, food prepping, relationship investing, financial managing, pelvic floor activating, flossing, decluttering and journaling can be an overwhelming prospect.

When it comes to creating routine, combine old and new habits to gain momentum.Credit:iStock

We turned to executive coaches to find out how they help the world’s busiest people prioritise self-care in already packed calendars, so we can follow suit.

Look for lost time

If it feels there are not enough hours in the day, Dr Jo Lukins, who has spent more than 25 years coaching high performers, suggests taking an “audit” of your typical week to get an understanding of how you’re spending your time.

“How many hours working, caring for others, personal care, sleep, physical activity, education, domestic duties, hobbies and relax time?” she asks.

“Once you know what you are doing, you can start to understand the opportunities for tweaking what you are doing and understand what is missing.”

From there, Dr Lukins suggests looking for easy productivity wins to free up some windows for what you need.

“Find the ‘low hanging fruit’ – the easy wins that have the most significant impact,” she suggests.

“It might be going to bed half an hour earlier, automating your grocery shop with home delivery or [limiting] the time spent on social media or doom-scrolling … and replace that with something more positive and helpful.”

Try ‘habit stacking’

If you’ve got some good habits dialled, consider if you can tack anything new on to take the thinking out of it.

“I love combining old and new habits together to turn them into part of my daily routine,” says Jamie Lee, co-founder of The Kind Friend journal, used by executives from Google, TikTok and Facebook.

“For example, I’m a coffee drinker and every morning I combine my coffee routine with journaling, [which] allows me to take advantage of the momentum already there.”

Similarly, Headspace health coach Dr Rachael Skews, has a running date with her husband every Friday night, simultaneously ticking off relationship investment and the day’s exercise.

“We run slow enough that we can have a conversation for a couple of hours to decompress from the working week – we get time together and I get my half iron man training in,” she says.

Dr Skews recalls working with a stressed executive who wasn’t doing his mindfulness “homework” so she found a way to bundle it with something else he loved.

“I asked him what brings a sense of vitality and meaningfulness and joy to his world – he said, ‘Gardening with my children’,” she recalls.

“So I said, ‘Your homework is to mindfully garden with your children – if you notice yourself thinking about something different, bring yourself back to the present moment’.”

“Instead of saying, ‘I don’t have time’, many executives would ask themselves whether the task is a priority or not – by changing our language it reminds us that how we use our time is a choice and that we are all given 24 hours in a day.”

Know your purpose

Consider where particular self-care practices fit into your big picture goals.

“It’s very important to explore the intent and purpose behind your wellness to-dos – for some people it might be to achieve the feeling of gratitude and aliveness, for others it might be to fit into smaller clothing size. If you can have clarity behind your actions, you’ll be more likely to stay motivated in building these habits,” Lee says.

“Instead of saying, ‘I don’t have time’, many executives would ask themselves whether the task is a priority or not – by changing our language it reminds us that how we use our time is a choice and that we are all given 24 hours in a day.”

Dr Skews says that a lot of people’s key driver is their family, so incorporating family time with your wellness pursuits is often a no-brainer.

“A client of mine was doing Headspace meditations with her kids,” she says.

“As a psychologist, my background is in acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) [which can involve] taking action towards what matters to you in your life – this sense of, ‘Where do you want to go? What things are important to you in your life? What do you feel you would love to prioritise?’”

Look for little opportunities

Demanding careers and caregiving can definitely get in the way of self-care, but Dr Lukins says we often need to re-frame the available windows we have for wellness.

So while your lifestyle might not lend itself to a 10-kilometre run or a 90-minute yoga class right now, a jog around the block or a 20-minute online vinyasa can still do wonders.

“I am a massive fan of the phrase ‘Some is better than none’,” she says.

“Find things you enjoy and do what you can. Be kind to yourself when it doesn’t all go the way you planned.”

Take a breather

It’d be nice to cap off each day with chickpeas soaking, journal completed, and exercise ticked but Dr Skews says sometimes the thing we need most is a break.

“If you are not getting the rest and recovery you need, you’ll burn out,” she says.

For a lot of people, starting with prioritising sleep or some scheduled downtime can be the most powerful game changer for our health and head space.

“I worked with an emerging professional who felt he was always on the go, but his efficiency and productivity was ineffective when the wheels were spinning,” Dr Lukins recalls.

“I encouraged him to get more sleep by setting an alarm to go to bed two hours earlier. As a result, he woke naturally, an hour before his alarm, walked his dog before breakfast and then made his lunch so he didn’t have to buy it – the result was he was eating healthier; saving money; better regulated; feeling better in himself; and proud of his achievements.”

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