What really struck me before writing this piece was how subjective the notion of self-care can truly be. What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of self-care? A long relaxing day at the spa? An artful masseuse working on calming your tensed muscles? Or getting your hair done, your nails buffed?
Personally, a day of self-care for me involves staying in and binge watching (binge eating may be involved too, who knows) and basically not interacting with people. And this is something that might come as a surprise to a lot of us, but all of this, can mean self-care.
Defining self-care broadly
When discussing this with another co-worker, she mentioned how self-care is simply having value for her time. Things like planning your day in the morning, spending only the required time on office tasks, not worrying about work during lunch hours, not opening work emails post 7pm, etc.
The point here is; self-care doesn’t particularly have to be about sporadic incidents of spa or gym days. It can have to do a lot more with simply taking care of you on a daily basis.
At the core of self-care lies the idea of defining your relationship and your connection with yourself.
As individuals in demanding jobs, roles and responsibilities confined to the imperative need of showing up to work every morning, we’re taught to take care of our physical health. And conventionally, self-care is essentially ensuring that you take care of your physical health. But it’s significant to start treating our minds the way we do our bodies.
To know how to treat your mind like your body, click here.
Taking care of your physical health to get your efficient, effective and hustle-ready self to function is surely an integral part of the self-care equation, but that’s not all that there is to it. Broaden your definition of self-care to encompass taking care of your mind, your emotions, your feelings and thoughts, your relationship with yourself, etc.
So here’s how you can integrate self-care in your daily work routine.
Make a plan for the day
Now I know this sounds a little clichéd, but hear me out. The first step to including self-care is via learning to have value for your time and yourself.
We don’t realise or account for how emotionally draining dealing and working with other people can be. Or how certain conversations throughout your day can unconsciously sap your energy.
Think about this, how many times at the end of your day do you feel miserably exhausted without particularly having done a lot? It’s the added effort that goes into social interactions.
All of which can be avoided by simply prioritising and compartmentalising.
Throughout a workday, your co-workers, or your superiors frequently ask for your time and resources, which can be distracting to your process of accomplishing your actual work. Which is why it is significant to start your day by listing down everything that you’re supposed to get done for the day – in the order of its priority.
Then, as the other requests and tasks come in, you can evaluate and consider its impact on your priorities. Self-care implies honouring the value, and the impact of the work that you bring in.
Similarly, this value for your own time must translate in the part of your life that has nothing to do work too. To help elucidate, here’s an instance of something that I practice everyday. A major part of my work has the involvement of my phone and the infamous space of social media. Enduring tons of digital clutter is a part of my job description. Naturally, I end up spending over six hours in a day simply being on my phone – and the rest on the laptop.
Since the work part of this is mostly inevitable, I have found a solution to monitor my screen time by simply setting aside a couple of hours where I don’t engage with the screens at all. My work commute is one such moment through the day.
I ensure that I’ll indulge myself in no screen time during my commute to and from work – which is roughly 35-40 minutes each way.
Be it work mails, WhatsApp, texts from friends, I ensure that the only time I expose my eyes during the commute is to change the song. Music is a major source of my self-care. I have set that hour and a half aside for just my music and my thoughts – given that a majority of those thoughts are work and ideas related, it just all contributes to me planning my day better.
Similarly, it’s important for both your self-care as well as your mental health that you take clocking in and clocking out more seriously. When you do clock out of work, try clocking out not just physically but mentally as well.
Don’t think about work, or what you’re supposed to get done tomorrow. Try not responding to work mails, or work-related notifications post 8pm (or whatever time suits your schedule better).
Take your breaks seriously. If its your lunch hour, take that hour to just have lunch instead of using it to respond to work texts, mails or accepting meeting invites.
Perhaps the most dire mistake we all make in the pursuit of planning, organising and decluttering is doing too much of it all at once and then none later.
We all get those sporadic pangs of organisation and that itch perhaps every other Monday to create elaborate lists, plans and to-dos. And when we’re not able to fulfil those long daunting tasks, (which is the case more often than not), it leads to a whole new level of resentment and self-hate.
It’s very easy for us to spiral into the whirlpool of trying to get everything done all at once. So start small.
