How to Make Time to Workout with a Busy Work Schedule

How to make time for the gym with a busy schedule

Working out is one of those things we all know we should do. However with work, appointments, driving the kids and other priorities, it can seem impossible to squeeze in time to workout.

I personally know first hand how difficult it can be with a busy work schedule to workout. Back in the day, as a professional, my desk job required me to spend pretty much the entire day at the office.

Upon arriving back home, I would typically help out with dinner, and then drive the kids to soccer in the evening. Maybe there would be a grocery store or another errand somewhere in the mix. On the weekends I had a little bit more free time, however, I still dealt with various errands, or travel for work as well.

Regardless, it is clear that I had very little free time on my hands to work out.

However, over the years I have mastered how to make time to workout with such a busy work schedule.

You might be thinking “your life is different than mine… what you do to manage your time might not work for me”.  You should know that I have helped hundreds of people that have all struggled to manage their time. I have heard the same stories from business professionals to graduate students.

Everyone claims that that the reason why they cant work out is that they don’t have time to work out because of their busy schedules.

No matter what you have going on in your life, there are simple but effective ways to carve out just enough time to get some exercise in.

How to make time to workout with a busy schedule- 20 tips and tricks

You can also check out my fitness journey to see how I was able to lose weight and gain muscle by exercising onlly 90 minutes a week.

1. Multi-task

making time for the gym

Multi-tasking by exercising while accomplishing your typical daily activities can take a little bit of creativity. When done right though, you can get a full workout in over the course of your day without even hitting the gym.

For example, if you happen to have a baby that you usually push around in a stroller, as a mother or father you should consider investing in a jogging stroller. This way, your typical walk around the neighborhood with your young one can turn into a full out jogging session. If you have a dog that you normally walk, start to run with him instead. Your dog might appreciate the exercise as well!

2. Have a written plan

Take a moment to take out a piece of paper or pull up a digital calendar (Google calendar is good for this) and fill out your obligations for the week. For instance, Monday through Friday you may work from 9-5, so jot that down. Maybe you have to buy some groceries on Wednesday so jot that down. Maybe you have to take the car to the shop on Thursday so pencil that in. Block off each and every activity that you have to do and be as specific as you can be. 

From there you can see in front of you exactly where you have free time. Utilize those spaces of free time by blocking them off with a new priority that you need to accomplish day by day in your weekly schedule- working out!

3. Let others help out

To cut out more time for yourself it is important to reassess what activities you can hand off to others. For instance, you may want to hire someone to mow your lawn instead of doing it yourself. Better yet if you have kids old enough to mow the lawn, hire them to do it for you!

In a company setting, you may want to consider handing off various professional tasks to others. For instance, at the end of the day, if you can cut off 15 minutes by handing off some tasks to others, you can stop at the gym for a quick gym session before making it back home.

If you really don’t know what tasks could be delegated to others in your life, start by making a list of simple tasks whenever you come across them such as taking the dog out to use the bathroom. If you know that perhaps another family member has some extra time to do this task ask them if they can help out.

4. Give yourself some incentive

budgeting time for exercise

Give yourself a nice little reward at the end of the week for completing whatever task you intend to accomplish. For instance, you might tell yourself “if I work out 4 days a week for the next month, I will go out and buy myself that pair of golf clubs I have been thinking about”. Maybe you might think “If I spend 30 minutes at the gym for 5 days out of the week for the next two week I will go out with my buddies for drinks”.

Short-term incentives such as these are excellent ways to motivate yourself with an end goal in sight. The only problem is that you have to discipline yourself to meet these end objectives. Do not reward yourself if you don’t get there!

5. Choose to be active anywhere

There are various times especially around the office where you very well could be engaging in exercise when you normally wouldn’t be. For instance, while on that 45-minute phone meeting where you listen to the drone of half a dozen other voices, do 10 squats in a row followed by 10 push-ups in a row.

Make a few remarks over the phone and then do it again if you so wish. Maybe instead of taking that new client out to dinner, you should invite him to play a quick round of golf to get the blood moving. We have the choice every day to make ordinary tasks into opportunities for exercise. You just have to think outside the box a little bit.

6. Sign up for fitness classes

Sign up for fitness classes for the next few weeks. Don’t worry if you might have some conflicting events in the way of these classes. Just sign up for them.

