You probably know you should exercise, get enough sleep and eat right. But if you’re like most entrepreneurs, chances are, you’re telling yourself that you don’t have the time. If you’re wondering how to fit healthy habits into an already packed schedule, these simple science-backed tips will help you feel great even when you work nights, put in 11 or 12 hour days, or travel non-stop.
1. Sleep strategically. You probably thought that you’d never have to pull another all-nighter after college, but many entrepreneurs find themselves burning the midnight oil years after graduating. If you need to work all night and don’t want to feel awful the next day, try banking on sleep. Studies have shown that sleeping the recommended amount of time (seven to nine hours a night) several days before your all-nighter can reduce the negative effects of a single sleepless night. During the all-nighter itself, consider a power nap. Research has shown that even a 15 to 20 minute nap will make you more alert.
2. Stay focused. Your natural instinct may be to look for candy when you need a quick energy fix, but refined sugar is not a sustainable source of energy. When you eat sugar, your brain compensates for the extra glucose in your blood by producing serotonin, which causes a sugar crash. Even worse, studies on rats have shown that sugar impairs memory and slows learning processes. Ditch the sugary snacks and reach for trail mix, granola bars, and yogurt instead to keep your energy levels up. When it comes to coffee, don’t overdo it! Four cups a day is a safe amount for most adults, but you should spread them out to avoid getting jittery. Finally, a good way to stay awake is to chew gum, which has been proven to increase alertness and boost positivity.
3. Boost creativity. Research has shown that healthy eating affects more than our physical health: eating more fruits and vegetables makes us more creative and enhances our wellbeing, which in turn improves workplace productivity. How to fit a healthy diet into a busy schedule? Time management is key: chop up vegetables on Sunday afternoon, plan meals ahead, and consider replacing one meal a day with a protein shake. Exercise is another creativity-booster: just two minutes of physical activity can make you more creative.
4. Fit in some high-intensity, but short exercise. If you don’t have a lot of time, aim for short but intense full-body workouts, which burn more calories than training separate parts of the body. Some simple ways to incorporate quick full-body exercises into your routine are installing a pull-up bar in your home, buying a jump rope, and doing burpees. Exercising on the road is also feasible, even when you’re miles away from the nearest gym. Research suggests that exercise routines such as circuits or HIIT (high intensity interval training) are highly effective for burning fat and building muscle. The best part? You can do them in your hotel room.
5. Hack travel. Yes, it’s possible to stay healthy even when you travel! Frequent flyers often catch the common cold; to protect your immune system, start taking vitamin C and B-complex a few days before your flight and use hand sanitizer while you’re in the air. To reduce travel-related stress, try some quick research-backed trips to relax, such as drinking green tea, meditating for five minutes or putting your worries down on paper.
Finally, be honest with yourself. If doing great work is important to you, research shows that your wellbeing should be on top of your list of priorities. Neglecting your health is expensive and bad for productivity. Sleep deprivation impairs cognitive function, making it harder for you to concentrate. In other words, sacrificing your health so you can get more done makes no sense. Instead of telling yourself that you don’t have time for healthy habits, examine your daily routine. Do you scroll through your news feed for hours every day? Do you waste hours in pointless work meetings? Find time for exercise, healthy meals and some quality shut-eye by identifying and reducing useless activities.