Is self-care essential for business growth? If so, how are you supposed to find time to fit it in? This article and video weighs the pros and cons of self care and offers a practical strategy for daily practice.
These days it seems that everyone is telling you to drink wine and take more bubble baths. Hustle is out. Self care is in. But we’ve got businesses to run, and family and friends who depend on us. If we’re spending life in the bath tub, how is it all going to get done?
The self care debate
On one side, we have all the things we have to do. The average person with a job has a ton of responsibility and pressure on them to perform and deliver. When they get home, the adulting starts. Cooking, cleaning, breaking up fights between your kids and/or your pets, and my favorite, laundry. And by favorite, I mean that laundry is actually the worst and that I currently have clothes sitting in my dryer that should have been folded and put away days ago.
If you work for yourself, or you’re trying to build up a business on the side, then you’ve added yet another layer of responsibility. But it’ll be worth it!
You keep telling yourself that anyway.
And if you’re doing all of this and you’re a creative person, well then you are screwed. Because those ideas, and those things you want to do, try, or experience. They don’t stop. You can rest assured that you will never be bored for the rest of your life. This also means that your to-do list will never be complete.
Now, let’s address self care. The thing that wants to be a part of your life, while you’re already trying to declutter your house, and figure out whether or not you should have been charging sales tax on everything you sold online in the last six months.
Self care wants you to give yourself grace. For you to blow off that appointment. To take a social media hiatus. To take baths. And go on long walks. And to meditate.
I think that there are a lot of people, whose blood pressure goes through the roof every time someone tells them that they need to meditate. Because when you aren’t into the whole meditation thing, it sounds like something that’s simultaneously going to make you feel bad about yourself because you can’t figure out how to get it to work, AND make you feel like you’ve just wasted time. Time—that, we’ve already established, we are all desperately lacking in.
So even if you’ve spotted a few things on one of those self care lists that sounds really appealing to you, those things still feel like things that you shouldn’t be touching until your work is done.
So we put them off. We save them, and we work a little harder. We wake up earlier and stay up later. We feel like we must be making progress because we’re working so freaking hard. Only to look down and see that somehow, our to-do list has multiplied and started their own families. It’s looking more like a genealogy map.
So I think you see where I’m headed with this. We are fighting a never-ending battle, instead of celebrating the fact that a lot of things on that list were supposed to be fun. Maybe not the laundry, but our creative endeavors, like starting a podcast, or learning watercolor.
When those projects are hanging out with all of life’s responsibilities, and they aren’t being fueled— you guessed it— with self care, they are going to feel like a burden. And man, what a waste of our incredible creative gifts! That’s like springing for that pretty Draper James dress, and then putting it on to clean your bathroom.
You would never do that. You save it for the time when you’re going to see a bunch of your girlfriends all at once. And you’re going to be in a public place so strangers can stop you and tell you how good you look.
You’ve got to give your creative talents the Draper James dress treatment if you want to see the results that you’re hoping for. What do you do when you put on that dress? You apply makeup. You put on heels. You dig into the back of your closet for your best handbag. And then you take it out to a nice dinner, with drinks, and dessert, with your favorite people.
Why don’t we do this with our creative endeavors? Why are we trying to make things happen on no sleep, working from closets, frying our brains trying to learn how to do too many things at once, and never asking for help?
And how can we possibly expect to see results, when we’re working under those circumstances? How much more could you accomplish if you could see clearly and think straight? Not only that but, who is going to want to hire or work with a person who is barely holding it together? It’s two-fold. It’s not only that you’re working yourself to the bone but you are repelling the business that you’re looking for.
I think that we can put this argument to rest. I’m not going to try to speak for the regular people, but I’m going to take it upon myself to represent the creatives. You win, self care.
The self care strategy for busy creative entrepreneurs
Step 1 is recognizing that our to-do list is going to continue to repopulate, We need to stop telling ourselves the lie that one day, we’re gonna get all caught up. We won’t. And that’s okay.
Step 2 is to identify the essentials. We’ve got to eat, stay clean, and go to work to earn money so that we have a place to live. The things need to happen every day. These are your #1 priorities.
Step 3 is to put self care on your daily schedule. Right now, take out your calendar, or planner and find a fifteen-minute block of time that is reserved. It is blocked off from appointments, car pools, email checking, and anyone asking you for a favor. This is an appointment with yourself. And it cannot be broken.
This feels counter-intuitive. And the reason I say that is, when we think self care, we think of relaxing in freedom. We don’t think of following a strict schedule. But when left to our own devices, we will let it slide. Have you ever gone for an entire 24 hour period without eating or sleeping? I know that some of us have somewhat of an idea of what that feels like, and it’s not good.
If you miss this very important appointment with yourself, I want you to feel that same level of discomfort. It’s that important.
Step 4 is to make a list of self-care activities that you actually enjoy. Don’t take baths if they don’t relax you. Don’t read if you’d rather listen to music. Come up with as many things that fill you up and make you feel amazing as possible, and don’t worry if they are unappealing to other people.
Again, this feels kinda silly, but most of us aren’t self-care savants just yet, and we forget what we enjoy doing. Which is how we end up spending so much time scrolling on our phones. That is not what this time is for. Remind yourself, “this is what I like doing.”
Step 5 is to start keeping track of your days and labeling them. Is this a busy day or a regular day?
Here’s the difference. Regular Days— we’ll call them RDs— are ones where you only do the essentials. The things you identified in Step 2. Showering, dropping your kids off at school, eating dinner, etc.
BDs – Busy Days – are ones where it’s the essentials, PLUS other obligations. Either self-imposed or things that you just can’t get out of, like renewing your driver’s license.
On BDs, the busy days, you do your fifteen minutes of self care, regardless. On RDs, you push those boundaries and take as much self care time as you can.
You know how when people are dieting, they’ll do cheat days, and just eat whatever they want? It’s like that. On your RDs, go wild. Get massages, watch Netflix, whatever it is that fills you up, you do it and you don’t have to worry about the calories, that is unless your self care activity is eating baked goods.
So you may be asking, okay when am I labeling these days, before they happen or after? Both. You will know when the BDs are coming up. Like next week, in laws are arriving, conference call at 10, haircut at noon. So if so, you can mark those in advance.
But then other days, you think they are going to be RDs and somehow they turn into BDs. You may wake up, and say you know what, it’s a regular day, I’m going to extend my self care time and go out to get coffee, and on the way there, you get a flat tire. As you’re waiting for AAA to fix it, you check your email and see that there’s a webinar that you really want to watch, and they claim, it’ll only be available today.
So your tire is fixed, you make it home in time, you’re watching your webinar and you start getting texts from your virtual assistant that your website is down. So that turns into a project and you’ve officially got yourself a BD.
At the end of that day, you mark that down as a BD in your calendar or planner. I’d like for you to do this for a month, just for thirty days or so, and at the end of it, look back at your BD to RD ratio. Ideally, you should have a 50/50 balance, but I’m guessing that you won’t.
The next month, make it your aim to have one RD for every three BDs. So that at a minimum, 25% of your days are not-so-busy. And then the following month, try to get to that 50-50 split.
Life isn’t slowing down. We’re not getting more time. Nobody is going to come knocking at your door granting you permission to take care of yourself in the way that you know you need to in order to thrive.
So rather than living in a fantasy world where we’ll make time for self care, “one day, when things calm down,” make it a priority now, in a realistic way that allows you to keep living your crazy, but mostly happy life!