It might be stressful but you need to design your schedule around these fitness classes. For instance, you might have a doctors appointment at the same time as one of your fitness classes. No sweat, just reschedule that appointment. The whole point of this is to make fitness one of your top priorities and then adjusting your daily activities around this new priority. It might be a little tricky adjusting to this change at first. After the first two weeks or so, however, it will feel like a normal routine.

7. Catch your negative thoughts

negative thoughts

Confucius once said “He who says he can and he who says he can’t are both usually right”. There is a lot of truth behind that quote.

If you tell yourself “I cant workout today, I have too much to do” or, “there is no way I can get any exercise this coming work week as the quarter winds down” you probably won’t end up working out. However, if you tell yourself “yes, although this work week is going to be extremely busy, I will make time for 20 minutes of exercise a day” you change the way you think about working out. By acknowledging that working out very well is a possibility no matter how busy your week is and actually believing that you can take some time out to exercise you will be much more likely to make fitness a priority. More on how to stop negative thinking here. 

8. Use a timer

If you are worried that working out will take too much time out of your day, ask yourself “What if working out only took 10 minutes out of my day. Could I get everything else I need to accomplish out of the way as well?”. If the answer is yes, then make your workout last exactly 10 minutes out of your day. Grab a stopwatch or a timer on your phone and set it for exactly 10 minutes.

Proceed to do 10 minutes of perhaps shadow boxing or jumping jacks. Really focus on making every minute quality exercise since 10 minutes is not very long, to begin with. After your time is up, feel free to get back to what you were doing before.

9. Workout at home

This is an obvious way to cut the time of your workout down significantly. Driving to the gym can take some people 5 minutes. For others, the drive is more like 30 minutes. For those that have a longer commute to the gym, you may want to consider doing bodyweight exercises at home.

Believe me, you can certainly exhaust your body without the gym. For instance, doing HIIT workouts of intense bodyweight exercises for only 25 minutes will leave you feeling exhausted.

Besides, who wants to run on a treadmill at the gym when you can easily take a run around the neighborhood at home and enjoy the scenery?

10. Get up early

Wake up to workout

One of the best habits you can get into is waking up early to workout. In terms of time management, it can be a huge weight off your shoulders to simply get your workout done first thing in the morning. You won’t have to worry making time for exercise later on in the day.

This brings up another point… do you think you could cut back on sleep? Perhaps instead of getting a full 9 hours of sleep, you might be fully capable of performing just as well in you’re everyday activities getting 8 hours of sleep instead. This would leave you a full hour to work out that you otherwise would sleep through.

Now sleep is important. If you are exhausted during the day because you regularly don’t get enough sleep, this strategy might not be the best for you. However, if you are in fact getting more than enough sleep, try taking 20 minutes off of your sleeping schedule and use that time for a quick run instead.

11. Choose the right exercises

You simply don’t need to spend an hour at the gym a day for 5 days of the week to see results.  It has been proven that through the right workouts you can achieve fat loss or muscle gain through only 90 minutes a week of working out.

“How do you workout only 90 minutes a week and get results?” you might ask. There are a few different ways but one of the most effective ways to do so is through HIIT exercises. HIIT or high-intensity interval training is a patterned way of exercising that involves short bursts of intense exercise.

Soon after these burst of activity are periods of rest or relaxed exercise. Interval training like this is extremely effective in spiking your metabolism leading to rapid fat loss even hours after your workout. The best part is, you can still see results training like this even if you only spend 15 minutes a day for 5 days a week doing these exercises.

12. Use waiting time efficiently

It is important to make time for working out by multi-tasking during times when you can. For instance, if you have a 30-minute commute to work use a Bluetooth connection in your car to make phone calls. If you are waiting for 30 minutes in the doctor’s office, use that time to answer some emails.

Times, where you are just waiting around, can be used to tend to other tasks that would otherwise suck more time out of your day. With the extra time you have from completing those little tasks, you can spend more time at the gym.

13. Spend one or two days at the gym

making time for the gym

People often feel that to be fit and active you need to go to the gym 5 or 6 times a week. This, however, is not the case. You don’t necessarily need to go to the gym every single day to stay in shape.

