Poor Time Management is Bad for Your Health

Back Web Only Feb 8, 2019 By Lisa Montanaro

We’re all too busy for our own good — and our health is suffering.

When I speak to large groups of professionals about time management and productivity, I ask the audience to do a self-assessment exercise. One of the most important questions I ask is: “What is one activity that you would like to do every day?”

Regardless of age, gender, career, marital status, etc., respondents invariably rank activities to improve their health — exercise, eating better, sleeping more — at or near the top of the list. This got me to thinking that lack of time management is standing in the way of many leaders living a healthier life.

When you think of any exercise or diet program, one of the main components is making time — time to exercise, sleep, take your vitamins, shop for nutritious food, prepare that food, sit down and eat it. For many people, when their lives get busy and stressful, their health habits are one of the first things to go. Yet, exercise and eating well are actually more likely to help us during times of stress.

If you want to be a healthier leader, the key is time management. To help boost your success, here are time-management tips geared toward living a healthier lifestyle for the time-crunched leader:

Calendar it In. In Neil Fiore’s book, The Now Habit (a great little book on procrastination), he emphasizes the practice of adding everything to your calendar, even activities that most people wouldn’t think belong there. He calls this the Unschedule because it deals with typically unstructured activity. Most people schedule in appointments and planned phone calls. They also layer on social events to attend. But they almost never think to add activities such as exercise, meals and adequate amounts of sleep. Because those activities don’t usually get precious space on the calendar, they tend to get placed at the bottom of the priority order. Get them on the calendar.

Honor Appointments With Yourself. The key to the Unschedule method is that you not only add healthy activities to your schedule, but you honor them. We tend to honor appointments with other people, but not with ourselves. Honor the appointment to exercise the same way you would if you had made it with another person. Do the same thing for sitting down and eating meals, rather than skipping them or grabbing something unhealthy. When I have a busy day, I sometimes forget to eat. So, I schedule meal time on my calendar and set a reminder. Sounds silly, but it works.

Plan Ahead for Healthy Eating. When we’re on the go, we often don’t make healthy choices. Stock your refrigerator and pantry (and your car, office, briefcase and purse) with healthy grab-and-go snacks, such as fruit, vegetables, low-fat yogurt and cheese, almonds and granola bars. Use any free time on the weekends to cook larger portions so you have healthy leftovers during a busy work week. I use Alexa to generate my shopping list by calling things out to her in the kitchen when I notice something is running low, which means I don’t have to waste time in the grocery store trying to remember what I needed.

Engage in Good Forms of Multi-Tasking. Multitasking can be an effective way to add healthy habits into your schedule as a busy leader. Meet clients and colleagues for “exercise meetings,” enjoying racquetball, tennis or side-by-side treadmill runs while getting work done. Suggest “walking staff meetings” for your team, where you brainstorm ideas and share updates about work while walking together. If you must take phone calls after work hours, conduct them while on the elliptical or treadmill. Start a potluck day where workers bring in a healthy lunch to share, and everyone goes home with leftovers.

A realistic plan of exercise and diet is one of the most important changes you can make to improve the quality of your life and work, physically and emotionally. Getting fit will give you more energy to be a better leader. Plus, you will be modeling positive behaviors for your team, which can have a domino effect and lead to a healthier overall workplace.

So the next time you find yourself saying “I don’t have time to [fill in the blank with any type of health and fitness activity],” remember that the key to being a healthier leader — and overall person — is time management. Then put some of these time-management tips to good use.


Glenn Mandelkern (not verified)February 14, 2019 - 11:56am

I once heard this observation that we really can't manage time. In many other forms of management, we make progress by either adding or trimming, e.g., increase sales or cut costs to generate more profit. Yet with time, there's nothing we can really do to gain or lose more than the 24 hours we get each day. We can't acquire a 25th hour.

The suggestion was then made that while we can't manage time, we can indeed manage priorities. We can then decide what will we spend more of our time on and consequently what we will choose to do less of. This us more available to what matters to us and others we deem important in our business and personal lives. We'll also be more effective.