Imagine wowing the C-Suite with your latest insights, leading your team to KPI-busting new heights or actually showing up at your son’s soccer game on time and, chances are, you don’t picture yourself running on yesterday’s coffee or showing up with dark circles under your eyes. You’re in peak form running on all cylinders.
Incorporating meaningful self-care into your daily routine at work and at home can help you gain the mental and physical bandwidth to set more ambitious goals and actually enjoy the process of stretching for them.
Gretchen Rubin, author of the #1 National Best Seller, The Happiness Project, suggests imagining yourself with a personal manager who looks out for your wellbeing and makes decisions that reflect and support that.
“Your personal manager reminds you to follow good habits like shutting down email, going home and getting a good night’s sleep,” Rubin says. “She is also compassionate and offers comfort and encouragement when things are difficult and stands up for you when others are too demanding.”
Just my routine
When self-care becomes one more thing on an overstuffed to-do list, it’s counterproductive. It has to be embedded into your most routine activities so it runs on autopilot even when you’re stressed and super short on time. In fact, that’s when you need it the most. Here are some ways to build it into your life.
Eat and drink. Nothing fancy, but rather simple, whole foods you love that will keep you alert and energized. You can always find a c-store with hard-boiled eggs, fresh fruit, yogurt and nuts. Reach for them before you get cranky, jittery, unfocused and weary. Carry a reusable drinking container to keep hydrated all day.
Move. It doesn’t have to be CrossFit, but you have to get up and move. Inserting even a bit of physical activity into the work day can ramp up your energy. Take the stairs to a meeting, park far from the entrance or walk to another office or building to talk with a colleague rather than calling or emailing.
Sneak even more exercise into your life by pairing it with other activities. Instead of meeting a friend for dinner, walk together. Get updated with colleagues and direct reports while strolling the building or standing outside for some fresh air and sunshine.
Hit the hay. Most people use an alarm to wake up, but Rubin suggests setting an alarm to go to sleep. “One technique that’s so easy, so obvious and so minimal, and yet for a lot of people turns out to be a revolution in their daily habits, is an alarm that goes off to signal your bedtime,” she advises. It can help you avoid bedtime creep where you pile on one more task instead of winding down.
Use the one-minute rule. Another favorite of Rubin and her listeners who test advice shared in her Happier podcast is completing easy tasks right now that literally take less than a minute. “Sometimes, when you have all these little tasks to do, it can make you feel like you can’t handle something big,” Rubin says. By keeping up with the daily detritus of life, your mind may be more open to tackling a major new project or going for a promotion.
Rock the power hour. Where the one-minute rule wipes out annoying little tasks, Rubin advocates reserving a Power Hour for bigger jobs that linger and distract. Maybe it’s replacing burned out light bulbs at home, changing out spring clothes for fall items, or filing expense reports. Because these tasks don’t loom large in importance, but yet cannot be done in just a few minutes, we often avoid them and suffer from the constant nagging of something left undone.
Prime your release valve. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Friday’s deadline just became tomorrow. Your youngest has strep. And the regional VP is in town. This is when having trusted confidantes in the workplace can really lower the pressure. Behind closed doors, you can let out your frustration and then brainstorm together about how to pull off the impossible. Which may well include going to your boss with a solid strategy and a request for additional resources to make it happen.