9 Tips to Squeeze Exercise Into a Tight Schedule


If you’re like most people, exercise is one of those things you should do – but just never have time for. You might start going for a week or two, but exhaustion from work or conflicting commitments keeps you from going.

It isn’t easy to stay in shape, but I’d like to suggest some strategies to squeeze exercise into a tight schedule.

Continuing is Easier Than Restarting

The biggest problem with going to the gym isn’t usually time – it’s motivation. When work is already exhausting you, finding the motivation to do one more thing seems impossible. This is why forming an exercise habit is so critical. When regular exercise is as routine as eating or sleeping, you won’t need to force yourself to go.

If you want to form an exercise habit, here’s my suggestions:

  1. Once-a-Day for 30 Days. Going once per day for thirty days will give you a strong foundation to build a habit from. After you get through the first three weeks, it becomes far easier to stick with it. Thirty days is all it takes to build a habit.
  2. Have a Plan. Plan out how, where and when you want to workout. Showing up at the gym and not being sure what to do will only waste time and cause frustration.
  3. Get a Friend. Convince a friend to go with you to the gym. The added peer support and motivation can help you stick it out through the first thirty days.
  4. Learn How to Change Habits – This article isn’t about habit changes, so check out my book if you want to learn more.

Squeezing In Exercise

Even if you do have a habit for exercising, time constraints can make fitting it into your schedule difficult. Here are some of the strategies I’d recommend so you can stay healthy in even the busiest times:

  1. Pick a Workout Hour. Make your exercise time when it isn’t likely to conflict with other plans. I know people who enjoy early morning or late evening exercise plans. The benefit is that these hours tend to be devoid of time-sensitive commitments.
  2. Natural Exercise. Creating a more active lifestyle can help when getting to the gym is impossible. That means taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking instead of using a vehicle. This is another habit that requires implementing, so engaging in natural exercise won’t usually turn on as soon as you can’t head to the gym.
  3. Plan a Hit & Run. Plan out a twenty minute or half hour workout. If your time is limited you may have to optimize your approach so less time is wasted changing and moving between exercises.
  4. Match Up Shower Times. If people don’t want to come within ten feet of you after you’ve been to the gym, you’ll probably want a shower. But adding morning showers and post-workout showers can lengthen the time commitment. I recommend either placing your workout before you shower and get ready in the morning or place your shower after the workout.
  5. Coordinate Schedules. If you go with a friend, plan schedules ahead of time so there won’t be conflicts that keep one of you from going. When you’re used to going with another person it can be difficult to motivation yourself to go solo. Have a backup plan in case you don’t have a partner to go with.
  6. Combine Exercise and Leisure. Take up fun activities that force you to exercise and have fun. This combination can help when you want to exercise but don’t feel like heading into the gym.
  7. Watch Your Elasticity. The elasticity of your exercise habit depends on how much you enjoy exercising and how long you’ve been doing it for. I could probably go several weeks off without too much trouble adjusting back into the routine. But if you’ve just started the habit, don’t let yourself miss too many consecutive days or the habit will snap.
  8. Quick Workouts. When time is unusually tight, planning a quick workout can help. Coming up with intense but short workouts isn’t that difficult and most fitness magazines are loaded with them. Jogging, push-ups or going up and down the stairs can work when you can’t spend the time heading to a gym.
  9. Consider it an Investment. Exercise isn’t just about looking good or living an extra ten years. It’s also about investing in your energy. Regular exercise boosts your energy so you can sleep better and be more alert throughout the day. Unfortunately if you don’t exercise regularly, it can be hard to see the difference after just a few days of exertion. Consider exercise to be a refuel.

  • Albert | UrbanMonk.Net

    Man, this is really timely as always. Great list, and just what I needed to get in shape for next year. Thanks Scott.

  • Mike


    Nice list. I put it up on http://www.OptimistList.com for other users to enjoy and learn from.

    Keep up the good work Scott!
    All the best,

  • Antonio A.

    Hey, thanks for the tip! Been keeping it (exercise) in my New Year’s resolution every year but I just couldn’t find enough time for it. You motivated me to start again! Thanks!

  • Dorothy Ser

    Great and practical tips! I’m really enjoying your website!

    Although planning out workouts is important, I believe simply making it to the gym is half the battle.

  • Anand Sharma

    Hey! Great tips Scott! I have had a resolution for last 2 years and kept it! Here’s how the wording goes:

    “Exercise every single day of the year, even on low energy and sick days, and soon they will be fewer and far apart.”

    I do not do gym, and only intense workouts for 15 mins most days, which include max’ing my limits on three or more of the following set:
    – kapalbhatis
    – bicep curls
    – pushups
    – crunches
    – squats
    – lunges
    – sit ups
    – front arm raises with weights
    – lateral arm raises with weights

    And I do road running twice a week to train for the annual Mumbai marathon!

    Thanks for the useful tips!

  • ahmed

    I began workout nine years ago .Exactly in 2001 .and after those years of pain and gain i can tell :

    Everybody have to find a new motive every time you lose motive,finding a motive is the only power that could make you continue this habit of exercising ..

  • Roy


    One thing I’d like to emphasize goes off of your point 6, combining exercise with leisure. I used to loathe exercise, until a friend invited me to play tennis with him one afternoon. I loved it, and now play a few times per week (and have been doing so for a few months now).

    So the strategy that worked well for me: make an active effort to find a type of exercise that you really enjoy. Don’t just assume that running or going to the gym are the only options. As Confucius is quoted as saying- “Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” The same mentality is relevant to exercise: find something you love doing, and you’ll naturally motivate yourself to follow through.

  • KK

    Lift weights! Weightlifting is not for vain bodybuilder wannabes. Weightlifting, especially compound exercises such as squats,deadlift, bench press, military press and barbell row, are a great way to increase your strength while getting an intense cardio workout in a short amount of time. Lifting heavy weights with low repetitions is just as intense as running mindlessly on a treadmill for 30 minutes.

  • Otto

    I’ve made it a habit to exercise in my cubicle at least once a week. I’m talking a serious workout session of about 20-30 minutes (depending on how early I got to work).

    I use Kettebells or body exercises.

    Oh and don’t forget mastering the art of bird bathing in the restroom. I got it down to a science.

    This complements the other times I make time to exercise. Early morning and evening. There is no set time for me. If something interferes with my morning workout, I do it a lunch as described above. If that gets thwarted I do it after work. The point is that I’ve comitted to doing this no matter what!

    I also make it a point to stand up often so I’m not sitting all day. Being flexible has allowed me to do some form of exercise at least 5-6 days a week.

  • danielgrant

    So you perhaps start with SEO and then take appropriate steps swiftly to more realistic information. We offer a truly cost-effective SEO support for only $129 monthly and shift you up online ranking positions each 30 days or you don’t pay. We even business 100 % free SEO in come returning for percentage on web revenue with certain companies. Just contact to see if you are eligible. testosterone gel for sale

  • danielgrant

    So you perhaps start with SEO and then take appropriate steps swiftly to more realistic information. We offer a truly cost-effective SEO support for only $129 monthly and shift you up online ranking positions each 30 days or you don’t pay. We even business 100 % free SEO in come returning for percentage on web revenue with certain companies. Just contact to see if you are eligible. testosterone gel for sale