When will your self-worth allow you sufficient time to protect some regular personal “me time” just for you? Can you really raise your game without it?
Me Time (Audio)
When last have you created some time “just for you”? You know, sharpening your axe? Not serving anyone else’s purpose but your very own? Are you one of the growing numbers of people spending most of your day in meetings and trying to do your job before and after work? This is what I’d like to explore today.
Time to get and stay on top
I am finding a growing amount of “angst” within very capable people to “stay on top of their game”. We are increasingly “flat out” in our work, aren’t we? More deadlines, tougher KPI’s, less resources spreading those remaining even thinner, growing stress to try and stay ahead of the pack. Schedules, to-do lists or task lists, priorities, crisis, meetings. And that’s just at work. Add the home life responsibilities, chores and demands from the family to the list and it never seems to end, does it? Let alone finding time for golf or social enjoyment or building and maintaining friendships. At the end of the day we fall into bed, exhausted, only to “groan out of bed” the next morning (often from a troubled sleep) to face it all again, right? Sound familiar? I’m finding numerous people sometimes very close to overwhelm. On the incessant treadmill doing what they “have to do”.
I am sure that most of us have experienced this to a greater or lesser degree at varying times in our career, right?
So when is enough?
I shared the “dog on the nail” story with a client again this week. The travelling salesman is sitting with the farmer on the verandah over a drink talking about stuff you talk about before getting into his pitch, when he notices the big farm dog lying between them keeps raising its head to howl painfully before flopping down back to sleep. It does this every few minutes until eventually the salesman asks the farmer: “what’s with the dog – why does he do that – is he alright?” The farmer tells him: “Don’t worry about him, he’s lying on a nail – so he complains about the discomfort. But it’s not uncomfortable enough for him to get up and lie where there isn’t a nail, so he just keeps complaining”. Some of you can relate to that, can’t you?
A business owner sought me out this week to address something that had been holding him back for a long time. The “pain of staying the same” had eventually become greater than the “pain of change”, and so he was ready to do something about it. He was now ready to “get off the nail”. He was greatly inspired by what we discussed that could help him better achieve the outcomes he wanted, because he was ready to. (I don’t think he realizes yet just how much he will inspire his people when he has made the changes he has in mind).
In case you can relate to the above, when might you be ready to?
Sharpening your Axe
Some time ago I wrote about the “go getter woodcutter” in Sharpening your axe where after literally working his guts out, his more experienced colleagues showed him the value of indeed taking some productive time out to sharpen his axe in order to maintain his productivity.
I am finding this concept of planning, creating and allowing some “me time” to feature in more and more of my coaching clients. This doesn’t only apply to those in or approaching overwhelm. It is a phenomenon that most busy people tend to forget. Most successful people know that it is a pre-requisite in order to stay on top of any successful career; however in the “heat of the battle” we can sometimes forget to give it sufficient emphasis. Ironically it is when we lose that discipline “while we are in control” that we, like the frog, don’t notice “the water temperature slowly rising”, and only realize the raised temperature when some form of benchmark or event or remark helps us notice it. It can happen quite easily, can’t it?
In my work I also encounter situations where people have been conditioned to “always serve others first”, sometimes to the point where they don’t realize that there might be some unconscious level drivers that engender this to the attitude that “others always come first”. It has been allowed to influence their self worth and can mess with their confidence. Coaches can help to identify such likely situations and help their client to recognize and remedy that.
So what do we do about getting some “me time”?
Realization and recognition that you crave some time “just for me” is probably the best place to start. Perhaps you’ll check in with yourself (using the “11th commandment”) and assess how much “me time” you have allowed for yourself in the last months? Do you allow enough or any time for planning, or do you “just keep doing”?
I’m known to advocate the planning of your week on Sunday night; to review what’s already in the diary and then from the task or goals list to plan time slots for specific tasks or events or activities that matter to you as per Who is driving your bus?. Normal planning activity, right?
Why not diarize some “me time” into the week? Depending on your situation, it may just be an hour twice a week. Having set it, you can forget it. When the diary reminds you that it’s time to, may I suggest you close the door or find somewhere where you won’t be disturbed and turn off the phone and email and dedicate that time exclusively and protectively to you? Those around you should get to know that you are not to be disturbed. Maybe you need to do it at home, if that’s more private. Find out what works for you.
If this “me time” is unfamiliar for you, may I warn you of the risk that at first you might not know what to do with yourself? Because we are so used to “being busy” (dare I suggest for some that may also need to be “seen to be busy?) you will be tempted to be “rescued” by distractions. Please stick with it. Having planned an agenda for yourself might help. At last some time to read that article, or write that letter, or map out some goals, or research that idea, or plan that event, or mind map that personal issue, or update that resume, or make some networking calls etc etc. You will know what is not necessarily urgent, but of great importance for you to get to at last. And if you stick with it and you are on a roll, that hour will pass very quickly. It is a liberating feeling to look back on having done “something just for you”.
A growing number of my clients start their “me time” hour with reading the next one of my blogs, starting from the first one and working their way through them over a period of time. You will find them under: Index .
That does a couple things for you:
- It “grounds” you into switching off everything else that you did and thought of before then
- It gets you to reflect on what the blog content means for you and where relevant how you might learn from it or apply it in your life and work
- Then you are focused and can devote the rest of that period to planning, thinking, strategizing, reading, researching etc – everything you need and want to “do for yourself”
Some also start with just a few minutes with their eyes closed to shut out the world and restore calm to their mind. My blog Can you Meditate? could assist you with this.
My experience has been that my clients who have taught themselves to create regular “me time” have raised their productivity in leaps and bounds. They feel more in control. They feel better about themselves and are much better people to be around. There is more time for fun and laughter (also at themselves) and while still just as intense as necessary have found a much better balance between work and play and life. Think about it for a minute – isn’t that worth something to you? Do you really have to insist on keeping at the rate the treadmill dictates?
I’m reminded of the Simon & Garfunkel song Feelin’ Groovy – “Slow down you move too fast” – you got to make the moment last”.
So what if you had a go at trying to create some regular “me time”? What if you knew it was the right thing for you to attempt or to get back into? What if you managed to get into the habit say twice a week and it really succeeded to help you find or restore your clarity of purpose? What if it really helped you to differentiate the “noise” from what really mattered to you? What if it improved your effectiveness and your productivity beyond what you thought possible? What if it was the catalyst to “getting you (back) on top of your game” and allowing you to stay “ahead of the rest”? What if it allowed you to remember and restore the fun? How good might you feel about yourself?
What if you could?
Heiner Karst says
A client recently made me aware of a great article of a practise the erstwhile Secretarry of State George Schultz recommended. One that really expanded the message of this blog so well. A worthwhile read:
Rick Hogben says
The “dog on the nail”story reminded me of the one that Charles Handy uses in his book “The Age of Unreason” about the frog: put a frog in warm water and he will feel happy and comfortable. But as you slowly heat the water, the frog will start to feel uncomfortable, but can’t get out – eventually he boils to death. The moral is get out (change, do something different) while you still can.
castaly lombe says
This is excellent. Wonder how many people will hear you through the noise and busyness, often created to hide from the “real” issues…. I take some ME time everyday. It is an excellent additive! Reduces stress, resentment, overwhelm, anxiety…. bolsters creativeity, focus, clarity, confidence and humour! Restores balance, calm, and energy….. If you are too busy, if you can’t…. then YOU MUST!
Kenny Leow says
Great blog entry Heiner. 😎 BTW, are you able to allow visitors to subscribe to your blog? Allowing your blog entries to be delivered to their email?