In my personal life, I’ll admit it – I’m not really about the “life hacks.” I watch endless TikTok “try this!” videos about how to clean your makeup brushes using a sieve or how to section a whole pineapple without using a knife – but before my motivation gears up enough to actually try it, I’m on to the next thing, never to think about fruit hacks again.
However, in my professional life, I’ve spent over 15 years coaching people to transform their lives through fitness and nutrition, and at the core of that mission is helping them discover ways to optimise healthy habits and practices in ways that embed wellness into their lifestyles. Habit forming, self-evaluation, and data collection are central to this.
In that vein, I have found that the most profound lifestyle transformations actually crystallise at the most basic levels of effort. In other words, seemingly small behaviour tweaks, when designed with intention and repeated over time, are what create change in the long term. Call them “life hacks,” call them “healthy habits,” heck, I don’t care if you call them “my trainer’s magic beans” – just realise that the methods for structuring a successful life are not heroic or grand. They simply take planning and follow-through.
When challenging busy or overwhelmed clients to “find time” for better health, I often refer to the book The Perfect Day Formula by Craig Ballantyne. He advises that you follow the three C’s – control, conquer, and concentrate – to bring order and regularity to any day. Control the morning (i.e. create an execution plan for the day), conquer top-line tasks in the midday/afternoon, and concentrate on what matters in the evening. The gist here is that a few minutes set aside upon waking (ideally, by the way, at sunrise) to meditate, map out the day, and identify non-negotiable to-do list items will result in more intentional time to relax and recharge in the evening – a pattern which suits our natural human circadian rhythms, as well as our mental health, to a T.
By now, you’ve probably noticed that a lot of my allegedly “fitness and nutrition” themed advice is sneakily cloaked in sleep hygiene advice – and believe me, that’s no coincidence. High performers in any area realise that sleep is the foundation upon which long-term success rests, and the longer you wait in life to develop a healthy sleep routine, the further you’ll delay optimised life goals like losing weight, managing stress, and finding flow. To this point, Ballantyne includes the 10-3-2-1-0 strategy for better rest in The Perfect Day Formula, suggesting that in order to prepare for a perfect day, one should:
- Cut caffeine 10 hours before bedtime*
- Stop eating and drinking alcohol 3 hours before bedtime
- Turn off work projects 2 hours before bedtime
- Power down all screens 1 hour before bedtime; all in order to
- Hit the snooze button zero times the next morning!
 For more on the concept of “flow,” which is a term coined to describe true presence or engagement in life, check out https://www.amazon.com/Finding-Flow-Psychology-Engagement-Masterminds/dp/0465024114
(*It is, of course, crucial to note that this entire strategy rests on having a set bedtime, so if you struggle to lay your head down at the same time each night, the 10-3-2-1-0 strategy can help hold you accountable to a “healthy countdown” of sorts.)
But enough about sleep – although I really could go on and on about it – because there are plenty of healthy habits to cover within your waking hours, too. One of the “craziest” and most effective things my husband and I ever did for our joint productivity was to start working Saturdays and taking our off day on Thursdays. Of course, this works best if you are self-employed, work across varying time zones, or provide services that are reasonably utilised on weekends – but if you can do it, having a weekday off day provides flexibility for appointments (it’s a lot easier to book a hairstylist on a Thursday morning than a Saturday afternoon!), time with kids (museums and attractions are far less crowded), and even your own leisure activities (movie tickets, restaurant reservations, and spa bookings abound on weekday nights, believe me).
Can’t swing a midweek off day – or are you working as a stay-at-home parent, where every day is “on”? Not to worry. As I mentioned earlier, making any day more productive starts with having a plan, and the first step in any plan is to establish your method. If you’re trying to clear out your email Inbox, for example, you might consider the “one touch” strategy, whereby you respond, file, or delete an email the moment you open it – you never let it “sit.” You read it once; you deal with it once.
This strategy isn’t just for email, either – consider tidying your home in the same way (you see the stack of papers threatening to take over your kitchen table; you set aside one hour to tackle, toss, or file every single one.) You can even modify this strategy for exercise – instead of wearing your activewear from dawn to dusk “in case you get time” to work out, commit to getting out the door (or stepping into your workout) within 5 minutes of putting on your lululemons – no excuses.
My final piece of advice when it comes to life hacking is this: build on what works; abandon what doesn’t. If you’ve been trying to go Keto for weeks, but just can’t find the motivation to plan or cook the high-fat meals you need to eat – that strategy isn’t working. Consider finding a Keto meal delivery service or teaming up with a Keto-minded friend to swap meal prep every other week – but admit that the original plan wasn’t successful, and move on.
On the flip side, once you’ve found something that does work for you, for example, working out to Peloton videos at home (instead of driving to a gym) or taking long afternoon walks in a shaded park (instead of waking up before dawn to scramble into a 5K run) – don’t get sidetracked by considering what else you “could” or “should” be doing. Stay happily focused on the fact that you’ve found a system that works for you, for right now, and that it is steadily moving you toward your greater goals each day you simply tick the box.