It may surprise you that one of the most common behavioral changes I work on with my clients concerns productivity and planning. As a wellness coach, the battle cry I hear most often is “I don’t have time to take care of myself.”
If you feel that there are just not enough hours in the day, it will seem like a tall order to fit in exercise, cook healthy meals, get enough sleep, and manage your stress.
So it’s useless to talk about any of that if we don’t first talk about managing your time. And the first step towards managing time is learning to plan. Having a consistent time of the week and a regular system to plan your schedule is critical.
Once you have those in place, you are well on your way to becoming an excellent time manager. And it would seem that if you are good at time management, you’d be able to find the time for self-care. So why doesn’t this work? Why is it that so many people, even those with very good time management skills, struggle to consistently partake in the activities that lead to a healthier life?
It’s because, energy management, not time management, is the key to extraordinary results in everything you do!
If you don’t have the energy to get through your day, it doesn’t matter how great you are at time management. You’ll burn out and won’t be able to apply those skills and follow through on your intentions.
So, if you want to master energy management, self-care needs to be one of the very first things you schedule on your calendar each week. We get our energy from fueling ourselves with nutritious foods, exercising and moving our bodies consistently, and getting enough sleep. Taking time out to enjoy life refuels our tanks too! That is, spending time with family and friends, engaging in hobbies we love, and participating in spiritual practices such as church or temple-going, meditation, or even being out in nature.
Sadly, the number one mistake even highly successful business professionals make is to shove these activities to the bottom of their daily to-do list; they only get to it if they can squeeze it into their already jammed-packed day. A steady diet of this habit, and you are on a path towards exhaustion, lack of focus, frustration and burn out.
However, if you learn to schedule self-care first, before filling up the other hours in your day, and stick to that plan, your energy and productivity will soar.
When you sit down to plan and schedule your upcoming activities, the first things that should get blocked out are the non-negotiable standing appointments or time frames that you cannot change.
For you, that might mean being at an office 9-5 Monday through Friday, driving the kids to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and attending soccer practice with your child on Saturday mornings. For me, it’s all my standing weekly coaching appointments, my once a month networking meeting, and Saturday date night with my husband. Those are the things that you are responsible for and are not willing to miss.
Next, it’s time to fill in self-care: how many days a week do you want to exercise? Three, four, every day — it doesn’t matter. That’s your choice. Look at your weekly calendar and schedule those appointments into your week. Don’t forget to take into account travel time if you go off to a gym or exercise studio.
Now, look at your day-to-day schedule. When is the best time to break for lunch? That might be a consistent daily time, or it may vary depending on your work and lifestyle. But schedule it! Block out at least 20, preferably 45-60 minutes, to eat a healthy lunch. Taking a brief break and fueling your body and brain properly mid-day, will allow you to manage your energy and your time. Both your productivity and your mood will improve.
Brainstorm all the other self-care activities you want to include in your week. Want to meditate a couple of times a week? Schedule it. Are you overdue for medical check ups? Make those calls and get those appointments on your calendar right now. If you’ve been missing time with your best friend, text him or her saying you have an opening in your schedule for lunch on Monday or dinner on Tuesday night.
I think you are getting what I mean. Look, it’s quite simple.
What doesn’t go on the calendar, doesn’t get done.
One more word of caution – stay flexible. Sometimes, even the best-planned schedule gets thrown off course by the unexpected. When that happens, the key is to reschedule what just got knocked off your day immediately. Move that appointment to another time, even if it’s your lunch break or workout.
I am challenging you to give this a try for the next couple of weeks. I know that once self-care is on your calendar, you will be feeling calmer, healthier, and more productive every day. You will be an expert in both energy management and time management. All it takes is scheduling self-care first!
If you struggle with creating a consistent time and system for planning your schedule, don’t miss out on my upcoming class, Taming the Daily Frenzy By Training the Brain to Get More Done. You’ll not only learn how to effectively schedule your time and activities, but how to eliminate distractions, manage your stress and avoid burnout. Check out the details here or email me for additional information at firstname.lastname@example.org.