Profession: School social worker
Family: Husband, Matthew Pullman, 36, and three children: Joshua, 13; Isabella, 11; and Matthew Jr., 8
Hometown: Roselle, Illinois
Paty Lopez-Pullman was a snooze-button addict. "When my alarm went off, the first thing I would think was, 'How can it be? I've only been asleep for five minutes!'" she says. With her days stretched thin between her job and her three children, and nights spent catching up on extra work, Lopez-Pullman felt as if she was creeping through life in a fog of fatigue. "Every afternoon I would fantasize about crawling under my desk to take a nap," she says. "I needed more energy not only to get things done but also to feel happier."
"It's time to scale back."To help Lopez-Pullman put more bounce in her step, O enlisted personal trainer Jim Karas, author of The 7 Day Energy Surge, who says that Lopez-Pullman's exhaustion is part of an epidemic. "Eighty percent of my clients say they need more energy," he says. Many are tired because they're overweight, but Lopez-Pullman's problem was another common one: overcommitment.
After spending up to nine hours each day at the elementary school where she's a social worker, Lopez-Pullman would drive herself home ("It was tough to avoid nodding off behind the wheel") and pick up her kids, then shuttle them to sports practice or piano lessons. She also spent one evening a week volunteering at her church, and ran a side business selling beauty products out of her home.
To keep up with all of her responsibilities, Lopez-Pullman forced herself to work late into the night—often until 3 or 4 a.m. Although she and her husband shared basic household duties, taking turns preparing meals and cleaning the house, "nearly every night I would put the kids to bed and then head to my home office, doing paperwork or catching up on laundry," she says.
The first thing Karas did was get Lopez-Pullman to pare down her behemoth to-do list. Though she kept a planner, each day was filled with an overwhelming list of tasks with no acknowledgment of how much time each would take. Karas advised her to create a schedule that blocked out time for absolutely everything she needed to accomplish—including eating, exercising, and sleeping.
"You need to have a realistic schedule for every hour of every day," he says. "Otherwise you'll try to cram too many obligations into too little time." He told Lopez-Pullman: Start by penciling in her nonnegotiable commitments, like going to work, or driving the kids to soccer practice, and the amount of time each takes. Whatever time she had left over—if any—could go to voluntary commitments, like attending a church meeting. Anything else would have to be postponed or eliminated.
Next, Karas tackled Lopez-Pullman's evening routine. "With only three or four hours of sleep, her brain was operating at the same speed as someone who is legally drunk," he says (research shows that sleeping less than six hours a night can reduce coordination, judgment, and reaction time). Karas insisted that she get a minimum of seven hours of shut-eye a night, which meant going to bed at 10:30 if she wanted to be up by 5:30 a.m.
At first Lopez-Pullman was worried about how she would squeeze in a full night's sleep, but she quickly realized that waking up well-rested made her more productive. "Before, I was mentally spinning my wheels," she says. "I would spend hours on a task without completing it. Now I can get things done much more efficiently, so it actually takes less time to get through my to-do list."
"Going to bed and getting up at the same hour each day tells your mind and body when it's time to be 'on' and sharp, and when it's time to rest," says Karas. He also advised her to establish a wind-down routine an hour before bed—taking a hot shower or listening to relaxing music—to signal her brain to switch into sleep mode.
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Sticking to some of her new habits—like that strict 10:30 bedtime—is hard, as is curbing the impulse to do "just one more thing" before bed. Still, she says the changes were worth it. "The main thing the makeover has taught me is that I need to bump myself up from the bottom of my to-do list," says Lopez-Pullman. "Taking care of myself allows me to do a better job of taking care of the people who depend on me."
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