Like many entrepreneurs I know, I tend to run myself into the ground with work week after week all in the name of productivity. I get a rush each time I check off an item on my to-do list. But when I look at my body at the end of the week I notice just how exhausted I am both mentally and physically.
So why do I keep doing this to myself? Because “the hustle” is glorified in the entrepreneur world and I feel I need to keep churning out great work if I want to earn my worth. But there’s no medal, no badge, no shiny gold star for being busy. There’s only burnout, and that’s why I’ve learned to ease up on myself and finally plan self-care into my work week.
When I spoke with my friend, Kaiya Yuen, the massage therapist and mind behind Kaiya Healing Arts, on the subject of self-care she described the process as “disconnecting from everything in the world outside of your own love and compassion for yourself and saying, ‘It’s okay. I’m here. I’m sorry. I love you. I will try better.’”
That means setting up boundaries and enforcing them throughout the week. It means knowing when to say no to a project or an event that won’t fit in your calendar and knowing when to say yes to offers of help. Below, I share the three rules I follow when scheduling a week free of burnout.
Know Your Hours
How many hours do you want to work each day realistically? Are you shooting for eight hours or six? Do you want to sleep in or get straight to work? What will your typical workday look like? Figure out if it’s more of a 7-3 or a 9-5 schedule. Then, define those hours clearly in your contract, on your contact page, or in your email signature for your clients. That way you have clear guidelines of when you can clock out and step away from your desk. Those hours are a way to say “no” to work on Sundays or emails after dinner, in a consistent and clear way.
+ Tip: Read Laura Vanderkam’s book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think if you want to really learn how to get the most out of each hour in your day.
Eat the Frog
Each day, before you ever write down your day’s to-dos, revisit your recurrent tasks as well as current project and business-related tasks with a fine tooth comb. Select the top three objectives you’d like to focus on that day, ranking them in order of difficulty in your agenda.
Mark Twain not only knew how to style a white cotton suit, but he also knew a thing or two about scheduling when he said these wise words, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
If you get that one nagging task done first thing in the day, you can pat yourself on the back rather than beating yourself up for only completing half of all the tasks you’ve listed out.
Schedule with Spontaneity
“Harry, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it; don’t wait for it; just let it happen. It could be a new shirt in a men’s store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot, black, coffee.” – Agent Dale Cooper, Twin Peaks
Within the parameters of your work hours and in between your top three must-dos, block out time for breaks. Don’t plan out what those breaks are exactly, just block off time for you to do whatever it is you need to refresh in that moment. Whether that’s just taking a shower, listening to a podcast, or painting your nails.
At first, I thought by taking breaks between my writing that I’d never get back on track or reach my goals. But when I returned to the page after a walk around my neighborhood, I found new ways to approach the scenes of my novel with fresh eyes.
Self-Care Ideas to Schedule In
Now as far as what self-care practices you’d like to include in your breaks are up to you. If you’re at a loss for what to do, I’ve put together a list of my ten go-to self-care activities to inspire you. Hopefully, you’ll find some ideas on this list that you can incorporate into your schedule.
- Drink some tea.
- Take a long hot shower or bath.
- Soak your feet in Epsom salts.
- Listen to podcasts or audiobooks.
- Journal your thoughts.
- Go for a walk or run.
- Heal your body with a massage.
- Read a good book.
- Put on a record.
- Do some yoga.
In the end, self-care can be a long process, but when you set your work hours, your day’s priorities, and schedule time for whatever it is you need to breathe and refresh, you’ll feel better and get more work done in the end. If there are any self-care favorites of your own, let me know!