You don’t have to make really long to-do lists and restrict yourself to an impeding taskmaster of your own making. Don’t expect to be able to get 8-hours of sleep right on the day you decide to start sleeping right. Don’t go cold turkey on your favourite food on the very day you decide to start eating right.
Accept that you are a work in progress and be flexible about your routine.
Organise your workspace
Organisation can debatably be the biggest step to attaining workplace self-care. Clutter can drain our emotional and physical energies in unimaginable –and unrecognisable ways. So here’s something that I find useful in terms of organisation.
Organising your desk
Chaos may breed creativity but organisation is a surer path to productivity. But more than productivity, organisation has a much bigger role to play in the process of looking after yourself.
For an in-depth guide on decluttering and organising, click here.
- We’re way too wired – laptop cable, office charging cable, Bluetooth cable, etc. Too. Many. Wires. Shove them all under your desk. Use a cord organiser if you have to.
- Keep items of sentimental value to a bare minimum – photo frames, quote frames, other decorations, etc. They’re an unrecognised distraction. Imagine having a picture of your really cute baby on your desk. Don’t your thoughts keep fluttering to how cute your baby really is?
- If your work involves a lot of paperwork, ensure that you get rid of papers you no longer need in a timely manner. Piling paperwork can be a major buzz kill to your productivity.
Organising your PC/laptop
You’re kidding yourself if you don’t consider your devices as a significant impediment to your self-care routine.
Having to deal with incessant technology – a myriad of screens, scrapping through a plethora of mails, text, and notifications can most certainly be draining.
So here’s how you can organise your devices in a way that they can be less-energy-sapping.
Organise those mails: As painful as it might seem, it’s important to get to those endless notifications at some point or the other. Thankfully the Gmail App is a good friend and it senses our needs. You can create separate folders and labels for your work mails and your personal ones.
Unsubscribe: After a period of over a week generally, Gmail questions the relevance of the mails you haven’t bothered opening. Now as tempting as those newsletters or fancy articles that you saved to ‘read later’ may seem, let’s be honest. You will not read them later. Unsubscribe. Leave space for important mails to be visible.
Keep a notes’ draft handy: Out of the many job responsibilities, one of my primary ones is to write long form articles. So I basically have a lot of random ideas to write about. And in the fear losing out those thoughts, I put them down on any word document that presents itself before me. I have lost count of the ideas that have disappeared due to the sheer brilliance of this process. But I have found a solution to this. An email draft!
Now, as much as we’d all love to have fancy notebooks and pens handy, let’s face it – this stationery aspiration does not always translate to reality. So here’s what I do – have an email draft handy instead. Gmail is a pro when it comes to saving your drafts/unsent emails and it’s a good replacement for unsaved word documents as well. You might misplace your word document but you’ll never miss a Gmail draft.
Folders: And labels. Organise your device by deleting old files or moving them off your desktop and on to an external hard drive or storage system. If you’re a Mac Book user, apple has the option of labelling and colour coding your folders. Use this labelling system to organise files and folders in the degree of their importance on your device. Also, make this a regular practice. The nature of clutter is indefinite. This sorting out process must be intermittently returned to.
Doing all this might seem more organisational – and by extension, boring and superfluous in nature. But this is directly related to clearing out your thought process.
With the burgeoning technology and numerous devices we’re attached to, this unorganisation is a direct yet unrecognised impediment to our self-care routines.
To know how you can convert this impeding technology into an efficient tool for increasing your productivity, click here.
Celebrate your accomplishment
Last but most certainly not the least, it is incredibly critical to step back and admire your masterpiece every now and then.
If I had to ask you what did you accomplish the previous week? Chances are you wouldn’t remember. Because you’ve moved on to the next thing on your to-do list before reflecting on your accomplishments.
We’re so attuned to the ceaseless hustle. Hopping from one task to another, one Monday to another. And we end up merely existing in the time spent between two weekends.
Instead, hit the pause button with yourself and your team to take a look back at the previous month or quarter, and name or write down what went well or what felt particularly satisfying. This kind of debrief can help you stay connected to passions, highest contributions, and actions that actually add value.
Not to mention how important self-validation is in the journey of self-care.
Having said all of this however, I would still emphasise on the subjective nature of self-care altogether. For a lot of you out there, this may just have nothing to do with self-care whatsoever. And that is precisely where I want to end this piece.
Because ultimately, self-care is all about finding your relationship with yourself.