How do you meditate, work out, work full time, and cook for yourself?
November 6, 2017 8:23 PM   Subscribe

In my ideal world, I would meditate for 20 minutes a day and work out for 30-40 minutes a day plus another 30 minutes at the gym for steam room/shower/getting dressed. In my actual world I need to work 8 hours a day, with a 30-minute commute each way. I also would like to cook for myself, including making lunches to bring in. Is anyone else fitting all this in?

I seem to be able to do everything except either meditate or work out. I can fit one of those things in, but not the other, before work. After work starts getting iffy, due to social or other commitments. I am single, so there's no one to pick up the cooking or shopping slack.
posted by lazuli to Health & Fitness (37 answers total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
Your goals are a little unrealistic for a midweek schedule with 8 hours of work and a cumulative hour of commuting. I have the same schedule and similar goals and never fit it all in.

One thing that helps is batch cooking lunches and dinners for the week on Sundays!
posted by slateyness at 8:27 PM on November 6, 2017 [8 favorites]

No, I'm not fitting it all in by a long shot. But cutting corners on lunch prep can help. I used to buy three cans of soup and two of those Indian food pouches, a bag of salad mix, and 2 bags of pre-chopped broccoli or cauliflower. I'd take it all at the beginning of the week (you have to have fridge access for this to work) and then microwave the veggies and soup every day. It was a nice balance, not entirely canned but not requiring me to actually cook, and I only had to actually successfully bring something once a week.
posted by salvia at 8:47 PM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

The people I know who get all of this done are waking up at 5:00, literally. And that’s either every day, or 3 days a week. Most are going to bed at 8 or 9 to accommodate the early wake up. The cooking is happening on the weekend or food is spartan/boring. There is no television and not a whole lot of socializing. In part because the food/drinking at restaurants makes working out harder (bloated, hungover, dehydrated) or takes too much time.

Some folks I know accomplish some of this by switching to a bike commute, so the exercise and commute are joined. Other folks use Public Transit and claim to meditate in the train. I’m not accusing them of lying....but I will say it takes a lot of meditation practice to get there.

Still other people cram their exercising into their one hour lunch break. And other folks get a gym close to work so they can offset commuting time by being at the gym during rush hour, which ostensibly makes the commute shorter. You can also shorten a commute by time shifting your work hours. If being in the office from 6am is an option, the roads are likelier to be empty at that hour.
posted by bilabial at 8:49 PM on November 6, 2017 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: The people I know who get all of this done are waking up at 5:00, literally. And that’s either every day, or 3 days a week. Most are going to bed at 8 or 9 to accommodate the early wake up.

Yeah, I'm already doing that. My work day is 8am to 5pm. I wake up at 5am, get to the gym by 6:15am, leave the gym by 7:30am. Some part of my brain thinks I should be able to fit 20 minutes of meditation into that morning schedule, and I could, theoretically, but I also find that's my favorite MetaFilter/tea/cat-snuggling time, and I can't seem to cut that down very much and feel like a happy human being. But I'm open to hearing other people who do so and have it work ok.
posted by lazuli at 8:58 PM on November 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

It seems that the gym is not really on the way to work. To prioritize time, find a gym that minimizes commuting time. Or else something is taking a lot of time between waking and getting to a gym very very close to your home. Could you try a breakfast that’s portable, or at least not requiring morning assembly (I’m a fan of overnight oats, ymmv), sleep in your gym clothes, or keep a stack of gym clothes in the car, pack a row of water bottles into the fridge on Sunday night if you like taking cold water so you’re not waiting for the two to fill a bottle? Anything else available to shave those minutes off your morning? That hour plus between waking and gym-omg is just a long time.
posted by bilabial at 9:08 PM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Meditate just before you go to sleep.
posted by bleep at 9:09 PM on November 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: You can also shorten a commute by time shifting your work hours. If being in the office from 6am is an option, the roads are likelier to be empty at that hour.

