5 Ways to Make Time for Healthy Habits

Medically Reviewed by Carmelita Swiner, MD on June 09, 2022

Making healthier choices is sometimes as simple as making time. If you’re convinced that your day is already overscheduled and overbooked, think again: There might be a minute or two (or 10!) that you can use to work toward your food or fitness goals.

Decide what you truly want, and prioritize your life around it. Use these tips to help you fit in healthy habits.

For a day or two, keep a journal. Write down what you do and what time you do it, in real time. (Stayed an extra hour at work, 5:30-6:30 p.m., or Hit the snooze button, 7:00-7:15 a.m., for example.)

Then, evaluate. Does anything surprise you? Snoozing longer than you thought? Maybe that’s an extra 10 minutes of found time. Staying late at work consistently? Perhaps you can stay 45 minutes instead of an hour (or leave on time one day a week) and use the time to make a healthy dinner.

Sometimes, those “extra” minutes won’t jump out at you so easily. So when you’re reviewing your time journal, ask yourself:

  • What tasks take longer than they should?
  • Do I push my priorities aside to do things that seem urgent but are really less important?
  • What am I doing that someone else should be doing? What can I say no to?

Do you overestimate what’s realistic to get done in a day? Highly successful people often have very short to-do lists.

When you create your to-do list, pretend you have only about 80% of the time you think you do to get it all done. That can keep you from overloading yourself.

Set clear priorities at the start of each day, so you know what you need to finish by the end of it. Write down everything that “should” get done. Then edit it down to only the top few, and make sure they include your health goals.

Is your final number doable? Move things you know you won’t get to today to another day. That’s OK!

Spending hours picking the perfect font for your PowerPoint presentation? Or stressing over whether your toddler's clothes match?

Focus on completion, not perfection. It frees up more time for your healthy habits.

You want your day to be more productive, but you need rest, too. Skimping on shut-eye hurts your decision-making abilities and makes you likelier to binge-eat and less likely to exercise.

So the time you might take from your day to put toward your sleep gives you more than you lose.

Sleeping at least 7 hours a night leads to better and longer workouts, according to the Sleep Disorders Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Getting enough sleep helps with memory, coordination, and mood, too.

Check your time log to see if you have habits that keep you up late at night. Are you watching TV from 9 p.m. to midnight? Surfing the web?

You can save 10 minutes out of every 30 minutes of TV by watching them on DVR and zooming past commercials. Watch three shows a night? You've just banked 30 minutes for some healing ZZZs.

Morning is a great time to get things done, before other things intrude and pile up. Plus, you start the day with a big check mark on your to-do list.

Show Sources


John Murphy, author, Zentrepreneur: Get Out of the Way and Lead, Career Press, 2013; founder, Venture Management Consultants Inc., Grand Rapids, MI.

Laura Vanderkam, author, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, Portfolio Trade, 2011.

The New York Times: "Ask Well: Sleep or Exercise?" and "Yes, You Can: Sheryl Sandberg's 'Lean In.'"

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