Important vs essential: A guide to making time for you

Take a minute to consider these questions:

  • Are you responsible for the amount of energy you have to ‘spend’ each day?
  • Are you responsible for bringing value to your organisation?
  • Are you responsible for the quality of your relationships with your workmates, friends and family?

If you answered ‘yes’ to some or all of the above, congratulations – you’re well on your way to taking a self-leadership approach to life!

It’s easy to sit back and convince yourself that life’s so busy you can’t fit ‘yourself’ in; it’s easy to find someone or something else to blame. It’s also a sure-fire route to feeling out of control and maybe even becoming burned out. On the other side of the coin, self-leaders take responsibility for their behaviour and the results they experience every day and in life. They understand that they are where they are today because of the actions they took yesterday.

So, what do self-leaders do exactly?

They have just as much going on as the rest of us, but they also know that without prioritising time to recharge themselves, they can’t keep their energy levels up, bring real value to their work, feel calm and contented and make time for the important people in their lives.

As a self-leadership advocate and motivational speaker, I’m quick to notice when making time to recharge had begun to take a backseat in my life, and swiftly create a plan to put it first. I know too well that putting it ‘second’ can lead to disappearing off the radar entirely.

Sound a little idealistic? It all comes down to one powerful question that we could all really benefit from asking ourselves more often: What can I do about this?

Like everyone else, my partner and I have a lot of important priorities, including managing our own businesses, renovating our home and running a miniature farm (think four unruly alpacas and 10 silly sheep). Recently I realised we’d gradually started to put these important priorities ahead of our essential ones. Downtime is essential for us (and you!) because without it, our important tasks don’t get done to the best of our abilities.

If you’re exhausted and chasing your tail all day, it’s likely you’re not delivering your best either. Like us, you might find yourself with limited energy or excitement to share with your children or loved ones at the end of the day. But how do we motivate ourselves to squeeze in satisfying, healthy downtime (as opposed to crashing in front of the TV with a glass of wine night after night) when we already don’t have enough other time?

I believe we need to consider four key things:

1. Make your downtime fun. Schedule in something you really enjoy, so it doesn’t feel like another task to tick off your to-do list. Adding activities we genuinely connect with adds value to our lives.

2. Take the ‘It’s the way we do things around here’ approach and make it something that you could happily make a habit of.

3. Be realistic. Activities you need to drive across town in traffic to get to, or that require you to kill time after work before they start are not going to be realistic to maintain. Choose an activity that doesn’t add extra stress, or enlist the company of a friend to help hold you to it.

4. Take a balanced, whole-person approach to self-leadership. To recharge ourselves and operate to our full capacity, we need to consider four dimensions : the physical, mental, emotional and internal. These are interconnected and equally important ingredients for a happy, fulfilling life.

Here’s what my partner and I came up with:

* Monday is now Mindfulness Monday. This might include listening to a guided session on YouTube, Spotify or Headspace, or simple making an effort to be mindful throughout the day (try it on your walk to work or while you’re eating lunch).

* Tuesday is TED Talk Tuesday, on which we’ll make an effort to learn about something completely new – no matter how small.

* Wednesday is Workout Wednesday.

* Thursday is Thoughtful Thursday when we’ll focus on the significant relationships in our lives and doing something special with or for family or friends.

* Friday is Fitness Friday.

* On Pick Up The Slack Saturdays we’ll reserve some time to get on top of those important priorities if necessary.

* And Sunday is Special Time Sunday, aka dedicated, uninterrupted, as-device-free-as-possible family time – just us and our one-and-a-half-year-old.

Every night before we go to sleep, we decide how and when we’re going to fit in our essentials. Each activity requires less than an hour to complete, so it’s not hard to do, yet the rewards are huge.

Waking up feeling energised, motivated, calm and contented doesn’t just happen by chance. People who experience these feelings have made self-leadership habits part of their life – they’ve become a way of life. I encourage you to come up with your own ways to make wellness an essential priority and build your important proprieties around it. When you do – nothing will stand in your way.

Is your team regularly taking steps to develop their self leadership abilities?

If you and your organisation could do with a little self leadership inspiration or motivation please get in touch with us. We specialise in corporate self leadership.

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