Just to cut off further suggestions: I live fairly rural, and my commute is 30 minutes any time of day or day of the week; weekday traffic at its worst adds maybe five minutes. Rural highway road closures can add 30 minutes at weird times, but that's almost always just going home and it's maybe once every two years. I also don't tend to eat breakfast. My morning cozy-time is really just because I like spending a good amount of time reading the internet and petting cats. My job doesn't tend to allow me to do Facebook/Metafilter/email during the day regularly, and I try to catch up in the mornings and evenings. I don't disagree that the hour of waking-up time may be an issue, but it's a fairly long-standing habit that I like not having to rush in the mornings. I'm willing to change it, though. That's why I want to hear from people who are able to fit this all in.
posted by lazuli at 9:21 PM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Cook big batches and portion out meals. It's boring but it works. I go grocery shopping once a week and make do with 1-2 prep nights (all in one go – I plot out ingredients for 1-3 main dishes, then grab some staples like frozen veggies and canned goods). I pair protein, vegetables and a vegetal starch for every meal. Think: eggs and greens for breakfast, tuna and salad for lunch, roast chicken and veggies and turnips for dinner. Everything that can be prepped is, and doted out to tupperwares. When I'm hungry I just reach in the fridge and grab a container. I can eat everything cold or warmed in the microwave. If I have extra time, I'll make a slow cooker stew or giant roast, and fry my morning eggs. Once in a while I make a really fancy meal (I love to cook!) just to remind myself that food is love. But I've shaved my daily prep time to 15-20 minutes this way. 2-3 hours on prep nights. Grab, heat, go. You can keep fancy condiments, sauces and spices on hand to give yourself a little zip. Caramelized onions, roasted garlic, preserved lemons, real balsamic, za'atar, harissa, salsas, gourmet salts, etc. And don't forget the time saved by doing dishes as you cook. Much faster than soaking and scraping dried gunk off later. Mise en place. If I'm really busy or really lazy, I go the taco cart down the street and buy a dozen $1.50 tacos to round out my offerings. Cheap and tasty.
posted by fritillary at 9:24 PM on November 6, 2017 [6 favorites]

It seems to me the main thing you’re not fitting in is meditation? It also seems you get time for lunch if you work a standard 40hr week? Sit in your car for 20 mins at lunch and meditate.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:39 PM on November 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

So I basically do this... Even with two kids! But I do it a little differently to you.

1) meals for the week are cooked and fridged on Sunday, midweek is heating up and salads only.

2) meditation is twenty minutes, at lunch, in a park next to my office. I have dropped off on this recently.

3) exercise is at home, as soon as I get home. I run for ten km on treadmill while kids play with tablets and then stretch and serve dinner.

Doing exercise at home, or right next to home or office is key for this. Obvs I have kids so can't be late picking up etc, you may have more flexibility than me - I did this kidless with gyms next to work for years. But that proximity was critical for success.

I never do this every day, more like three or four days a week, but pre kids I would go five or six days a week. The routine is what makes it work.

You can do this, it just takes a bit of planning, packing and set up on weekends, and weeknights so you are ready to go.
posted by smoke at 10:06 PM on November 6, 2017

The way to do this is to not do the other things in your day that take up the time. I mean, it's not really more complicated than that in terms of hours in the day. Don't socialise or do the 'other evening stuff' or don't do your internet cat thing.

It is fairly obvious that you don't want to give those things up. Which, sure. Neither would I.

Is your question then about how to motivate yourself? Because in simple terms, cooking, doing exercise and 20m of whatever other activity each day is totally doable.

Maybe your question should be about which of the other activities is worth giving up? But that's not really answerable by us and certainly not with such scant detail!
posted by jojobobo at 10:14 PM on November 6, 2017 [13 favorites]

I've done most of this for a while, though I've dropped off recently. Sunday night meal prep, with groceries delivered. All the portioning out for lunch happens on Sunday night. During the week it's just reheating. Friday and Saturday are for more complicated cooking projects or for eating out. 5-6 hour-long workouts a week, some before work, some after work (9:30-7:30), and sometimes doubling up on weekends. I had to cut down a lot on internet time and tv time. I'd have maybe 30-60 min of mindless internet time a day. Less reading time too, so I started listening to audiobooks in the car instead of the radio. Meditation at night sometimes, but I did still have free time, especially when I did morning workouts, so I know you can fit it in.

