There is a saying that goes something along the lines of that you have to take care of yourself first in order to take care of others. This year I have but one thing on my “resolutions list” and that is to look after myself.
The ‘get enough sleep’, ‘eat well’ and ‘exercise’ go without saying. Without those, you’re not looking after yourself. For me, there are three things in addition to those that 2016 taught me are key for me.
1. Guard my time
When you’re independent there are a number of things that fall on your plate and which you don’t necessarily get paid for. If you’re not careful they can easily swallow hours or days of your time. Some are needed and part of running a business, like bookkeeping etc. Others are activities I choose to pursue even if they don’t pay something then and there, like writing, putting together talks and workshops. What eats a lot of time, if you’re not careful, is responding to inbound sales and requests.
I have a policy not to put together detailed proposals for bespoke workshops or work as that in and of itself is a big part of the work that I do and hence what I charge for. This year I’m cutting back even more on the high-level proposals. Instead, I’ll be writing up how I work and standardise a few responses to the kind of questions I get asked a lot. Anything after that is something I will charge for. It will mean that I’ll lose out on some work, but also that those clients I end up working with will be more aligned with how I work as well as prepared to do the work on their end too. There is, after all, no one-size fits all.
2. Follow my heart
Last year showed me more than ever before that I can trust my gut instinct and what my heart tells me to do. The things that fill me with joy when I think about them, that give me a spring in my step and makes me lean forward or stand up with a “yes, let’s do this” are the ones I’ll be following more. If it’s not critical to do and there is an option to not to do it, I’ll do what immediately falls in the ‘yes’ pile and filter out what fills me with ‘meh’, ‘sigh’ and ‘I don’t want to’. And it goes for all areas of my life, personal and work.
It’s closely related to guarding my time and deeply linked to my happiness and wellbeing. By trying to do too much, or as is particularly the case for me – being too accommodating in my personal life – we spread us too thinly and can end up giving a bit too much of ourselves and our precious time. If we stop and think, we often know what we should do, and if something can wait.
3. Take deep breaths
During my teenage years, a dear friend of mine gave me a book titled something similar to, if not actually, ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’. Last year I hardly commuted in London and during December as I started to commute more again, I noticed how my heartbeat went up as I waited in the line that builds up around rush hour and tried to make my way from one platform to the next.
Over the last two years, I’ve learnt that there are a few things/ situations that in particularly make me stressed, but as I wrote about a few months ago, I’ve also learnt just how powerful deep breaths can be. Most things and situations, when you stop and look at them from the outside, aren’t worth getting stressed, worked up or agitated over. And the feelings you feel in those situations can also be controlled and managed through taking deep breaths and taking charge of your thoughts, thereby stopping them from running wild before they manifest too much.
The above may sound like hippie jipperie and perhaps it is. The point of it, however, is that we have more control over our life than we often want to acknowledge. What we do or not do, think, feel etc. are, in many situations, up to us and little steps like becoming aware of what contributes to vs. detracts from our well-being are crucial to starting to adjust our lives accordingly and to looking after ourselves.
Image via carrotmadman6