A 25 Hour A Day Life In A 24 Hour A Day World
The challenges of finding “me time” for health and fitness
For the first 20 years of my career, my daily time ledger looked like this:
My life was a rather common one among busy professionals. Every day, I was one hour short, so every day, one or more tasks were compromised – less sleep, less family time, work left undone. The consequence of a 25 hour a day life for everyone is either stress or inadequate sleep or both. Stress and inadequate sleep inevitably take a toll on physical and mental health, sometimes a serious toll.
I was one of the lucky ones. I actually loved my job and my firm. I enjoyed my clients and my colleagues (most of the time). I loved (and still do) my wife and children.
But I was far from immune from the stress. I used alcohol and tobacco to help me cope. Quite luckily, I never became an alcoholic (or, if I did, I was a highly functioning one). I managed to control and eventually eliminate the smoking (other than the very occasional cigar). Though I experienced bad moods, I was usually happy and never depressed.
Many of my peers have not been so lucky. Some have suffered from serious alcoholism. Others, addicted to opioids and other drugs. Others, severe mental illness. Many, failed marriages and families. A few, premature death from cancer, heart attack or suicide.
Notably absent from my 25-hour day was any time whatsoever for me. No hobbies, no sports, no leisure reading, not even a beer with my mates. At around age 45, I started to feel the effects of my lifestyle. Reduced stamina, concentration, efficiency. Bad moods. Growing waistline. I was losing my mojo. And, for the first time in my life, I thought about mortality.
I decided I had no choice. I had to add one more hour to my 25 hour day. One hour of “me time” to address my health and fitness. So, every day I X’d out an hour in my diary. My PA protected that hour for me. Nothing other than a family or client crisis could interfere. I was simply unavailable. I filled my hour with strength training, spin classes and other activities that were physical. Activities that would allow me to switch off my brain for one hour each day and get some exercise.
So, what happened?
My clients were understanding, even supportive. Nine times out of ten, they were happy to move the 3.00 pm meeting to 4.00 pm. If they could not do that, a further nine times out of ten, I was able to shift my “me time” to an earlier or later part of the day. The result – I only missed one out of every 100 hours allocated to “me” – a total of three or four “me” hours per year. My clients still came first and had the final decision about how my hour was spent. My clients knew that and knew how important exercise had become for me. They respected me and appreciated my willingness to sacrifice something important for them. In fact, they respected me far more than on the occasions when I could not make a meeting because of a commitment to another client. In those cases, one client comes second.
I got more work done, not less. My stamina, concentration and focus improved dramatically. I became far more efficient. I no longer suffered from the almost daily postprandial somnolence (nodding off at your desk after a big lunch). My time management skills got better, because there was something I needed to do for me every day. The bad moods became less frequent. My mental state (together with a fitter, leaner, stronger body in a properly tailored suit) made me far more confident in the board room. Professionally, this was a big win.
I was far happier at home. As I became more efficient in the office, my stress levels reduced. I gained perspective on my life. I more easily and readily participated in family life. I came home and made the most of my time with my wife and children. Family meals became a joy again, rather than a source of stress. For the first time in a long time, I felt I had a life of my own.
I will live a long, physically and mentally vital life. This is the science part. I greatly reduced the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and dementia, three of the biggest killers. I probably eliminated the risk of type II diabetes and osteoporosis. I reduced oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, and slowed down the aging process. I maintain strong bones and muscles that will greatly delay my decline into old age frailty. Far more likely than not, I will live a longer, happier life.