Like others above have indicated, meal prep was the biggest thing. Getting groceries delivered made a big difference for me--it was once once a week and I'd have to plan meals in advance. The rest was about putting stuff in my schedule. Typical day: up at 6:15, workout from 7-8, shower, work from 9:30-7:30 (eat packed lunch somewhere in there), dinner at home or socializing, bed around 11. Or - work from 9:30-7:30, workout at 8 pm, home to shower etc, also dinner at home around 9:30, bedtime. When I write it all down it doesn't look so bad but I had to build in days off where I didn't do anything all day.
posted by loulou718 at 10:52 PM on November 6, 2017

Kathleen Norris has a charming little book (based on a talk she gave) called The Quotidian Mysteries, which is about how daily chores can become meditative and/or prayerful, as they are a form of liturgy -- daily work, never completed -- that are of life-giving importance.

It's Catholic, so take and leave what suits you, but it's a pretty powerful meditation on "women's work" and how those daily quotidian labors can be a form of meditation, service, and prayer.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:55 PM on November 6, 2017 [9 favorites]

And maybe look into bodyweight exercises (Mark Lauren et al) - I feel they give me most of what I would get at a gym - in a much shorter time (20 minutes exercise + shower = 35 minutes total..).
posted by mathiu at 12:23 AM on November 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

Going to the gym & back is an extra commute that you can cut & save a ton of time. r/bodyweightfitness might help you achieve some of your exercise goals without that extra commute time. You can get cardio by running or cycling from home.

Some of this is simply being ruthlessly efficient with your time if you want to pack more in - it’s easy to waste minutes between small tasks that quickly add up over any given day.
posted by pharm at 1:48 AM on November 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

What is your goal for meditation? Most people I know who do it, do so to reduce anxiety and "be present." It sounds like your cat snuggling time fills at least some of that for you. If you do want to add more dedicated meditation, can you find two 10-min breaks, eg at work? Might be easier than finding a full 20 min at once. (I have no idea if shorter meditation is useful, so take this with a grain of salt.)
posted by basalganglia at 2:08 AM on November 7, 2017 [6 favorites]

I do most of this. Here’s my weekday schedule:

6:00-6:30 am: wake up, coffee, puppy snuggles, internet
6:30-7:15: shower, dress
7:15-7:45: walk dog
7:45-8:05: pack bag for work, breakfast (usually toast or yogurt or leftovers)
8:05-8:35: commute
8:35-5:15: work
5:15-5:45: change, commute to gym
5:45-7: work out
7-7:20: head home from gym, maybe pick up takeout
7:20-7:40: walk dog (dog has a playgroup while I’m at work, so he gets loads of attention and exercise despite my schedule)
7:30/8: social stuff a few days a week (often dinner with friends, or this is when I eat dinner at home)
nighttime life prep: set up morning coffee, pack gym clothes

It would be pretty trivial to add meditation by getting up 30 minutes earlier. Cooking is often done in batches on the weekend for all meals (portioning yogurt and fruit and granola in jars for breakfasts, or soup and sturdy sandwiches for lunches, a huge array of dinner options). Sometimes I’ll shower before bed, which gives me an extra 20 minutes or so of puppy snuggle time in the morning. Reading books happens because I commute by public transit, and at lunch.

This is workable even though my weekends are usually tightly scheduled with social events or travel. The cooking piece often gets pushed to Monday nights, which arent a big social night for me/my friends.

Here’s what I don’t do: watch much tv (I love it, this isn’t snobbery, that’s just what I don’t get around to), raise kids. You folks who do this with children in the mix blow my mind, for real.
posted by amelioration at 3:31 AM on November 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Have you considered....not going to the gym or meditating every day? Like, maybe only three or four times a week you're at the gym, and then on the days you're not going to the gym, those are the days you meditate.