Take a look at your schedule for the upcoming week. If you find that you have only one or two days where you have an hour or so to kill, block those times off to workout. The next week you might have different days where you can make time to workout so block those times off for exercise.

The point is that you can spend one or two days working out at the gym but you need to make sure that you are putting in good quality exercise. If you can only spend two hours a week at the gym split between two sessions, hit those gym sessions as hard as you can and avoid spending too much time resting.

14. Walk n’ bike

Do you drive your car to work? If possible, walk, bike or use public transportation to get from place to place. People who are constantly on their feet to get around especially in the city tend to naturally be more in shape.

Say you ride your bike to work every day and it takes 15 minutes to do so. Riding your bike to work and back would take 30 minutes total. A five day work week would equate to 2 hours and 30 minutes of total exercise. That’s more than enough exercise during the week to stay healthy and fit. You only need to take a few minutes longer to get from place to place.

15. Do exercises you enjoy

You will always find time to do something that you enjoy. Therefore wouldn’t it make sense to do exercises that you enjoy if you want to workout regularly?

If you are overweight and want to shred some fat but end up doing hour long jogging sessions at the gym that you despise, don’t keep doing the same exercise! If you keep doing those exercises you will be miserable every time you go to the gym. In turn, you will be much less likely to keep the routine going.

Every time you go to the gym you need to do a workout that you actually do enjoy doing. If that means doing dancing with an aerobics group then, by all means, do that! There are more ways to lose weight that are much more rewarding and exciting then chugging away on the treadmill.

16. Exercise for 10 minutes

do a quick gym workout

No matter how busy your schedule is, everyone can make time to exercise for just 10 minutes.

If you have an extremely packed schedule with a million different things going on, don’t sweat it. The best way to get in the habit of working out with a busy schedule is to just spend 10 minutes a day doing basic exercises such as jumping jacks, push ups and sit ups.

From there if you feel as though you have adjusted to doing just 10 minutes of exercise a day, maybe bump that time up to 20 minutes a day and see how you can handle that. Maybe instead do 30-minute sessions every 3 days. Play around with your workout time until you find the right fit for your schedule.

17. Find a buddy

Much of the time we all do have the time to workout. However, after a long days work or after a busy weekend of other activities, we often feel as though we don’t have the motivation or energy to get after it.

However, if you can find a friend or family member who is excited to workout, spend time working out with that person. Find someone who can keep a strict schedule. Ideally, you want that person to push you to get to the gym no matter what your excuse may be. Ideally, you want to find a friend or family member that most closely resembles a fitness trainer.

Although there may not be too many people in your life like a fitness trainer, simply having someone depend on you as their workout buddy to motivate you to workout.

18. Cut activities you don’t need

This may seem like an obvious tip for some but it needs to be said.

If you spend an hour of your day channel surfing or browsing the web, take a step back. Stop doing those things and workout.

The problem is that some people who claim they don’t have enough time don’t realize that little distractions add up. Spending 10 minutes scrolling through Twitter a few time a day can total a 40-minute chunk of time. This time, of course, could be better used at the gym. Understandably for some people, these activities are so routine in their lives that they don’t even realize that they can be avoided altogether.

If there are activities that you do such as this that simply aren’t adding value to your life, the solution is simple. You need to cut these activities out of your schedule completely.

19. Do more chores

If you are interested in getting more exercise without doing a formal workout routine, you can still get exercise. Consider just doing more chores around the house.

Raking the yard, mowing the lawn, and washing the car are all ways in which you can get good exercise in by not necessarily going to the gym. Simply make time in your week to get some yard work done. You can make your house and yard look nice while burning calories doing so. You kill two birds with one stone.

20. Try intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is not so much dieting. Rather it is simply eating during a set window of time during the day. For instance, those who do intermittent fasting might eat from 12:00 PM to 8:00 PM. Others might prefer a shorter window of time such as a 6-hour window from 4:00 PM to 10:00 PM.

You might be wondering, “how would intermittent fasting give me more time to workout? Figure this: you adopt an intermittent fasting schedule that allows you to eat during a 7-hour window from 5:00 to 12:00 PM. This allows you to utilize time earlier in the day when you would normally be eating to workout. For instance, with a schedule like this, you can spend your entire lunch break working out instead of eating.

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