The importance of making time for ourselves.
Do you put yourself last of the pecking order when it comes to making time for the things you want to do? Do you find yourself wishing you had more hours in the day so that you could fit that gym workout in or go for that lunchtime walk to clear your head? Do you find that the subject of "time for me" is a constant sore point and leaves you feeling frustrated?
I hear you loud and clear! Having a career, a wife, two children, and a dog, I would always put my needs at the bottom of the hierarchy. (Yes, even beneath the dog, he needs to be fed, watered, and walked).
I felt like I needed to focus on everyone else's needs before I would "allow" myself to do what I wanted to do... if there was any time left in the day! Generally, I'd find that even if there was time left in the day, it was at the end of the day when my brain was fried, and the only thing I felt like doing was smashing through the latest TV box set...and a family pack of crisps!
I would feel exhausted, short-tempered, resentful, and a victim to the situation.
I felt overwhelmed, trapped by all my responsibilities, and I didn't see how that would change. The more people I spoke to, the more my situation felt compounded. Friends with jobs or friends who had become parents were all struggling for their own space. Yes, they may have the odd event booked every month to give them escapism, but that felt too sporadic.
People talk about the rat race when it comes to their careers, but it spans our personal lives too. The conveyor belt of chores and responsibilities is never-ending! That feeling of "living for the weekend" feels very real, and when the weekend comes... we still don't have the time!
So what can we do?
We can change our perspectives. I want to share with you five steps I took that worked for me:
1. Change the hierarchy - Quite simply, you need to put yourself first. It's the same as the airline safety briefing when they instruct you to put your oxygen mask on first before trying to help others. If you look after your own needs, you will be the best version of yourself and positively impact all those around you. You will be more attentive as a partner, more resilient and playful as a parent, and overall, more present in life.
Now, this isn't easy. A massive amount of inner talk comes with permitting yourself to do this, and it usually starts with something like "this is selfish"...or..."what gives me the right to do this when I should be doing...".
Permitting yourself to do what you need is a deep topic, and it involves changing your perspective from "selfish" to "self-full." Being self-full means you have to put yourself first to best serve all those in your life. Please see my previous article here for a deeper dive into this specific topic.
2. Get clear on what you need to feel fulfilled. This is unique to you, and for me, this is things like exercise, getting outside, listening to podcasts, and social interaction.
I want to clarify that this is not about squeezing these extra things into an already overflowing diary! This will contribute to feeling overwhelmed. It's about ring-fencing the time and treating it the same way as an important meeting.
For example, if I have a run scheduled at 11:30, I will have that booked into my phone calendar so clients can't book over it. I will then have an alert set 30 minutes before reminding me of my run coming up. This gives me time to wind down what I'm currently doing and transition into "my time"... rather than the alarm going off at 11:30 and feeling rushed.
I'm not going to lie; this is the hardest part of the process. Your brain will tell you all the reasons you shouldn't do it. Eckhart Tolle, in the book "The Power of Now," talks about the difference between brain and mind. The brain is a supercomputer that wants to solve problems, and it will magic "to-do" lists out of nothing. Our job is to figure out how to put the brain down and only use it when we need a problem solved. This whole process is about putting down the brain and taking care of yourself and your mind.
3. Share what you're doing with loved ones. This gives you someone to help hold you to account, and it also starts a curious conversation about what they might need to put their needs first. Before you know it, you're a team encouraging each other and both working towards fulfilment.
4. Actually do it! We've permitted ourselves, we've decided what we want to do, and we have people in our corner. Now you get out there and do it!
Regularly check in with yourself about how you're feeling. You may start to feel calmer, more present, and more resilient. If so, keep going! You may feel more overwhelmed. If so, you haven't got the balance right. It's about prioritising time rather than "fitting more in."
5. Don't be perfect! It's easy to become overwhelmed if life gets in the way of some of these activities. We can feel like we've failed if our boss scheduled a lunchtime meeting when we planned to do that yoga class. Be kind to yourself and realise that it's ok if life gets in the way. What's important is that you start again the next day and do your best to honour your commitment to yourself.
This process has been serving me well. I'm more resilient, get stressed a LOT less, have ownership over my time, and I'm way more productive and creative in shorter periods.
Let's change the dialogue from "I don't have time" to "I'm going to make time."
Prioritising time for you in service of others is the first area of focus I dive into when working with clients. If you can't look after your basic needs, how will you prioritise when things get busy in life with career or family, or both? Sure, you can fall on the sword of work and put everyone else first, but that will come at a severe cost!
Prioritising time is just stage 1 of a 5 stage journey I take my clients through. If you want to know more about how working with me can impact your life and how this approach has changed the lives of my clients, please visit the following link.
Here's to your journey.