Some part of my brain thinks I should be able to fit 20 minutes of meditation into that morning schedule, and I could, theoretically, but I also find that's my favorite MetaFilter/tea/cat-snuggling time, and I can't seem to cut that down very much and feel like a happy human being.

Perhaps tea and cats is your particular form of meditation.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:00 AM on November 7, 2017 [22 favorites]

It sounds like you’ve timeboxed these particular goals into weekday mornings, which is totally fair but means you may not have time.

I am a mom of two with a full time job, no cleaners, and I sit on two parent councils. I also do 5-7 martial arts classes a week (one is during my workday and two are on Saturday), at least one yoga class, and I’m training for a triathlon. And I cook lunches and most dinners. (My spouse cooks a few too and does breakfast.)

My life is nuts right now and I’m not sure I recommend it but I do it by belonging to a 24-hr gym and doing a lot of slow cooker and instant pot meals, and using weekends to prep food for the week. I typically put my little guy to bed, do a class, and then go to the gym and run some days; I swim weekends and the pool opens at 5 so I’m working on getting a morning in. My socializing is about a day a week, plus I’m training with friends. If I were confining my fitness goals to weekday mornings I wouldn’t get there.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:50 AM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

You've got 4+ hours between when you get home and when you go to bed, presumably. If that window is routinely so filled with social and other commitments that you can't fit in 20 minutes of meal prep and 20 minutes of meditation, you may need to figure out what your priorities really are and which you value more: your evening commitments or whatever else it is you're doing during that time, or meditating and doing home cooking. That said, one of the ways I make time in my life is by mastering very quick-prep meals (5-15 minutes) and typically making 4 servings of something and then having an extra dinner and two lunches worth of leftovers from one cooking/cleanup session. In the past I've also done things like listen to guided meditations while doing cardio, or do mindfulness meditation exercises while driving.
posted by drlith at 5:28 AM on November 7, 2017

When you start a new thing, it takes a fair amount of energy to schedule it. Gym - remember gym stuff, go, shower, oops forgot conditioner, need to get towel clean, etc. After you do it for a month or 2, you develop habits. Sunday night, check gym stuff, plenty of clean towels, ok, and it's not a big deal and takes time, but little extra thought and energy. if you're a morning person, get up earlier, go to the gym in the morning, otherwise, on the way home from work. Pack a banana for a snack; it will help a lot at the end of the day.

Choose a time to meditate. Maybe before bedtime. Meditate, then brush teeth, etc., bed.

Cooking is all about planning. I've cooked for families and I cook regularly, mostly from scratch. A week might look like: Rotisserie chicken for 2 dinners, and chicken for 3 wraps for lunch, with rice, sweet potato, salsa, cilantro. Chicken carcass will be simmered for broth, which is frozen. Sirloin tips on sale will be another dinner and also 2 wraps with rice, and Asian slaw. Cooking for one is so much easier if you learn to make extra for another meal. So, so many Ask.Me questions about easy food planning, easy meals, so I'll stop there.

So, plan, then build the habit.
posted by theora55 at 6:08 AM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I see where the confusion is in the way I worded my question, but to clarify: I do cook for myself, regularly, and that's where a lot of my evening time is spent. When I try to shift too much other stuff to the evenings, I have trouble fitting in cooking dinner.

I very much appreciate people describing their own schedules with this stuff. I obviously know that I can fit it all in, but I've been beating myself up about not doing so, and I need to reframe it in my head as probably either "Other people do it in X, Y, or Z way, so you can do it, too!" or "Other people are struggling to fit this all in, too, so it's ok to struggle, just keep trying." Hearing how other people are managing is helpful with that.
posted by lazuli at 6:19 AM on November 7, 2017

For the lunches, the trick is always cooking more than you need for dinner. If every dinner you cook is three (or more) servings, you can eat one, pack one for lunch later that week, and freeze one for a future lunch. I bring lunch every day and that's how I do it, plus I throw together a salad once or twice a week which takes about 5 minutes of prep if you have the ingredients on hand.

