You can’t open a magazine and scroll down a newsfeed without coming across some reference to self-care and why you should be doing it.
Productivity is not related to the number of hours worked. In fact, several studies show that those who worked longer were no more – and sometimes less – productive than those who worked fewer hours. These studies also show that a failure to regulate working hours can have a detrimental effect on our health.
Self-care is a catch all term for taking useful steps towards improving our general well-being. Doing this can help our overall mental and physical health and make sure that the balance between our working lives and our personal lives is at an acceptable level.
Five easy steps to help you include self-care in the work day
Although only small changes are required, as freelancers we know only too well that the small stuff often gets side-lined. Make a concerted effort to include one or two of the following steps every week, gradually building up until you feel you’ve reached an equilibrium that works for you.
- Set a weekly task plan and order it in terms of priority. Now, stuff happens, we know this. But having a proper schedule and sticking as closely as you can helps to focus the mind on the most important items on your to do list and keeps you on track. There are free scheduler and project management tools that can help you create your to do lists. I use Freedcamp and One Note but there are lots of other options.
- Take breaks throughout the day. Not as easy as it seems but essential. Even just a walk around the house if you’re a home worker, or a ten minute breather from your desk. Stay on your feet and get some fresh air if you can. Do a bit of stretching every hour at the very least to refresh you mentally and physically.
- Keep your hours flexible. No doubt one of the reasons you got into this freelancer malarkey in the first place. Don’t feel you can’t make the school open day because you ‘should be working’. This goes hand in hand with point 1. There are non-work-related tasks that should always take priority. Missing a family event because of a business call is only going to make you feel guilty; a stronger emotion that the fleeting high you’ll get from ticking off a to-do list item.
- Make sure your work space works. I’m as guilty as the next person of settling down to work in the midst of last night’s dinner dishes, with the pile of unwashed laundry looming large in the corner and being unable to concentrate as a result. If you work from home, set apart a space that is solely for work. Or consider taking space in a dedicated cowork or renting a small office.
- Eat & drink! How many times have you planned lunch as soon as you’ve got that ‘one last thing’ done? Only to look at the clock and find it’s nearer dinner time. Food is fuel for your body and your brain. Take short, regular water breaks and schedule lunch in your task planner if you have to.
Start with one and work up to all 5 and you’ll soon realise the benefits of looking after yourself, increasing your productvity and your well-being.