Self-care has become a vague term in our social media culture, and it's often misinterpreted to mean giving into temptation (as a way to give yourself a break). But true self-care is often about doing things that don't always come naturally, like exercising before dawn or eating ordering grilled when you crave fried. The good news is that if you're trying to get more out of your day, practicing self-care can be exactly what you need to step up your game.
If there's never enough time in the day for small business owners, how can they be expected to fit self-care into their schedule? This seemingly impossible equation is not an easy one to solve because each person requires a different degree of self-care.
For many workers of the world, a week-long vacation is the opposite of self-care because it would evoke anxiety to be off the clock for that long. But no matter who you are or what business you're in, you were never meant to function at peak capacity every second of every day. You may be able to go for weeks on end without a break, but there will be a day when your fatigue will catch up with you.
Self Care on an Individual Basis
When people think about self-care, they may inaccurately picture bubble baths, champagne, and aromatherapy. It's no wonder that some people scoff at the idea of this kind of indulgence. But self-care is different for everyone, and there isn't necessarily a right or wrong way to practice it.
The goal of self-care is to remind your brain and body that it's not a machine. No matter how much you love to work, there needs to be some degree of balance throughout your day. And it all comes down to what truly makes you feel refreshed. It's only when you're on your game that you can start structuring your time blocks more efficiently.
Ideas for Better Self-Care
When you're thinking of your habits, you have to be honest about their overall effect on you. Blowing off friends, eating junk food, or reading Twitter may seem like self-care when you're exhausted, but its effects are unlikely to make you feel better in the long run.
Real self-care starts by acknowledging the discipline it requires. It takes a lot of will-power to go for a walk when you want to finish up that last email or to reach for a salad when you want to take the last donut. But by the time you realize the full effects of your self-care, you'll know that your discipline wasn't the same as drudgery.
Self-care may feel like punishment in the moment, but you'll see the effort pay off in dividends. Your sleep will be better, your immune system will get a boost, and your mind will be more focused. Treating yourself isn't about impulse purchases or irresponsibility, it's about creating an environment where you're comfortable enough to push your limits but smart enough to know not to go too far.
Develop Your Time-Management Skills
One of the most difficult things for motivated people to recognize is when they're wasting time. They force themselves to sit at a desk for hours or to make just one more phone call because they feel that's the only way to get ahead. But there comes a time when your productivity turns a corner.
Start with listing the triggers that stand in the way of time management. Maybe it's a setback, like a poor review or an unreasonable demand. Maybe it's taking on too many projects, so the work crushes you before you have a chance to start it. Or maybe it's just working when your body is at low energy. It won't be perfect at first, but eventually you'll start to adjust your schedule so you're optimizing your time.
Want help sorting time management skills? We've got an in-depth look at time management here.
Embrace the Routine
Routines can be a double-edged sword, especially if you favor the creative side of yourself. But self-care will require habits to work, including eating, sleeping, and working at regular (or at least semi-regular) intervals. Make lists for what you want to accomplish, set break times to let yourself refocus, and move around throughout the day to keep yourself alert.
Regardless of the many (many) articles published on how working more hours doesn't necessarily add up to more success, there's still a stigma out there in organizations of all sizes. Breaking this stereotype by refusing to work deep into the night is an important form of self-care, not a sign of laziness.
A historical hack that has worked for inventors like Benjamin Franklin and Nikola Tesla is the act of daily meditation before getting to work. Franklin especially was famous for using part of his time to reflect on the good he wanted to do at the beginning of the day and the good he did do by the end of it.
Learn How to Get Started
Being overwhelmed can be one of the most debilitating feelings in the world. And while some rise to the challenge, others find themselves staring at difficult tasks or starting them halfheartedly without making much headway.
A healthier way to look at the problem is just to start where you are. The indulgent part of self-care doesn't have to come in the form of a massage, it can come in the form of forgiveness. If you've wasted the whole day buried under emails from a preventable mistake, self-care is the act of putting it behind you, learning from the experience, and making a dent in the tasks you need to do to move forward.
Use the Fatigue as a Sign
When your time management is at its worst, it's likely because you're feeling burned out. The mid-morning or afternoon slump is your body's way of telling you that it's itching to refuel and your brain's way of saying it's desperate for a break. But there are ways to combine business with a little pleasure without endangering your productivity.
Research has shown that when you're at the end of an energy cycle, you can use that time for brainstorming. Because you're unfocused, your mind can wander into some fairly interesting territory. If you're ready to take a break but not quite ready to throw in the towel, take a walk and let yourself mull a little without the intense pressure. You might be surprised at how this self-care hack can spark some serious creativity.
Ask for Help & Delegating Responsibilities
Delegation is a part of self-care that you'll always need to practice. No person is an island, especially not if they hope to succeed in an ever-changing economy. One way that you can accomplish delegation is by hiring a virtual assistant, or someone who can take the side dishes off your plate so you can focus on the main course.
Wondering what you should delegate? We can help you sort things out with our guide to delegation.
When you free up your schedule even a small fraction of the day, you start to feel the pressure lift ounce by ounce. This kind of self-care isn't dressed up in fancy boxes or bows, but it's every bit as much a gift to yourself as any material present could be.
Your self-care routine may not look like everyone else's, but it does need to be cultivated on a daily basis. It also should be flexible enough to accommodate new opportunities and events. Time-management isn't about rigidity, it's about choosing to spend your limited hours on things that give you a sense of peace and accomplishment at the end of the day.
Whether that peace comes from breaking through a problem at work or from blowing off steam on a run, it can all be a part of the message you send to yourself that you're worthy of taking care of yourself.