You didn't mention how flexible your workplace is, but if you could work in meditation at lunch or during a break, it won't impact your schedule and will probably benefit your energy during the workday. You could even do two 10-minute meditation sessions this way.
posted by beyond_pink at 6:23 AM on November 7, 2017

I also get much of this in. I get a 20-30 minute coffee time with my wife instead of meditation, and I run a bit longer than you workout. My commute home is 10 minutes longer than my commute in. Here's an example schedule.

5:40 wake up, start getting dressed and emptied.
6:20 Start running with dog.
7:30 get home, eat breakfast and shower.
8:00 wake wife up, make and drink coffee
8:45 start getting ready for work (change, put pre-packed lunch containers into lunch bag)
9:00 leave for work
9:20 arrive at work, work while eating lunch at desk
5:30 leave for home
6:00 arrive at home, greet wife
6:20 walk dog
6:40 start making dinner
7:40 eat dinner
8:00 clear up from dinner, leftovers -> tomorrow's lunch
8:10 roll out / stretch / bodyweight workouts
8:45 prepare tomorrow's dog food and lunch if leftovers aren't enough
9:00-10:20 hot tub, zoning, quiet time
10:20 start getting ready for bed
10:50-11:00 head hits pillow.

Yes, I could probably use more sleep. Yes, I feel "On" until the last hour-ish of the day. I think that explains my 30-40 minutes to get ready for bed - I become the pokey little puppy when it comes to getting water, emptying the dog and self and teeth brushing.

I've had to give up reading as I fall asleep because that slow's my time to actual sleep - either it's during the quiet time, or in the bathroom (guys; always sit to pee and you get a few pages if you're quick!), or while making coffee at work, etc. Yes, I would love to have an extra 2-3 hours in the day to be "down" or "off."

But, I've found I really enjoy running, so the sacrifice of some sleep, and some evening time to keep my legs feeling good and strong is worth it. The early morning coffee time with my wife is also definitely something that needs to be there; even better would be if there was a more regular ritual later in the evening. The hot tub is nice, but it's a bit hard to talk with each other over the jets. But it is nice to relax together when we do that.

For lunches, as I eat a non-trivial amount for the running time, in addition to leftovers I'll have things like cottage cheese, fruit, chicken breast slices or meatballs (purchased frozen but pre-cooked), and either frozen or fresh veggies.

I will not consider a dinner that takes over 60 minutes of "active" time to make. Throwing it in the oven for an hour is fine and doesn't count as active; I'll just get exercises/stretching done while it's baking. A lot of meals end up being 20-40 minutes - I just showed 60 to show the upper end of a more time intensive meal.
posted by nobeagle at 7:11 AM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

My schedule when I lived solo would have fit this, and my commute was longer than an hour round-trip. So it's doable! :)

-Cook a lot of meals in the oven. Conveniently, a lot of baked/roasted things need 20 minutes or more in the oven--maybe fit in your meditation while dinner's cooking? Look into sheet pan dinners, baked gnocchi (really quick and easy), dinner pies or bread puddings, or soups etc. that you can pre-make in large quantities.
-Cut down on the wake-up time. To avoid rushing, I would make a point of having everything prepped to grab and go in the morning (know which work outfit you're wearing, where said outfit is, have lunch packed, etc.). (For reference, my bed-to-door routine including makeup was within 20 minutes.)
-Cut down on the commute to the gym.
-Can you shift the websurfing and cat-cuddling to evenings? Maybe pre-bedtime or post-dinner relaxing time?
-Or shift the most malleable or lowest priority activity (your call) into the evening, so you can wrap it up when it's too near bedtime. Or decide to reduce frequency for some items but alternate throughout the week?
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 7:40 AM on November 7, 2017

I totally agree with EmpressCallipygos. I fit all of this in by not doing everything every day. I run in my neighborhood, and I do yoga at home, so I don't spend any time traveling for exercise. I don't meditate, but I would consider the yoga to be analogous to that in your situation.

