Becoming Healthier Through Better Time Management

Last fall, I shared my commitment to get my weight under control and to become generally fitter and healthier.

You may have noticed how silent I’ve been on the topic since.

I want you to know that I have been working on it. I got an under-desk elliptical. I tried to integrate a daily walking habit into my life. I made some changes to my diet.

Becoming Healthier Through Better Time Management. Photo courtesy of

Becoming Healthier Through Better Time Management. Photo courtesy of

Phase 1: Changes

What I found was that the under-desk elliptical was good for preventing my blood pooling in my feet while sitting for long periods—but the position of it required me to stretch uncomfortably to reach my keyboard, and my knees continually hit my keyboard tray.

So I rearranged my desk (which is L-shaped) so I would sit at it differently, which helped a lot. And frankly, it made the whole space nicer to use and I’ve been able to keep it tidier, with less junk on the top to crowd my mental space, so that was bonus upon bonus.

But as far as fitness or weight loss, the elliptical did not seem to do much on its own. I don’t use it to the point where I break a sweat, so its benefits are mostly for my circulation (which is still something).

I also made some dietary changes which I thought I’d be able to stick to—restricting my intake of sugars and grain products while still allowing myself small amounts per day. I managed to stick to this strictly for a while, but when I didn’t start seeing results after a couple of weeks, I confess to letting it slide—especially through the holiday season.

As for the daily walking habit:

The plan was to walk around my house (because: winter) for forty minutes to an hour every day (and yes, I can work up a sweat doing that) while doing something I enjoyed to tempt me to stick to it—knitting and listening to music or interviews on YouTube.

The temptation bundling part of that worked—I finished several knitting projects and actually did do this activity for a while. That is, until I realized how much of my to-do list I was perpetually having to bump, and deadlines started creeping up on me.

And that’s when it all fell apart.

Phase 2: Discouragement

Despite the changes I’d made, my weight didn’t seem to be dropping.

In fact, I gained nine pounds, and for the last several months, I have held steady just below the 200 lb mark. (Shocked at that number? I’m shocked at how many people still tell me I look good when I am 45-50 lbs overweight. I’m tall, so that probably makes a difference. And also, they’re probably just being nice.)

Between that and the deadline crunches, the daily walking habit disappeared.

But not my desire or commitment to get healthy. As my weight crept higher and even my “fat pants” started to feel snug, I grew more determined to find a way to make this work. After all, if I’m going to buy new clothes because I’ve changed sizes again, I don’t want them to be a size bigger!

In thinking about where my real problem in the process is, I realized it was my overcrowded schedule (and my over-reliance on bread products in my limited dietary options—I already avoid dairy and nightshades completely and limit legumes and squash).

What I needed was a plan if I wanted any of this to change.

Phase 3: Organization

I don’t know if you can save the world through better time management, but this week, I’ve proven that you can start losing weight that way.

My work week schedule was 57 hours long, which allowed me approximately 48 hours of “off time” from Friday evening to Sunday evening to spend with my family. Yes, I work from home, so I’m here “with” them all the time, … but I’m still working.

Weekends are when I get to have tea with my hubby, coffee with my friends, down time with my kids, etc. When my initial walking plan fell apart, they were also the only time I could squeeze in a walk—and it still didn’t happen every weekend.

So, last weekend, I figured out how I can fit an hour daily walk into my schedule without my other required activities suffering.

I also decided to go on a two-week grain fast to try to reset my brain and my gut. (“Two weeks” because I am taking a trip next weekend to promote my new book, The Undine’s Tear, and with my long list of dietary restrictions, knew I would probably fudge a little while travelling. But I think I’ll go back on the fast afterwards, because it’s helping.)

There are certain things in my schedule that I won’t sacrifice—getting enough sleep, for instance. I used to short myself on a regular basis, and I just can’t and won’t do it anymore. No one likes me when I’m tired, especially not me. But what do you sacrifice when your week is already structured to the max?

After spending an hour wrestling with nailing down my schedule a little tighter and deciding that there are a few “fluffier” activities I could cut back on for at least a few minutes a day, I also decided that I would save a lot of time if I fasted for breakfast. There is a lot of research on the benefits of prolonged fasting, but my habit has been to eat all day—a holdover from the raging metabolism of my youth that started fading at least ten years ago.

Then on Monday, I found two apps that are helping me stick to my new plan:

RescueTime, which runs in the background of your devices and tells you how much time you spend on different sites and applications throughout the day—so there’s no fudging to yourself about how you really spend your time.

And Timely, an app that uses RescueTime to supply the information for its AI engine.

Timely lets me keep track of how all those different activities I did on my devices during the day actually relate to my work, so I can see if I’m sticking to my plan for where my time goes, and helps me see where I need to adjust my plan or my schedule. As the AI engine learns from what I do, those schedule allotments are supposed to become automatic, and all I have to do at the end of the day is review them and accept them with a click.

1 Week In

I started my fast and daily walk on Sunday. This time, the walking is outside, since spring is here. (Added benefits: fresh air and Vitamin D!) I’m also trying out an Audible subscription and started listening to a free podcast series about habits (I figured it was fitting) and a fantasy novel (Elantris by Brandon Sanderson) I’ve been wanting to read for a year.

I have managed to walk every day this week—which might be a lifetime record for me. Even back in the days when I had a regular habit, I rarely went five days in a row. (Six, after today.)

I’ve also managed to mostly stick to my new schedule plan. I’m learning how to use my new apps, and I’ve also succeeded in fasting until noon each day.

By Wednesday, I was curious, so I stepped on the scale, steeling myself against disappointment—and found I had already lost two pounds! That was the first time the scale had moved in months.

So, it’s working. I like the walk, and after five days, the soreness is starting to go away. I feel good about how I’m managing my other activities and don’t feel like my production schedule is suffering because I’m taking an hour a day to go for a walk. I’ve actually shifted my daily schedule to go to bed and get up a half hour earlier, and I’m enjoying that change, too.

I don’t know how much of a wimp I’ll be in bad weather—maybe I’ll simply go back to walking in the house on days like that. But in general, I’m noticing a mental shift over the last year, where I want to be outside and doing things more. It’s amazing how long the effects of a major loss and trauma can last. In a month, it will have been four years since we lost Levi, and I know that I am still working my way out of what it did to my body—never mind my emotions. At any rate, I am thankful that I actually want to be active again. And I’m taking advantage of it, because I know that activity feeds itself, and the inertia of doing something should keep me going.

And, after what I’ve learned about habits this week, I know I’ve already taken quite a few steps to make sure it does.

As I mentioned above, I’ve got a busy week coming up, because The Undine’s Tear comes out on Tuesday! Yippee!

I’ve got a whole slew of public events happening this week. If you could make it out to one, I’d love to see you! (I’m putting in an events widget. I know that as they pass, they’ll no longer be relevant to this post, but this way, you can click on the one that interests you and add it to Google Calendar. Or you can join the event on my Facebook page, if that’s what you prefer.)

I’ll have copies of the book in hardcover and paperback with me to sell at these events, and most of the stores will be keeping some, too, so if you can’t make it out, pop in there and pick up a signed copy later. Or you can order online—preorders are already available. Check out the book’s page to get direct links.

Happy weekend, friend! I hope you make it a good one!