Saturday, March 5, 2011

Work & Self-Care

This weekend I gifted myself with three full days off from the office. It is vital for all of us to schedule regular time off from work and I believe this applies doubly to entrepreneurs and those of us who work in a helping profession. As a business owner it is easy (and tempting) to work nonstop! I did this myself when I first made the switch to full-time entrepreneur, but I very quickly learned that it was not in the best interest of myself or my clients. Now I manage this tendency to overwork by scheduling regular work hours and sticking to them (mostly). I also limit the number of clients I see in a day (6 is my maximum), as well as the number of consecutive therapy sessions I schedule (3 is my maximum). This leaves me feeling fresh and present with each client I come in contact with throughout my work days, weeks, and months and allows me to do my best work.

In addition to reflecting on my own personal limits at work, I also am mindful to take time for self-care every day. This might be something as simple as starting my day with a few minutes of inspirational reading (usually Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach) or as complex as a two hour lunch break to eat, get coffee, and write in my journal. It varies day to day and
sometimes I'll be in the midst of my work day and just know that I need a break and I will schedule in some spontaneous self-care. This has been happening to me more now that I am pregnant (29 weeks today!). Part of self-care is listening to my body and honoring its needs as they arise.

It has taken me a long time to get to the place I am at now with my self-care - four years ago I would not have written that last sentence, let alone actually stopped working in the middle of the day to honor the needs of my body. I can remember a time when I would not stop working to go to the bathroom when I had to pee! Sounds silly now, but what an example of not taking care of myself at such a basic level. I spent countless days working through lunch, ignoring signs of hunger or thirst, working at home until all hours of the night, and missing time with my family while pursuing achievement at work. Where I worked at this point in my life everyone did this; it was normal and you were questioned if you didn't sacrifice your own needs in order to benefit the work we were doing (which was very meaningful, making it easy to justify the culture of overwork).

Eventually I learned to adjust my work habits, even while in this same system. You don't have to be your own boss in order to implement self-care at work. I started taking a lunch break away from my desk every day. I put limits on the hours I worked at home. But the biggest change I made was in my mind. I stop believing that my needs were not important and that if I took care of myself and set boundaries it meant I wasn't as good as my colleagues. Something amazing happened when I started taking care of myself - I found that not only was I was happier (and I'm sure more pleasant to be around) but I accomplished just as much, if not more, in a shorter amount of time! By taking good care of myself, setting limits, and taking breaks I became more efficient at my job. The following year I actually reduced my work hours by half, from full-time to part-time, and continued to maintain the same responsibilities at work! By working in a very intense environment I learned how to care for myself during the most extreme conditions. I know this helped me tremendously as I made the move into full-time entrepreneurship! (There truly is something to be gained from even the toughest experiences.)

Now my regular self-care plan includes:

  • At least 15 minutes of self-care daily (reading, writing, meditating)
  • Fridays off complete with an Artist Date
  • Sticking to my designated work hours
  • Monthly massages & pedicures
  • Referring non-ideal clients
  • Delegating certain tasks
  • Weekly yoga class at another studio
  • Daily, non-negotiable lunch break
  • Retreating annually
  • Going to bed by 11pm

In addition I schedule vacations quarterly and mini-vacations (like this weekend) on an as-needed basis. I plan to spend this weekend rejuvenating by swimming, practicing yoga, going on a painting date with my mom, reading (10 new books arrived this week!), writing, art journaling, having a date night with my hubby, and attending a family party. I'm topping it all off with a massage at 9:30am on Monday morning. Then I will enter my work week feeling refreshed!

What are your plans for the weekend? Schedule in some time for self-care. Remember even 15 minutes can make a huge difference. Why not spend some time pondering how you care for yourself at work and creating a simple self-care plan? Caring for ourselves is good for us and it is also good for our work!

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