I run 3 times a week. That's my non-negotiable baseline for fitness. I try to do yoga 2 to 3 times a week also - some weeks I'm more successful than others. I rarely run and do yoga on the same day. Accepting limitations is important to my overall success, I think. If I require "perfect attendance" then I'm going to get discouraged and scrap the whole routine. If I cut myself a little slack but still strive to do the best I can each week regardless of how I did the previous week, it's a long-term win.

I always work out in the morning because my evenings tend to get busy too. I pack my lunch in the morning after I shower - meanwhile my hair starts to dry and cuts down on blow-drying time. I try to cook a large portion of two different dishes on Sunday, and then I usually have an evening during the week when I can cook another dish. As single people, we may not have help with domestic stuff, but on the plus side the stuff we cook can stretch a long way for one person!
posted by treachery, faith, and the great river at 8:16 AM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I do all this. I split up my meditation between morning and night. I also cook food for the whole week - 14 meals (breakfast is a smoothie) on Sunday. I do all the grocery shopping on Fri night or Sat. I try to buy big at costco and freeze half the stuff. Cook big batches and freeze half of what I cook. This reduces cost and then I am really only big time cooking every other week. I generally do Paleo-ish.


5:30 am get up - Make coffee and bathroom stuff + 5-10 mins of loving kindness meditation
6:00 - coffee drinking. journal writing, YNAB sync, check personal mail, cat cuddles
6:30 - Get out of chair and move - walk or lift or bike. I take greens and BCAAs here.
7:15 - Smoothie and shower
7:45 - grab all the things and go to work
5:45 - leave work
6:15 - PM Lift Heavy Things or Walk or something that moves my body
7:15 - dinner and evening relax stuff
9:00 - Meditate in the Bath. Using the calm app - bx 10-20 mins.
9:30 - Bed
posted by jopreacher at 9:00 AM on November 7, 2017

FWIW, I live alone, work out 8+ hours a week, spend 20+ hours a week in the car, work full-time, and cook for myself, do food prep and meditate. Here's how I manage it:

Sunday: strongman gym in the morning, food shopping and meal prep for the week in the afternoon.

5-5:15 - Get up, 5-minute meditation while coffee brews; jotting down my three goals for the day
5:15-30 - Get ready for work, pack up car. If Monday, bring coffee + milk + lunch staples to office.
5:45 - leave for work
7-8:30- Arrive at work (thank FSM for podcasts)
11:30ish - lunch away from my damn desk. If stuck at my desk, I'll meditate at my desk for 10 minutes.
4:00 - leave work (if Thurs, date night)
6:30 - (Mon & Wed, arrive at strongman gym; Tue, arrive home)
8:30 - 9:00 (Mon & Wed) arrive home, reheat dinner, eat
9:30 - shower
9:45 - catch up with partner
11ish - bed… another few minutes of meditation if I'm not exhausted, but let's be real, I'm usually exhausted by then.

Fridays, I work from home from 7-4, which makes Mon-Thurs more bearable, knowing I only have to do that commute four days a week instead of five. If I want to cook something fancy and time-consuming, this is when I do it. This is also when I meditate for any length of time.

Saturday: strongman gym in morning, breakfast with friends after, then this mysterious thing I've heard so much about called 'fun.'

The things that helped me the most were:
-getting a seriously cool lunch box/cooler with compartments and slots for ice packs, that freed me of depending on the office fridge and being prey to food thievery.
-not trying to be perfect, and settling for 5 minutes of meditation in the morning instead of 30.
-prepping my meals on Sundays, so that when I'm tired and hungry, I don't have to try to decide what to eat and muster up the energy to cook it; I just have to reheat what I already made.
-cooking things that require oven or stove time, but not fiddling-with time (soup, stew, casserole, roasts), so that you can do other things besides babysit the food
-figuring out what my 'why' is.

That last one's the most crucial; all the other things are nice, but not truly necessary. If you can figure out WHY you want to meditate, to work out, to bring lunch to work, to cook the meals, and can manage to really connect with that reason, then your priorities fall into place, and the decisions become easy.
posted by culfinglin at 9:14 AM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Meditate for a shorter time during your steam room activity.

