Before we start, let’s put something out there: taking care of yourself is not selfish. That’s why we are huge proponents of unapologetically doing what’s best for you!
Not as easy as it sounds, huh? We get it. Sometimes, it can feel weird to make decisions that put your needs front and center. But doing so is crucial to living a fulfilling, productive life—at home, in the office and everywhere in-between. If you need a starting point, we’ve got your back. Follow these steps, and you’ll be well on your way to owning your calendar once and for all!
1. Identify your personal needs first
Only you know what you need in order to thrive. Don’t be afraid to use that information! The next time you feel overwhelmed, take a moment to pause. Try to pinpoint exactly what you need to get where you want to be—whether it’s a brain break, a reorganized to-do list or something else entirely.
Some things to consider:
- Do you feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day?
- Are there parts of your routine that no longer serve you?
- Have you taken advice that doesn’t seem to be sticking?
Identify the things that could be negatively affecting your day-to-day life. If it helps, write them down. There’s no need to come up with solutions just yet; simply identifying obstacles is a massive step toward optimizing your daily life.
2. Create a routine that works for you
Everyone has a unique routine best suited to their personality, schedule and obligations—but finding the optimal routine is hardly a cakewalk. For example, some people are natural early birds, meaning a 4 a.m. wake-up call can really help them boost productivity. Others are night owls and might hit their productivity stride somewhere between 11:00 PM and 3:00 AM. And still others fall somewhere in between—which means that to truly own your day, you need to formulate your own distinctive schedule.
Take some time to just notice what your average day looks like. You don’t necessarily have to start changing anything yet; just notice! If you realize you’re regularly feeling sluggish before lunch, you’ve discovered your peak productivity is in the afternoon. If you realize all your best work gets done before sunrise, dust off that alarm clock. Get in tune with your own habits so you can create an optimal daily schedule that will actually work for you.
3. Prioritize quiet time
We don’t just mean pausing your work playlist while you continue plowing through your To-Do list. We’re talking about prioritizing brain breaks on a regular basis.
What does this look like? Well, as usual, it looks different for everyone. Here are a few ideas to get started:
- Turn off all electronics
- Go for a walk (and leave the devices at home!)
- Take a quick lunchtime snooze
- Pause for 5 minutes between projects
The takeaway is that you should dedicate small, recurring chunks of time to reconnect with your thoughts, emotions and priorities. Without these personal check-ins, you’re likely to fall into reactive autopilot mode—and committing to taking breaks is crucial in learning how to be proactive instead.
4. Find ways to stay active
Studies show that physical movement can help you gain clarity on your priorities for the day. Any type of exercise is helpful: from an entire hour-long workout class to a leisurely walk around the block.
The mental and emotional benefits of your favorite type of movement play a pivotal role in giving you more control throughout the day:
- Decreases stress, anxiety and other burnout symptoms
- Increases self-confidence
- Provides better sleep schedule
- Strengthens memory and mental clarity
With a more centered mindset, you’ll be prepared to meet the day head-on.
5. Get comfortable saying “no”
This is a fun one! But we also totally understand it might seem scary at first. When a coworker reaches out for support, it’s hard to say “no.” But even if you have the skills to help, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have the time, energy or mental capacity to take it on. Sometimes, your coworker might benefit more from being directed to someone else—which is still a form of helping!
We’re not implying that you should never lend a helping hand. Just that saying “no” does not make you a bad person. It just means you’ve recognized a way to optimize the work being done (even if that means you’re not a part of it).
The next time a help request sets your heart racing, take a moment to pause. Consider if there’s someone else who might be able to help instead and provide the resources necessary to connect the two parties. A huge part of prioritizing self-care is understanding that you don’t need to do everything asked of you to be good at your job.
6. Reassess regularly
Odds are, your day-to-day needs won’t stay the same forever. This is normal. Change is a sign of growth, and it’s a good thing! Maybe as you’re reading this now, you can’t get over the fact that we would even suggest waking up before sunrise. And maybe you’ll revisit us again several months from now, and say, “Wow! There are people who stay awake past sunset?!” Lean into those changes. It’s absolutely always okay for you to change your mind on what works best for you.