What have you done for yourself today, this week, this month and this year that will ensure you show up as your best you?
In our 24/7 wired world, it is increasingly harder to set and maintain personal boundaries. If you can’t answer the first question with some specific examples of things you have done for your own self-care, you need to set aside some alone time and create a plan.
I am a self-described workaholic. I am proud of my work ethic, and I have accomplished most of the things I set out to do. There was never a question of whether I was putting in a day’s work for a day’s pay. There was never a question of me doing the bare minimum. My work days were upwards of 10 hours and a typical work week was 50-60 hours.
But the problem was I was letting work demands encroach on my personal time. I reached a point where I became resentful, mostly at myself because I let it happen.
So, I started to work on this self-care stuff slowly. I would put my son’s hockey game on my schedule and I would leave work to attend it. On a Friday afternoon, I would leave work at 3 p.m. and play nine holes of golf. Occasionally, someone at work would want time with me and I would allow my “me” time to be infringed upon.
When I was at Anheuser-Busch, I was asked to go to the Strategy Committee’s offsite and lead a session for the spouses of the committee members. In preparing for the session, I came across an article from the Harvard Business Review – “Must Success Cost So Much?” by Fernando Bartolome – that I thought would lead to an interesting discussion.
At the time, all the spouses were female. As we talked about the article, one woman shared a personal example that made her cry. Before our session was over, all the participants were in tears and each opened up about the sacrifices their husbands and families had made to ensure their husbands’ success. I imagine there were some interesting conversations between the couples in the privacy of their hotel room that night. Our conversation was never part of a discussion with their husbands… it was our little secret.
I came away from that session with a renewed commitment to work on my own self-care. I made a commitment to myself to use – not lose or get paid for – unused vacation time. I got better at scheduling time to do personal things I could only do during working hours.
Trying to practice self-care in corporate America can be a challenge. A number of years ago, I joined a colleague as a partner in a consulting practice. Just because it’s my business doesn’t mean I can do whatever I want. You still have to make payroll for your employees, and if there is nothing left, you don’t get paid. That is a motivator, but it can also lead to long hours and a lot less self-care.
Today, in terms of self-care, I focus on three areas: 1) physical; 2) spiritual; and 3) intellectual. I am committed to going to the gym and working out at least three times a week. Sometimes I get in five days in a week and sometimes, like when I am traveling, I only get in two days.
I have my spiritual program and I work it conscientiously. I started playing bridge a year ago (two hours for two afternoons a month), which was something I have wanted to do for 20 years. I typically take a fun class through the adult program at UNCW, sometimes during the day and, sometimes, at night.
My biggest accomplishment in self-care has been in the last three years. I have allowed myself a major vacation and I take off four to five weeks in a row. At first, I felt guilty. I worked myself to death before I left. Now, I still check my e-mail while I am away, but only once a day. I come back from the time off so energized. I can honestly say people get my best self after one of these trips.
So, if you are a workaholic like me and want to weave more “me” time into your day, start small. Think about the things you really enjoy and begin finding ways to add it to your schedule, even if it’s just every now and then. And be flexible enough to adjust your schedule or sacrifice a little personal time when necessary.
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