Meditate on your lunch break. Eat mindfully. Walk mindfully. It all counts.

Turn social time into workout time by joining running groups that meet after work, a martial arts gym, or a yoga studio with regulars. Regular yoga class often includes meditation as well. Power yoga offers cardio and strength training. You have options.

Prep food on weekends as others have said. Lots of meal prep and batch cooking resources on the interwebs.
posted by crunchy potato at 9:37 AM on November 7, 2017

I would say: zoom out and assess what your goals are in a larger sense. Cooking, meditating, and exercising are things we all feel like we should do. But why? The way I figure it is that cooking = thrift, nutrition; meditating = stress relief, enjoying life; exercising = stress relief, enjoying your body, building strength, burning off excess energy.

So then your goals are, more broadly: thrift, nutrition, stress relief, enjoying life, enjoying your body, building strength, and burning off excess energy.

You don't have to achieve these goals through the three prescribed channels of cooking, meditating, and exercising in set blocks of time every day. Think about what other activities bring you these benefits. Cat cuddles and tea seem big for enjoying life and stress relief. You can get a lot of exercise benefits by building in some time to walk and stretch during the day, doing weights and yoga at home, building exercise into social activities, etc. Thrift and nutrition can happen with zero prep time and an apple, a can of tuna, and some carrot sticks for lunch.

My concrete recommendation, to answer your specific question, is that I meditate a lot in the car during my commute. I've felt great benefits by turning off the radio and putting on a guided meditation (via Insight Timer, but there are other apps) or nothing at all, and sitting and breathing while I drive.
posted by witchen at 9:56 AM on November 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

I have a slightly different list of things I want to do each day, but a similar problem. In my case I want to do four things each day - exercise, journal, write roughly 1000 words and meditate. All four of those in a day is about two-ish hours. For the life of me I couldn't make it fit, regularly, into the time I had available each day alongside all the straight-up admin like making breakfast, washing dishes etc.

Some part of my brain thinks I should be able to fit 20 minutes of meditation into that morning schedule, and I could, theoretically, but I also find that's my favorite MetaFilter/tea/cat-snuggling time, and I can't seem to cut that down very much and feel like a happy human being.

Yeah, this was my issue too - basically getting distracted or attempting to multi-task my way to a coherent and organised morning/evening. Two things have helped me to resolve this.

Thing 1 - figuring out what I can do in the morning vs the evening. For ages I tried to do all four things each morning and failed most days. So now, I write in the evenings, because I don't have the focus or mental energy to do the other three after work, but I can do the writing.

Thing 2 - I found a very specific app, called Routinist. It allows you to set up routines for morning and evening, then progress through each task. It's a little fiddly to set up, but once you have it going and you've run through a couple of days and adjusted how long you thought something would take versus how long it actually took, it's kinda like magic.

For me, it helps me to work progressively and with focus on one thing at a time. So I don't bop around the house, checking the internet, listening to six minutes of a podcast, making a cup of tea, forgetting about the tea, looking at the clock, pouring a bowl of cereal, worrying that I don't have enough time to write my journal entry etc etc.

In fact, it's actually shown me that if I focus on one thing at a time and don't try to multi-task, I can usually do 3 of my 4 big daily tasks every morning reliably, plus my usual morning admin and have time to spare. I leave for work early most days now. And then I repeat when I get home and get the writing done and the rest of the day is gravy. Focused mono-tasking, enabled by this app, works incredibly well for me.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:58 AM on November 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

I have a similarly long list of daily goals. Things I've found that help me meet them:

Wake up early (I've been taking advantage of DST ending and getting up at 5:45). Do as many of my daily list things in the morning. Make full use of my lunch break. Psych myself up on my commute home to finish off my list. I usually try to get to bed by 10 but often don't really get to sleep before 11.

