My primary New Year’s Resolution this Rosh Hashanah was to be better about self-care.
To be honest, that’s because as I sat there, making a list of all the things I want to be better at, they all boiled down to:
I want to be less cranky.
And I finally realized that the simplest way to be less cranky isn’t to exert more willpower and self-control. It’s to do things to make myself feel better. When I feel better, I am a more patient coworker and a more generous and present friend. Also, I feel better, so that’s pretty cool, right?
I wasn’t entirely sure how to be better about self-care, though, and I have to give credit for my breakthrough to Mel Jolly at Author Rx. I subscribe to her excellent newsletter, and this summer she said something that really stuck with me:
I hate making the same decisions about what to do in which order day after day, so I try to put myself on autopilot as much as possible.
Then, a few weeks later, she shared a story about a friend whose young son got easily distracted during his morning routine, so she made him a list:
Put on shoes
Mel did something similar for her morning routine.
The truth is, I already knew what I needed to do to feel better. The problem was actually doing it. I’d come home from the day job all keyed up and stressed out, look at my to-do list, and say to myself, I don’t have time for self-care. So I’d jump straight into work, but I’d be unfocused and stressed out, and end up procrastinating on Twitter while feeling guilty.
OH MY GOD, I realized. What if I set aside a certain amount of time each day (I started with an hour and a half, but it wasn’t enough, so I ended up with two hours), and then made a self-care checklist? If I did everything the same way in the same order every time, and I made a commitment to do it “every day after work unless I had something scheduled with another person”, that would eliminate all the fussing and debating. I would just do it.
And look, I know two hours, three or four times a week, sounds like a lot of time. That’s possibly eight hours, just to make myself feel better.
But you know what? It is so, so worth it. I’m not gonna say I’m always perfect about follow-through, or that I never skip a day, because I totally am not, and I do at least once a week. BUT usually once I do start, I go through the whole two hours, and I feel great afterwards. Not only that, but I’m ready to actually sit down and work at my writing and career!
I use a page protector and dry-erase marker, just like Mel suggested: