You reply to emails in your sleep and wake up in cold sweats about your box of un-filed receipts. Lunch breaks get skipped, and dinner with the family is a distant memory. You can’t remember the last time you trimmed your fingernails, let alone dedicated an hour to pampering. It’s easy to slip into the routine of working all day, only to come home and work all evening, but sometimes, you need to make time for yourself. Here’s how.
Take a Lunch Break
If you work inside a lot, get outside! There are so many studies that show the benefits of fresh air to our mental well-being. If you can get to somewhere leafy and green all the better — one German study even showed positive results from people just staring at a green square for a couple of seconds!
Similarly, if you have a manual job, then don’t forget to sit still. Take your lunch somewhere quiet and eat in peace, not scrolling through your social media feeds or scanning emails. Once you’ve eaten, take 10 minutes to read a book. It will calm you down and ready your mind for an afternoon of productivity.
The adage that you are what you eat could not be truer. When you work on a self-employed basis, you don’t get sick pay, so it’s critical to be kind to your body. If you work from home, then you have no excuse, but it’s easy for people who hot-desk or work elsewhere to turn to takeaway coffee and pre-packaged sandwiches in the name of convenience. While it seems like a good idea at the time, it takes half an hour to prep a healthy lunch for the whole week, and your body (and your bank balance) will thank you.
Boost Travel Time
Some of us have a long commute in the mornings, and while it would be lovely to wave goodbye to it, we can’t. These hours soon add up, so the next best thing is to be productive with your time. Answer your morning emails on the train or get ahead with your new project. An hour’s commute in the morning and evening equates to more than a whole working day per week. So, if you use your time wisely, you can treat yourself to a day off occasionally, completely guilt-free.
Traveling as part of your job can be exhausting, but it opens a whole new world of possibilities for exploring new cultures. Professional poker player Dale Philip, for example, spends much of his work time traveling and writing brilliantly about prioritizing life experience over cramming mindless minutes into the workday. If you find yourself working in a new city, spend an extra hour in the evenings getting work out of the way so that you can take more time to explore your new surroundings.
Learn the Routine
Getting into a routine is one of the best ways to maximizing productivity while also ensuring you always have a couple of hours left for “you” time at the end of the day. An excellent way to start off a routine is by spending half an hour making a checklist at the end of every week. Write down all the things that you’d like to accomplish over the next week and break them into essential and non-essential categories. There are plenty of apps that can help with this — and you get the satisfying feeling of checking a box for each task you complete.
Staying on task can be hard when we live in a world full of distractions. It can be rough in the beginning, but the best way to avoid the distractions is to adopt a zero-tolerance policy. Don’t check any social media channels during work hours, either. If you market a lot through Instagram, then schedule in an hour per day to respond to messages and post new content. Anything outside of that hour, no checking.
Just like social media messages, there is no email that cannot wait an hour to be answered. Have a five-minute slot every hour for email checking — if you needed to respond sooner, then they would have called you. It can be exhausting being available all the time, so if you find yourself feeling tired, then the best thing you can do is switch off the screens for the evening. It’s better to reply to a query a little late, then to send a poorly thought out response.
If there’s one thing to take away from this: it’s that looking after yourself will only improve the bottom line of your business. Never feel guilty about taking the evening off to have a bath and a glass of wine. Burnout can happen to us all, but it’s much better to avoid the situation, then end up struggling to rectify it.