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Be more productive! Make time for self-care! If you’ve spent any time on social media or reading magazines lately, you’ve probably had both of those phrases drilled into your head. But…how can you find the time to do both? We’re going to answer that question, as well as setting up some realistic expectations for how balancing productivity & self-care really looks.
You’ve probably felt it before. That neverending push-pull of knowing you need to get things done and also knowing that you need to take care of yourself. It’s hard to balance…how do you decide when you’ve been productive enough, even if there is still more to do? How do you decide if you’re taking care of yourself or just avoiding things that need to happen? Which is more important, being productive or taking care of yourself? How do you make those decisions?
This is something that I’ve personally struggled with, oh, my entire life or so. Being productive has usually won, in the past. Getting stuff done comes first, and taking care of myself is an after-thought…if there is time. But that mindset is something I’ve been actively working on and I’d like to share some tips I’ve learned along the way.
How to balance productivity & self-care
1. Schedule in time for YOU
If you tend to be a slave to your to-do list, actively scheduling time for fun and self-care is the best way to actually make it happen. You already schedule in time for the tasks that HAVE to be done, so try also scheduling in time for the things you NEED to do. Time for doing things that are good for YOU, like exercise, eating well, and hobbies that soothe and recharge. Give self-care time importance in your day, instead of fitting it in only after everything else is finished.
2. Don’t overschedule
I have a tendency to waaay underestimate how long things will take. So, I’ve pulled back…like, a lot. Instead of trying to get 47 things done every single day, pick out the 3 most important. Make sure those get done! Then let the rest fall into place.
Fair warning: If you have a habit of overscheduling, It. Will. Feel. Strange. And a little wrong. Especially at first. But when that happens, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Did the most important things get done? Can the rest wait? If the answer is yes (and it probably is), remind yourself that everything is fine and you’re just breaking an established habit of being overly busy.
3. Self-care = productivity
Taking time for yourself…it feels like a slow down. Like you’re not making progress. But by making the time to take care of yourself, mentally, physically, and emotionally, you will actually become MORE productive. Giving yourself room to breathe and recharge will make the time you spend getting things done so much more effective. You’ll be focused, energized, and ready to tackle what needs to be done, instead of slogging your way through. Try it!
4. Reframe how you think of productivity
For the longest time, in my mind, being truly productive meant getting more and more (and more) done each day. If I wasn’t doing something productive, I was just wasting time. But it’s really about quality over quantity. Just getting things done doesn’t mean that you’re doing them effectively. And being productive does not mean working until you have nothing left to do. Aim for quality productive time instead of trying to fit more and more in. Getting fewer things done, but done well, will save you so much time in the long run!
5. Stop giving in to “productivity guilt”
Just because you’re not doing something productive every minute of each day, that doesn’t mean you’re being lazy or avoiding responsibilities. Let go of the guilt. Let go of the “shoulds”. Take the pressure off yourself and remember that just because you have the time and energy to be doing something “productive”, it doesn’t always mean that it’s the best way to spend your time. Accept that it is absolutely okay to take time out, just for you!
6. It’s okay to just stop, even if everything isn’t done
This is where scheduling comes in. And I STRUGGLE with this. Not getting everything done DOES NOT mean that you failed. More than likely, it means that you’ve overscheduled. Unless it’s absolutely imperative that something gets done right now, it’s okay to decide that you’re done for the day and just stop. For a little more help with this, check out this post.
7. Identify your peak hours
We all have times of the day that we’re naturally more productive. And times that we’re consistently less productive. Identify when those peak productive hours are in your day and use them to your advantage!
For example, my peak productive hours are between 1-5 pm. I am not a morning person and trying to get quality work done first things feels like trying to run through deep mud. During the afternoon, I feel like I’m firing on all cylinders, so I use that time to get the important tasks done.
Once you’ve identified when your personal best hours are, use them for the important, tedious, or most energy-consuming tasks! Save the mindless tasks for your less productive hours…or use that time for some good, solid self-care!
8. Shake up your routine
If each day leaves you feeling out of balance, try revamping your daily routines. What can you move around? Try out a new routine for a few days or weeks and see if a different schedule works better. It may take a few tries, but it won’t take long before you find a routine that works for you!
9. Understand that you may have to let a few things go
It’s pretty likely that you’re going to have to give a few things up. Most of us have gotten into the habit of packing our days so full that we simply have no time left.
At one point in my life, I wrote down all the things that I would like to get done each day…work, household chores, etc. I put down a realistic time that each task would take and added them up. The result? 14.5 hours a day! And that didn’t even include time for eating, showering, or relaxing. No wonder I was feeling rushed, frustrated, and behind schedule all the time! So I picked a few things to let go of. Delegated a few others. And have a much calmer life because of it!
I bet there are a few things on your schedule that you can easily give up. Some things may be harder. And some are non-negotiable. If you need a little help with this process, check How to Prioritize Your Day in 6 Steps
10. Create distinct “spaces” for productive time and self-care time
Find some ways to signal to yourself that this is productive time and that is self-care time by setting up specific locations or signals for each.
For example, if you work from home, try to pick one area to work in. When you are in that area, you know that it’s time to be productive. If you tend to relax in the living room, don’t fold your laundry on the couch.
And one final note on balancing productivity and self-care:
Being balanced doesn’t mean that every single day of your life will feel balanced. Each day may not (and probably won’t) be balanced evenly between productivity and self-care. Balance happens on a much larger scale. Some days will be busy. Some days will be easy. So instead of trying to force each day to be the perfect mix of getting things done and taking time to relax, aim for an overall balance in your life. Know that you’ll have busy days and accept them. But also even those days out by making time during other days to take care of YOU!