You need to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. Sometimes, though, this advice goes in one ear and out the other.
You may think that you can’t possibly make time for yourself with an epic “to do” list looming over your head. You may also worry that a relaxing bubble bath won’t be quite so relaxing if there’s a pile of dirty laundry on the floor.
And I get that. But self-care doesn’t have to be time-consuming. There are actually tons of little things you can do to lessen your anxiety and improve your focus. Here are a few ideas so you can get started:
- Listen to one of your favorite songs – the happier, the better!
- Meditate for 5 minutes
- Take a 5 minute walk around the block
- Learn how to do a sun salutation from memory, and practice this one simple yoga pose whenever you need a break
- Put a slice of lemon, lime, or cucumber in your water and keep it near you all day to stay hydrated
Keep a Calendar on Your Phone
Some people prefer to use apps to stay organized, while other people prefer good old-fashioned pen and paper. I’m a pen and paper girl, myself, mostly because it keeps me accountable. Apps on my phone are “out of sight, out of mind,” but I check my planner every single day. Plus, holding a pen somehow makes all of my tasks seem much more tangible.
However, I learned a long time ago that I have to keep my phone’s calendar updated. Otherwise, I forget things, which affects my productivity.
I always have my phone with me, and it only takes a few seconds to make a new appointment (especially if I use Siri).
But, I transfer all of those appointments to my planner so it stays updated, too. Using both systems helps me remember things, and I love the way my phone alerts me when an event is coming up.
Mark One Task as Most Important
If you have trouble doing everything on your list each day, you need to narrow your list.
In fact, narrow it all the way down to one item, then mark this item as the most important task of the day. You can write other tasks below this one, but don’t let yourself do anything else until the most important task is done.
If you only complete this one task, give yourself a pat on the back for taking care of what is most important. (After all, that’s the key to productivity.)
Eventually, you can work your way up to three tasks per day, but I wouldn’t recommend more than that.
If you put a whole list on there, it kind of defeats the purpose, disrupting your focus again.
Some people work really well with a strict schedule. If you’re one of those people, make sure you schedule your whole day for maximum productivity. From the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep, every part of your day should be on your planner. (Just don’t forget to schedule timeframes for eating, rest, and a bit of a buffer.)
If, however, you’re like me, try a more flexible schedule.
I’ve found that a really strict schedule can wreck my whole day. If one task takes longer than it should (which always happens – usually in the morning), the day gets off track.
After that, it’s hard to make myself stay disciplined enough to get back on track again.
So now I do a bit of an adapted system where I only schedule one thing per hour, even if that task will take just a few minutes. It seems counterproductive, but I’m actually more productive because I allow myself so much free time.
If I finish a task early, then great! I just move on to the next task, which frees up more space at the end of the day.
Take Your Vitamins
For years and years, I felt tired with absolutely no explanation. I thought I was just lazy. I was wrong. (Just to clarify, I definitely am lazy, but that wasn’t all that was wrong with me.)
After a lot of medical testing for related issues, I found out that I actually have an underactive thyroid, anemia, vitamin D deficiency, and B vitamin deficiencies. I know that sounds like a lot, but all of those issues are surprisingly common; I just happened to have all of them.
Now, I’m not saying you should self-diagnose, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask your doctor to check your levels, too. A fairly simple blood test can diagnose most of the common deficiencies, and a multi-vitamin may be all you need to boost your energy.
Get Some Sunshine
Did you know that you actually absorb more vitamin D from the sun than you get from most multivitamins? Seriously.
If you’re feeling particularly drained, try standing outside with your face, neck, and arms exposed for about 10 minutes. This simple technique boosts my energy almost every single time.
When all else fails and I’m feeling particularly unmotivated, I resort to a very silly system that helps me get things done: I turn my “to do” list into a game.
First, I’ll number everything on the list. Then, I roll a random number generator to find my next task. Whatever number comes up, I have to do that task, no matter what. This game kind of keeps things entertaining. You could also write the tasks on scraps of paper and pick one at random. It’s also more fun when you play upbeat music while you work.
Don’t Be a Perfectionist
No matter what you do, please don’t try to be a perfectionist. Remember that done is better than perfect! It’s so easy to get caught up in the details of a task and forget the big picture. It’s also easy to get distracted so you’re working on things that really aren’t important, therefore neglecting the most important items on your list.
If you do get off track, though, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just jump back into your list, using one of the tips I’ve listed to regain your focus.
A couple of examples of ways I’ve beaten my perfectionist tendencies:
- I used to think I needed the “right” cleaning product to do a task. If I was cleaning my toilet, I needed toilet cleaner. If I was cleaning my tub, I needed shower cleaner. You get the idea. Eventually, someone recommended that I clean with whatever I had on hand, and it’s seriously changed my life. I now clean 90% of my bathroom with Lysol wipes. If I don’t have those handy, I’ll use baby wipes instead. In fact, I’ve been known to wipe my toilet seat down with wet toilet paper and hand soap when I’m really crunched for time. And you know what? It still got clean.
- I thought I should clean both of my bathrooms every week. No idea where I got this idea, but I tried to stick to this routine for years and inevitably felt like a failure any time I missed a cleaning. Then I finally realized that one of my bathrooms is almost never used, so it needs to be cleaned once a month at most. The toilet in our main bathroom definitely should be cleaned every week, but the shower/tub doesn’t really get that dirty, so now I only clean it every two or three weeks. This is one of the easiest ways to be more productive because you’re removing an item from the “to do” list without even having to do it.
It may be hard to figure out what your own perfectionist hang-ups are, but next time you’re cleaning (or working or whatever), remember to question your own thoughts sometimes. If you think to yourself, “I can’t do this right now because [insert excuse here],” ask yourself “why not?” Usually, there isn’t a good reason.
That’s the end of this series for now, but you can find plenty of other productivity tips on my blog.