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The 5-Step Guide to Self Care for Busy People

The 5-Step Guide to Self Care for Busy People

Self care is necessary for our physical and mental health, yet often it’s the first thing we drop when we find ourselves stretched for time. Without adequate self care, we are less likely to be the best possible version of ourselves, and our relationships, work, and experience of the world suffers as a result. Although it might feel like the opposite, the times when we feel least able to pay attention to our self care are the times when we most need it.

If you’re feeling stretched for time, it can be difficult to know how to start fitting self care into your week. Here is the 5-step guide to self care for busy people:

1. Start with your needs first

Self care is conventionally portrayed as pampering yourself, however, what it’s really about is meeting your human needs. This could be a need for relaxation, a need for quiet, a need for connection, a need for stability, and much more. Before you engage in any kind of self care related activity, think to yourself: what needs do I want to meet here? What do I need most in my life right now?

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Not only will this help you truly care for yourself on a very fundamental level, but it will make your self care more efficient. Instead of engaging in random self care activities in an attempt to feel ‘better’, you can pinpoint exactly what it is you need right now and go straight to meeting that need.

2. Schedule it

“I don’t have enough time” is one of the most common reasons I hear from people who are struggling to engage in self care on a regular basis. The antidote is this belief is to make time. Perhaps this sounds easier said than done, but one certain way to create time for your self care is to schedule it. Find a gap in your calendar during the next week and schedule in an appointment called “self care time”. Then, most importantly, stick to it.

Be realistic with your scheduling: if all you can see is the odd 10-minute gap, use that. Depending on what your current needs are, your self care could simply involve closing your eyes and breathing deeply for a few minutes to relax.

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3. Prioritise

While we’re on the subject of time, let’s talk about priorities. When we feel like we don’t have time to do something important, it’s either because we’re not making time, or because our priorities are out of alignment with what we actually need. Everything we do with our time is a choice. It might feel like we ‘have’ to do certain things, but, in reality, we have complete control over how we spend our time.

You can fit self care into your schedule, no matter how busy you are, by deciding it is a priority. Whether this means making it the first thing you do each morning, forgoing TV or Facebook time, saying ‘no’ to certain commitments, or potentially displeasing others, you can fit self care into your weekly routine if you prioritise.

4. Be assertive about setting your boundaries

When you start deliberately taking time for yourself and saying ‘no’ to commitments and requests, you might experience resistance from people around you. This can be emotionally challenging, especially if you’re not used to saying ‘no’ or placing your preferences above other people’s. If you’re faced with this kind of resistance, you need to be assertive about your needs and boundaries.

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When you start setting down boundaries about what you are and aren’t willing to do, it can be hard to stand your ground in the face of push-back from those around you. Remember: you can take half an hour for yourself, and the world will still be there when you return. And when you do return, you’ll be in a much better, healthier position to deal with the world around you.

Self care is not a luxury. It’s not selfish and it’s not indulgent. Self care is absolutely necessary to your physical and mental health.

5. Focus on little and often

Like exercise, meditation, learning, and other beneficial activities, self care is far more effective when you engage with it little and often, as opposed to big chunks every now and again. Practising some kind of self care activity that takes 10-15 minutes a day is far more helpful than one that takes two hours once a month.

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As well as the simple deep breathing exercise I mentioned above, other quick self care practices include meditation, short yoga routines, journaling, dancing around the room to a track of your choice, leaving uplifting quotes around your home or office for when you’ll most need them, creating a set of affirmations, or finding a change of scene.

Self care doesn’t have to involve a lot of money, nor does it require a lot of time. If you’re struggling to fit self care into your routine, start small, prioritise, and listen to what you need.

What are your tips for creating a regular self care practice when you’re stretched for time? Leave a comment and let us know.

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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