I’m on the phone with my colleague, complaining for what feels like the fiftieth time about my overpacked schedule, a chaotic calendar that has been leading me to regularly skip lunches and squeeze frantic bathroom breaks between a slate of seemingly never-ending calls.
Her words echo in my mind for a few seconds before it hits me: She’s right. There is no one else on this planet, particularly since the beginning of the pandemic, who can enforce that I take my lunch break, nourish myself throughout the day, and force me to make time for self-care but me.
This epiphany comes at the perfect moment. Lately I have noticed that not only does work not feel fun, but a mere glance at my upcoming schedule on a Monday morning is enough to fill me with a low-grade sense of dread.
And when you are in the business of transforming people’s lives, as we are in Co-Active coaching, as well as the architect of your own business rhythm, you know something is amiss, and you need to make time for self-care.
Give Yourself Permission to Pause
With working from home more available than ever before, more working professionals have had the opportunity to examine and reshape their daily work schedule, accommodating the needs of family, bosses, and even occasionally their own errant exercise routine. As a result, efficiency and productivity are up — and so is exhaustion. Why, in the midst of having more control than we’ve ever had over our work schedule, do we all feel less in control and more overstretched?
Like so many of my coaching clients, I’ve gradually come to realize the missing ingredients in a calendar packed with Zoom calls and never-ending meetings bring a sense of play, ease, and spaciousness throughout my day and my work.
In Japan, this concept is called Yutori — life spaciousness. In her book, Voices in the Air, Naomi Shihab Nye describes it this way:“Recently, when I had the honor of visiting Yokohama International School in Japan to conduct poetry workshops, student Juan Hewitt taught me an important word — Yutori — “life-space.” She listed various interpretations for meaning — arriving early, so you don’t have to rush. Giving yourself room to make a mistake. Starting a diet, but not beating yourself up if you eat a cookie after you started it. Giving yourself the possibility of succeeding. Juan said she felt that reading and sorting poetry gives us more yutori — a place to stand back to contemplate what we are living and experiencing. The more spaciousness in being, the more room in which to listen.”
Similarly, a recent article in Scientific Americanunderscores the need to make time for self-care. The article reveals that integrating periods of restful play — as children or animals can model for us — actually leads to more productivity.
Tips For Practicing Self-Care While Working from Home
So, what does it look like to take your work week from this place of play and rest? Here are some suggestions for you to try on, pulled from the world of Co-Active Coaching:
1) Relax everything by 10%.
The perfectionist inner critic can drive us hard in a quest to be perfect and hit all our targets at 100%, which sometimes leads us to failing to make time for self-care. What does it look like for you to function at 90%? What can be messy, imperfect, phoned-in, or slightly more relaxed?
2) Map out your ideal day.
Draft your ideal schedule, hour-by-hour, for an average working day in your perfect life, and make time for self-care. What time does your day start? How many meetings do you have? How long is your lunch break? When do you sign off? Really give yourself permission to visualize as if you had no constraints, then start to translate this to small, bite-sized shifts you can make this week.
3) Go off video.
When did we all decide that video meetings are needed for everything? Amy C. Edmondson, who studies psychology safety, has shown that being on camera actually creates more fatigue and self-consciousness, so if you need to be on video, try hiding your self-view to create a greater sense of freedom.
4) Cut down on scheduled meetings.
By cutting down on meetings — declining calendar invites, slimming back the number of minutes, marking yourself unavailable for good portions of the day — you will give others the permission they’ve been longing for. Becoming less available will also allow you to make better use of the time you spend with others and to make time for self-care.
5) Move your body.
We can’t create bold, inspired solutions if we’re stuck in the same energy that created the problem. Change your body position for your meetings, go for a walk, stand instead of sitting, or take a call outside or lying down. Make time for self-care by trying to let your body tell you what it needs between meetings, and then follow its lead.
Making Time for Self-Care: A Continuous Process
After I implemented many of these small changes, my calendar started to lighten up. Spontaneous hangouts became possible. I began to look forward to my weeks again. I realized that I was the one holding myself hostage to some pre-pandemic standards that made it hard for me — and others — to take full permission for the self-care I was craving. While they are a work in progress, the new guidelines for my work life have been invaluable for ensuring I don’t slip into old habits.
How about you? How do you make time for self-care? Do you have any self-care routine ideas to share? Let us know in the comments section below!