Self-indulgence vs self-care

We are half way through the 2019 year. The things I was going to get done in 2019 – not done because time has just gone by so fast, and I have just been ‘too busy’.

The year so far has been an odd year for me and is the first time I have felt that things were out of my control, or that life was passing me by. This is not the way it is to be. I started actively looking for new ways to regain control, and get things done. I happened to come by a podcast series by one of the guys I had been hearing about for some time from people – Jay Shetty, along with some other reading including ‘How to time your day for Peak Performance’ by Daniel Pink. These have helped me refine my thinking around time.

We can change a lot of things around us, but we cannot change the availability of time. All of us know this, but maybe we need to be more mindful about how we are utilising time, especially any downtime.

Things become frantic at work, lots of work coming in, meeting deadlines, ensuring we do not drop the ball, while ensuring that everything else gets done around us, family is fed, kids sports and activities are done, housework is done, laundry is done, dealing with emergencies on the way – almost always something is not done, which adds to the never-ending feeling of not achieving anything.

In the midst of all this we try and fill in any downtime with things that distract us from this life on the treadmill – albeit for a short time. So we escape at 10pm or at bedtime into the world of Netflix, facebook, indulgence in that meal and that wine we feel we deserve or something else that will give us that immediate high or that moment of pleasure that we tell ourselves will help us deal with the crazy business of the next day much better (only it doesn’t because the same problems need solving with less time to solve them, which leads to extra stress, and we are already tired from going to bed at 2am)…

Sometimes we really need self-indulgence and should indulge. However, we need to consciously make the distinction between self-indulgence and self-care.

What we often overlook is that after that weekend of binge partying, drinking, eating or after going to bed at 2am after our binge watching, is that Monday will still come, and our problems will still be there, and the timeframe for dealing with these is now shorter. So one of the lessons I am learning is that self-care means using time effectively to identify the stress factors or other problems in my life, reflect on how real they are, and educate myself on how to solve these problems. To also focus on feeling better on Monday rather than only feeling better now.

An equally ineffective method of addressing problems is ignoring them, in the hope that things will just get better, or will go away or solve itself. So either in business, in employment or in our personal lives, we continue to do the things we want to do, avoid the things that we should or need to do. More often than not, as time progresses the problems become worse and/or more time urgent, and therefore resolving them becomes harder and more stressful.

Again we come back to time. Some of the tips from Jay Shetty’s podcast that have really helped me are:

  1. Get up 1-2 hours earlier than you need to.
  2. Avoid decision fatigue early in the morning by making decisions about unimportant things, i.e. what to wear.
  3. Think about what you need to do the next day the night before.

Following the first tip, I had one or two hours more than I had before when I had energy. I was not rushing around stressed in the morning and I was completing the things I wanted to, and including productive ‘me’ time in the morning. Ideally this time should not be used to just do work, but to use it for something productive that you otherwise do not get time to do (self-reflection or simply reflection, meditation, etc.), but focusing on self-care rather than self-indulgence.

One of the things I was missing in terms of achieving what I wanted to by mid-2019 was awareness, attention and action towards my intentions. The intention is always there, and it is so easy to think that it ends with intention as there isn’t always the time for awareness and action. Hardly anything happens with only an intention, though somehow many of us expect it to. The second and third tips can help focus on this. Half an hour the night before of reflection, and then being purposeful about what to get done the next day.  

Other tips I have come across is using downtime (getting ready for work, travelling to and from work or other travel, waiting times for appointments) more efficiently. Second is to identify the most effective times for you to focus on different types of tasks and try to plan your days around this. Third is block timing as much as you can. We all know how difficult it is to shift attention from one matter to another and back again. My job for example, has a significant people facing / networking / relationship maintenance component which requires a certain type of energy. My job also involves significant projects which is often quite technical and requires focussed attention to detail. It is very difficult to jump from the former to the latter and vice versa on the same day. Sometimes this is unavoidable, but planning or block timing these in our calendars so we can do both tasks as effectively and efficiently as possible is another planning tool.

None of the above is rocket science and we all are aware of these at some level, and it is often attacked at micro-levels such as time management at work, time management to a deadline. What is often missing is seeing time as a tool to help us live more effective lives and to ensure we take care of ourselves and control of our lives. It doesn’t need to be any of the above, but let’s address time as a tool – I think it can help everyone to some extent, and it is worth the time.

Acknowledgements: Podcasts: On Purpose with Jay Shetty

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