Do you think you don’t have time to look after yourself? Do you get through a lot of errands, tasks, pieces of work, picking up after kids / partner, shopping, collapsing, relaxing, self-medicating every day and not feel any sense of achievement or satisfaction?
Its possible to be busy without having actual goals, priorities or aims.
Its possible to be so goal oriented that you aren’t aware of yourself, the daily choices you make, the decisions each moment which build up into a way of being, a way of life.
I used to have a job at the BBC where I worked a very full office hour job, I had weekend shifts and was on call. This was not glamorous of highly paid. I found it stressful and tiring. There was no regular evening slot where I could dance, sing or play with a group. Not so much time for me. I had made work central to my life and work had taken up so many corners. I loved a weekend off. I craved holidays to get away from it all.
After a few years I became sick and had a long hard look at my life and decided to retrain as an Alexander Technique teacher. I’d been thinking about it for 10 years. I decided I needed to do something where my health took centre-stage.
So I had a goal, I knew some of the steps and I took them one by one. Three years later I graduated from school in Kendal and had a blank diary back home in Manchester.
Remembering how much work had taken out of me and how little of me was left, I decided to put the things which nourish me in the diary first. Dancing on Wednesdays, singing on Tuesdays, Yoga on Thursdays, Tai Chi on Saturdays etc. Then I blocked off periods of time where I would be available for work. I was NOT going to do scheduled work on a Monday morning, I was very clear. There were double benefits on this decision. I could start the week slowly and gently without joining in the general “I hate Mondays” chorus, AND I had Sunday nights clear to enjoy without a sense of dread or rush about what happened next morning.
I marked it all off in my diary.
I put in times when I would do my daily practise of resting and self-care. 20 minutes a day of constructive rest, lying on my back, knees raised, soles of feet on the floor and my head resting on a small pile of books. With no distractions.
I put times in my diary where I would go grocery shopping and when I would eat.
This was an interesting schedule, it made my life seem full, even though I had no clients at this point. I could see what I valued and made space for these things first. I still had 20 hours available for seeing clients.
I’ve eased off a bit on paper with this, nowadays my diary isn’t so streamlined, but in my mental diary, I still have the important things in my schedule first: taking my son to school, being available for my son after school, working during school hours, meditating, yoga and working in Manchester when he’s with his Dad.
If I’m not intentional about it, I can easily put a client in the diary when I’m meant to be travelling between clinics, or eating lunch! I only do this about once a term, then mark my diary up again to include lunch and travel time.
Do you know the story about the jar and its full of big stones and the teacher asks if its full? Yes say some students. So the teacher adds some pebbles, which slide down between the stones, filling in some gaps. Is it full now? Yes say a few voices. So the teacher adds some sand, this fills more spaces and reaches all the way to the bottom of the jar and up the sides until no more space can be seen. Is it full now? Yes say some voices. The teacher adds some water. Now it is full.
Is there something you’d like to do more of in your daily or weekly life? Can you make a choice to prioritize this in your life. Make this one of the big stones in your jar. I recommend you get your daily diary out and mark it in. Choose different colours, use stickers, highlighters whatever pleases you. Even if it means getting up 10 minutes earlier to the thing for you FIRST. Look after yourself, nourish yourself, and pop it in the diary to mark its importance and take heed of this scheduled time. Big stones first, then pebbles, then sand, then water. You have space.
Lucy Ascham enjoys spending time on the things she values, and values spending time on the things which bring most joy, health and contribution.