Even before the pandemic hit, there was a big movement in the American marketplace catering to the idea of self care. Products were created, experiences curated, and blogs written emphasizing the importance of one’s self being a top priority in order to achieve happiness and, frankly, sanity. However, in a capitalist society what value is given to the care of workers when the money engine runs on productivity? I have found that self care actually makes me a better worker bee by allowing me the mind space to harness and compartmentalize my focus when it matters most. Let me explain.
There’s nothing new in the argument that self care makes us feel better. It works. We’re nicer people when we’ve had time to decompress and sit with our own thoughts. Who has woken up from a restful nap angry or short-tempered? Who looks down at their pedicured toes and thinks, “Now that I feel pampered, who can I yell at?” But does taking time away from the blessed 8-hours that we’re supposed to be tapping away at a keyboard in order to spend more time doing the things that make us feel better actually help achieve a new level of productivity in less time? For me, yes.
I began working from home again during the pandemic. I had quit a full-time, in-office job and decided to go back to freelance design. I found a few great clients and went to work. However, before I decided to go back to work, I had established a routine for myself where I worked out in the mornings, took time to eat a healthy breakfast, make the beds, straighten out the chaos my children inflicted on my house the night before, shower and usually by 10:00 or 11:00 a.m., I was able to sit down and focus on some good-old fashioned contributions to society. When I hadn’t done my routine first, I would sit down at my computer, half awake, and those small things that I really wanted to do for myself, would sit in the background of my head and actually make me feel guilty that they didn’t get done. I would be distracted because, well, I missed me. I felt edgy and uninspired. On the other hand, there was the feeling that I had to be at my desk from 9-5 in order for it to “count” as a workday. I soon realized, I had to let that go and realized that I could get more done in less time if, and only if, I let myself have some time for me.
The results: I workout every morning. I may sit down at my desk, a sweaty mess, for a couple of minutes afterwards to answer any super emergent cries for design help, but then I go about my morning, eating a good breakfast (away from the computer or phone), cleaning up a bit (including my sweaty mess of a self), and then set to work. I also take a break mid-day to walk my dogs and eat lunch outside (weather permitting) for a quick recharge. Then I work a bit more before usually being summoned to my kids’ school by some sports commitment or carpool. I never feel like I don’t get what I need to do accomplished. I never feel guilty that I took that time for myself, because I realize this works.
I work better when I feel better. I work well when I feel like I am not a slave to my clients. I feel balanced and positive about my work instead of harried and beholden to it. If there is a unique project that requires a full eight hours that day, I may take care of it in the evening and order takeout for dinner or throw that hot potato to my spouse to deal with. I have also learned not to take on too much to begin with. You can read more about how to do that here.
In the meantime, namaste.