I don't do everything every day, but I get most done most days and I try (very hard) to remind myself that that is more than good enough.
posted by soplerfo at 10:14 AM on November 7, 2017

This is fascinating. The most I have ever fit into a regular routine was exercising 3-4 times a week, cooking my own meals and meditating on my lunch break. It meant that all my socializing happened at exercise (running group, dance class regulars) and often meant eating dinner at 8PM or later. Meditating on my lunch break only happened because of debilitating anxiety and the desperation that caused.

I often wonder how anyone fits it all in and it seems the answer is giving up sleep and giving up TV/internet time.

I agree with everyone else that batch cooking on the weekend is key. I make bowls of beans, rice and some veg with a slice of cheese and freeze portions on Sundays. For dinners, I only cook a couple nights a week and eat "picnic" dinners the other nights (popcorn, pickles, an apple and some cheese).
posted by purple_bird at 11:26 AM on November 7, 2017

It IS a struggle. You do have to give up things to stick to this kind of schedule. For example, I have very limited time to socialize so sometimes I will skip my workout to spend time with people that aren't available other times. Sometimes I will grab a post-workout burrito and go spend the evening with friends instead of eating at home and watching netflix or whatever. It's ok. Having a strict routine is helpful, but it's also good to give yourself some leeway to be spontaneous and drop a few things here or there to accommodate an interesting, engaging life.

I also frequently work out with my friends (I do a lot of indoor rock climbing), so gym time is also fairly social. It's nice and it motivates me too :) I doubt I'd go to the gym every day if I was just slogging away on a treadmill by myself.

Here's my weekday schedule, including my 1 hour commute each way:

8am: wake up, cuddle pets, get dressed and pack work bag
9am: leave for work
10am-6pm: work (I eat breakfast and lunch at my desk)
7pm: gym/shower/sauna
9:00pm: home, more pet cuddles, eat dinner, crafty stuff
11pm: reading/netflix
11:30: meditate or journal in bed
12am: bedtime

On the weekends I run errands and clean my house on Saturday, and usually hang out with friends that evening. Sunday is for grocery shopping and cooking all my meals for the week. I portion my lunch meals out so I can just grab a tupperware and head out the door. Dinner is a quick reheat, with maybe a tiny bit of additional prep.

Just do your best. If you have an off week, it's ok! We all need a reset sometimes, or get sick, or take a weekend trip. Being gentle with yourself when things don't work out perfectly is the key to sticking to it.
posted by ananci at 12:35 PM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

get to the gym by 6:15am, leave the gym by 7:30am.

Has any suggested shortening your workout or stream room time? If you meditated for 20 min in the car after you got to the gym, you'd still have time for 40 minutes of cardio and 15 minutes to shower and dress.

But I honestly think the best answer for you might be to meditate when you wake up. Meditating right at wake-up is the perfect time because one's mind is still fairly quiet, so you can kind of ease right into it. You could try it for a few weeks and see how it changes your tea and cat time; I think it might flow nicely into it while possibly shortening that time, and if it doesn't, you could shorten your workout or lunch a bit.
posted by salvia at 7:59 PM on November 7, 2017

So, you didn't say what else you're doing with the rest of your time, which makes it pretty damn difficult to guess.

That said, consider gym MWF and meditation TR/Weekends, and you've already got it. Gym time pays off better with rest, anyways.
posted by talldean at 8:10 AM on November 10, 2017

Yikes, these are some early wake-up times listed. As someone who is a "15 minutes between bed and leaving the house for work" kind of morning person, this has been an interesting comments scroll.

I find that I can only really fit in two priorities in my week and have them calm me down (as opposed to just low-grade anxiety all the time when I have too much on my plate).

For the past 7 months, those two priorities have been 1) working out 4-5 times a week and 2) writing small articles and/or applying for fellowships (unrelated to my professional work).

Instead of an paralyzingly long laundry list of things I *want* to do, which is what my approach has been for the longest time, I found that it was really much more effective for me to assess where my time was going, and then see what pockets of time could be shifted towards a higher priority activity. I signed up for a barre studio right near my work, and essentially shifted an hour of dead-brained TV time every afternoon towards going to a barre class right after work.
posted by vacuumsealed at 6:12 PM on November 12, 2017

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