How and why self-care is crucial to staying productive

self care

To stay productive and produce great work, make sure self-care is a priority.

Self-care might seem like a luxury to you. Something that you’ll do ‘later’, when on holidays, sometime when things ‘have calmed down’. I hear this a lot and I’ve come to see it as my mission to change people’s perception of it. Self-care is a priority, it’s fueling up, it’s restoring, it’s balancing. It’s an essential part of life and definitely something that needs to be proactively scheduled. I know that when things feel out of control and overwhelming, when there’s so much to do and seemingly not enough hours in the day, it sounds crazy to think about adding a yoga class in there or even enjoying a lunch break. Maybe it seems selfish to do these things when so many people need your attention and skillset NOW. But looking after ourselves and having down time ensures that we are regularly topping up our tanks so that we can give and attend to all the things that we have on our plates. Whether you’re a small business owner, professional, just someone getting through the day, a parent, a carer, young adult, student – it doesn’t matter what you are and what you’re trying to achieve, self-care needs to be a priority.

Personal energy = productivity ability

Where does self-care rate on your awareness scale? High, or not at all?

If you’re not sure, another telling way is to ask yourself: what have you got planned this week that’s just for you?

Think of it this way, your productivity levels and ability to achieve what you set out to do are directly linked to your personal energy.

Caring for yourself – mind, body and spirit – is all part and parcel of topping up that energy. But it doesn’t just happen by accident and it’s a very different story for each individual. Chinese Medicine Doctor, Dr Bruce Stafford, says that we’re all dealt different cards when discussing people’s ability to be productive. He talks about how an individual’s amount of sleep and how much energy is available to that person, impacts how we achieve our goals.

Self-care has long been a passion of mine. When I see clients letting it fall by the wayside, I see it as my mission to bring it back into their lives. With some effort and willingness towards shifting their mind-shift, self-care becomes part of their routine. It becomes something that warrants being scheduled in like any other important commitment.
Without self energy, productivity tools and organising systems fall flat – they can’t get the work done for you. If you’re stressed, tired, not eating well, or haven’t moved in ages – you’re not likely to be making good decisions or working at your optimum level.

Think about the last time you found it challenging to stay focused and on task. What factors were at play? A bad night’s sleep? Feeling lonely? A week of crappy food? Delving into the factors that have tripped you up in the past will help you in the future and help build your self-care checklist.

Checklist of things to fill your well

Ideally, with restoring yourself scheduled into your life, you’ll very rarely feel depleted (but hey, life happens!).

Becoming aware of when you are in need of stopping and refueling is critical to avoid depletion. So when it all seems too hard and you want to throw in the towel, move to Tasmania immediately and live off the grid… well those urges become fewer and fewer because you’re preemptively working to fill yourself up.

The first step is to take the time to reflect on what stress feels like to you. What does feeling run down feel like? How do you know when you’re getting sick? When was the last time you pushed on and shouldn’t have? All this information is gold!

Now turn your attention towards more happier things: what renews you, restores you, refreshes you? Here’s a list I’ve come up with just from my own experience:

  • drinking water
  • exercise
  • eat good and healthy food
  • meditation
  • yoga
  • playing with your kids/nephews/nieces/friends’ kids
  • being in nature
  • alone time
  • journalling
  • socialising
  • massages
  • deep breathing
  • trashy TV
  • rewatching your favourite movie
  • going to the movies – try going to the cinema by yourself. It’s amazing how freeing that can be
  • a bath
  • pampering yourself
  • reading a work of fiction
  • having a coffee alone
  • knitting/crafting

Make a list of your own and what you have is your own ideas suited to you, to scheduling time to yourself. It’s easier to create this list when you’re not having your worst day ever, trust me! This way, when the worst day of your life is happening, you have something to turn to rather than having to exert energy thinking about it. One less decision to make when you’re not up for it.

What you’ve also done for yourself here is answer the question: what have you got planned this week that’s just for you? Your above list is a love letter, if you like, to yourself, of how you want to be taken care of.

The next step is to schedule one or more of what you identified above into your current habits and routines. Consider what you need to be able to regularly meet this goal. When does it best fit into your week or day?

Scheduling is an incredible asset when it comes to self-care.

Personally, I realised that on days I go to the gym, I feel more awake and productive. That I need to start every day with movement. If I don’t go to the gym in the morning, I get out and walk or run. To make this happen, what I’ve done is schedule it into my calendar. Some people enlist the help of their housemates or partners to walk with them. There’s always a way to make it happen.

What's doing nothing, to you?

As we’ve explored, self-care can be any number of things, but ‘nothing’ is often what I hear from clients who need downtime. 

Ask yourself “What do you really want to do? What do you need?” and really listen to that deep knowing. 

When I’ve asked myself this question, sometimes the answer is “Nothing.” 

Diving a bit deeper I’ve found that what I’m wanting is to pare things back. To declutter my schedule so that there’s more time to be still, sit, explore, think, not worry, and to not be caught up in the rat race.

When I used to work in an office I always found the Monday ritual of swapping weekend stories interesting. Particularly that people’s version of ‘not a lot’ and ‘nothing’ greatly varied. Moving into a share house in Melbourne further showed this to me. There was a joke in the house that my version of ‘nothing’ was actually my housemate’s version of productive. 

People relax in different ways. An ideal day for me is one where I potter and get a whole lot of things around the house, ticking off my mental or physical to-do list. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t say that relaxing is nothing, it still has a purpose. We’re rarely doing nothing, even napping has a purpose, and hanging out with a friend even in silence, is still socialising. So I’m interested, what’s nothing to you? What did you actually do while this ‘nothing’ occurred?

Relationship with time

Diving into what ‘nothing’ means for you is useful when exploring your time beliefs and interactions. Time beliefs largely influence our views on how we can spend our time and whether we deserve to put time aside for self-care.

Are you in the camp that believes they don’t have enough time to do everything? Or are you comfortable and realistic about the amount of time available?

If you believe you are always lacking in time, this will be your experience until you shift your perspective. No organising tool or system will help be a quick fix. It’s about building that refreshed relationship.

Notice how your body reacts the next time you feel stressed or rushed. There’s value in connecting to this as it’s all part of caring for yourself through mind, body and spirit. The more relaxed your body feels regarding time, the more productive and successful you will be.

I’d highly recommend reading The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. A huge takeaway from his work is the way he enables the reader to build a positive relationship with time. He also helps with the understanding that you are where time comes from. It’s worth repeating, YOU are time. He has exercises to ease yourself into this perspective which can really make life so much easier.

Another useful dynamic to understand about how you and time get along is to distinguish if you are a ‘through time’ or an ‘in time’ person? A ‘through time’ person is always conscious of what time it is and what’s next on for the day. If you know that you’ve got an appointment at 5pm and it takes thirty minutes to get there so at 4:15pm you start putting away your task, you’re an ‘through time’ person. 

An ‘in time’ person is someone who lives moment to moment and they don’t have a strong internal clock ticking away. An ‘in time’ person can be completely absorbed in what they’re doing and then realise that they should have left ten minutes ago to get to their next appointment on time.

Armed with this information, your relationship with time will make more sense and enable you to set up systems that fit. Ensuring that self-care is part of that system is also key to refueling and restoring yourself for a wonderful life.

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I hope you have been inspired to plan ahead and take time for yourself.

If you’d like to discuss this article a bit more, explore how time impacts your success, or need assistance in sustaining your energy, please contact me.

Talk soon,

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