We all know it’s hard to stay on track when your attention, energy, and ideas are all pulling in different directions. That’s why it’s so important to create healthy habits that you can stick with to maintain your personal wellness. 

Some of the advice we get on staying healthy is too hard to accomplish in one fell swoop, that’s why it’s important to take baby steps toward your big goals. 

Just like we “chunk” a project to get it done, we also need to do small things to self-correct our bad habits. In other words to use a well-worn cliche, “don’t bite off more than you can chew.” 

Though many of us live stressful, demanding lives, with just a little tweaking here and there, we can develop healthy habits that will help us live healthier and more productive lives.

I’m going to take the standard pieces of advice and “hack them” to make them more manageable and thus, “do-able.” 

1. Exercise regularly.  We all hear how that “sitting is the new smoking,” but how can we get more exercise that doesn’t end up being an extreme (too much or too little?) 

Hack:   Don’t beat yourself up for the time you missed, just start today. Block off non-negotiable times you will exercise. This could be tracking steps, friendly walks with colleagues, walking the dog (or cat – hey, it can happen but you have to start them as kittens typically), meeting work-out buddies somewhere, or committing to a routine that works for you. It has to be enjoyable, regular, and it must include a non-negotiable time every day or you simply will blow it off. And when I say non-negotiable, that’s what I mean. You deserve that time,don’t give it away to others unless it’s an absolute emergency. 

2. Drink more water.  Yup, we hear this is important but most of you reading this are dehydrated right now and it’s debatable if you need 64 oz or more. You definitely need to hydrate after body work (massage, etc) or exercise, so don’t skip that. But if you’re aiming for 64 oz, that’s cool, you can even count tea (and some say coffee isn’t as dehydrating as people keep saying, but that could be a coffee company writing that, you never know). 

Hack:  Just get a 32 oz water bottle and fill it up. Commit to sipping from breakfast through lunch and being done by lunch.  Refill and repeat – with sipping from lunch through dinner. Voila!

3. Plan healthy meals ahead. Don’t grumble about this. Just do it. This is absolutely positively THE best way to stay healthy, eat whole foods, cut the crap out of your meals, cut sodium substantially, save money, and lose weight.

Shopping Hack:  I do all of my shopping (hello Instacart!) mostly online. Time is money and I always overspend when I’m at the grocery store, particularly if I shop hungry, which I tend to do. 

Breakfast Hack:  Make breakfast simple. Toss some really delicious frozen fruit, a handful of spinach, flax seeds, ginger, and anything else that makes your smoothie sing, into plastic freezer bags. Come morning:  pop into the blender with water or nut milk and you’re done. Or if you want something a bit warmer, make overnight oats and refrigerate. Heat up and you’re done. 

Lunch/Dinner Hack:  On Sundays, I make all the week’s meals. This is labor intensive and a little suck-y but guess what? I don’t have to scramble my butt around during the week worrying about what’s for lunch? What’s for dinner.  Hello, InstaPot! If I could marry that thing, I would. It has cut all of my cooking time by more than half. 

Make a bunch of lunches and dinners ahead of time, refrigerate or freeze. This makes your time really freed up for not having to worry about what am I eating AND you are putting more healthy food into your body. 

I swear by this cookbook:   Instant Loss:  Eat Real, Lose Weight by the amazingly inspirational Brittany Williams.

And when I just don’t have time to shop and cook? I use a local woman-owned business (Rose’s Home Dish) in the city I live in.  healthy, home cooked meals for either pick up or delivery.  If this isn’t an option for you because you aren’t my neighbor, look into similar services in your hometowns.

4. Floss. See your dentist twice a year. Rinse and repeat. People, don’t skip flossing. Yes it takes more time, but it can add six years to your life. Srsly. Bacteria that form plaque can enter your bloodstream and cause you to have a heart attack. I’ve been really impressed that my amazing dentist and her team also take my blood pressure and other vitals at each appointment. 

Hack: While you’re flossing, listen to some fun music, then set a timer for 2 minutes and make sure you brush that entire time. Music makes you forget you don’t like to brush for 2 minutes.

5. Sleep.  We are such a sleep-deprived nation so this is going to be the subject of an entire feature next month. We all know the most common effects caused by the lack of sleep—more prone to accidents, forgetfulness, difficulty concentration, and depression.  But the consequences of sleep deprivation over time can have devastating consequences. One recent study informs us that the lack of sleep may cause the brain to start destroying itself. Your brain cells die from prolonged sleep deprivation. So, what can you do until I give you more surefire tips next month? 

Hack:  Baby steps. See a professional. I have heard acupuncture works wonders. Clear your bedroom of screens. That means, no TV, laptop, cell phone, and other devices. Make your bed for sleep, not watching things. Here are 48 other hacks.

We’ll meet back here next month to talk more about the vital issue of sleep. I’ll also be sharing my presentation about why ‘naps save lives’ that I’m giving @SXSW next month.