This month on the blog we’re back to talking about everyone’s #1 barrier to self-care: Time!
In our last post about time, we acknowledged how hard it can be to find time for self-care, especially for those of us in the helping professions. Time is a legitimate barrier to self-care. Research study after research study has shown this is the biggest issue that gets in the way of people being able to do self-care.
In the last post we identified 3 ways you can create more time:
- Change how you use your time
- Change what you do with your time
- Change your thinking about time.
We talked all about the first approach, changing how you use your time. (Need a refresher? Go back and review it here). In this post we’re going to talk about #2: Changing what you do with your time.
Change What You Do With Your Time
Strategies focused on changing what we do with our time are focused on changing the activities you are pursuing, in order to free up more of your time for self-care instead. It’s all about evaluating how we spend our time and considering making some changes. Combined together, all 3 types of approaches can make a huge dent in your time-for-self-care-problem. Within this approach, we have 6 specific strategies for you to try:
Check Your Values
Remember – the best self-care for you is that which arises from your own core values. One way to free up some time is to do a quick inventory of how you are using it now and critically reflect on time and energy you might be spending on value-inconsistent tasks. For example, do you really need to attend all those meetings? Does the time you spend socializing at work leave you feeling energized and supported, or drained? Is there a way to do your paperwork that is “good enough”?
For those of us whose careers revolve around helping others, it can be difficult to say no to requests for our time and focus. The best analogy here is of course that of oxygen masks on airplanes: It is recommended you secure your own before someone else’s. We cannot be of service to anyone if we are overwhelmed and burnt out from not looking after ourselves. Moreover, this is a risky ethical zone for those in health and helping professions. Remember: Look after yourself, love what you do, change the world. When you draw boundaries around your time to leave some for self-care you are more likely to be efficient and happy at your job and able to help more people.
Already committed to too many things? Should you have said no to something but found yourself saying yes instead? (We’ve all been there!) Is there something sucking up your time that isn’t a good use of it or doesn’t even need to be done in the first place? Consider dropping something on your plate. We know this is hard – we hate doing it too. But sometimes, it’s the right thing to do for YOUR health and well-being.
Outsource, Delegate, or Ask for Help
This strategy is a bit more nuanced than simply dropping a task. What are you spending your time on that you could outsource, delegate, or otherwise receive some help doing? Can you automate some of your work (like voice-to-text transcription for your client notes)? Can you get your groceries delivered? Hire someone to clean your house? Tell your kids it’s time to step up and do more chores? What can you delegate at work? Who can you ask for more help? We encourage you to be open-minded and creative here. Ask yourself: How could I get rid of some of these tasks and create space for self-care? and see what happens!
Alter Your Sleep/Wake Choices
In the productivity and efficiency literature, one recommendation you will see over and over to find more time is to alter your sleep/wake choices. This means either getting up a bit earlier or staying up a bit later, in order to find more time for yourself. Keep in mind, of course, that changing one means changing the other: If you are going to get up earlier in the morning, you will need to go to bed earlier at night. (We’re not advocating less sleep! Most adults need more sleep). Most research advocates slowly changing your sleep/wake times in 15minute increments. (Another tip: Keep in mind your biological prime time and, if you can, align your sleep/wake habits with it).
Instill Small Self-Care Habits by Pairing Activities
The book Atomic Habits by James Clear (recommended to us by one of our fave people, life coach Caitlin Faas) is all about strategies for creating new habits. One suggestion from his book that resonates with us is pairing activities together in order to build new goals into our daily lives. It’s an excellent way to do small self-care habits on a regular basis. You start by choosing a habit you already do regularly, like brushing your teeth, making tea in the morning, or washing the dishes. Then, you add your new (self-care) habit to this routine, pairing them together. For example, when Jorden was recently struggling to remember to take her vitamins she started leaving a small cup for water and the vitamins next to the coffee maker in the morning. When getting her morning coffee, this would prompt her to take the vitamins too.
What to do with all these options?
We’ve now covered two blog posts worth of suggestions related to creating time for self-care. When surveyed, health and helping professionals almost always cite time as a major barrier to self-care. We encourage you to see all of these as a menu of suggestions to try: Just like your self-care should be individualized your approach to your time should be individualised too. What works for one person might not necessarily work for another, and that’s okay! Use trial and error to see what strategies work best for you. It’s all part of our self-care journey!
Next post, we’re going to cover our last strategy to create more time for self-care: Changing your thinking about time.
In self-care solidarity,
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