I work with lots of people – hundreds at this point I can say with some confidence. And many, many of my conversations with them go something like this:
Me: How about we book another session next Monday at 10am?
Them: I can’t, I have a meeting booked in for then.
Me: How about Tuesday at 12?
Them: I said I would write up a report and get it sent by Tuesday lunchtime so that will take up the whole morning.
Me: When would be a good time?
Them: I am so busy with work – can I let you know?
Or this sort of back and forth:
Me: So, we talked about doing (insert wellbeing activity here) and agreed it will be really beneficial for you. When are going to do that?
Them: Oh, I don’t know. Work is so busy at the moment, plus the kids are about to break up for half term and I have got my mother-in-law coming to stay for a few days. I will get round to it at some point.
These types of conversations also happen with my friends and family and often I am the one filled up with all the busyness that stops me from doing certain things.
I bet if I were to see the dairies of 100 people, they would look something like this:
9am – check emails
10.30 – meeting with boss
13.00 – chase colleague about report
14.00 – Ring client and make appointment.
14.30 – Book venue for appointment
15.30 – Docs appointment
17.00 – Make sure report is sent.
This is typical of employees at all levels: C.E.O’s, middle management and frontline workers. The things we write into our diaries are the things we feel are important to get done. Things we must remember to do and not forget, things we have prioritised. And what do we do with the time in between? Normally other, non-priority busyness that fills up the rest of the day.
Then we flop onto our sofas in the evening, after we have fed the kids, hoovered the lounge, washed the dishes and read the bedtime stories, declaring we are exhausted and just want to chill and watch TV.
The truth is – we prioritise badly. We put work ahead of pleasure and seriousness ahead of fun. And it is not our fault. Scientists studying human behaviour have observed that we tend to see bad, negative, or unenjoyable things as more important. We place more importance on serious activities than we do on lighter ones and we see bad news as more profound than good news – look no further than the information we consume on the news, in newspapers and on social media.
Which would be fine if it were not for our need to also be effective in order for us to work well, feed the kids, hoover the lounge, wash the dishes and generally stay in a state of relative happiness.
And to do those things we need resilience. And to maintain resilience we need to look after ourselves and our mental health. And to do THAT we have to practice a bit of self-care.
But where in our diaries does that fit in? Where on earth would we find the time between Zoom meetings, report writing, dropping the kids to school, doing the weekly shop, and keeping the house clean?
Well, we make time.
Every single person that tells me they ‘don’t have time’ cannot show me how they spend it. They do not diarise things that bring them joy or make them feel good. They prioritise everyone and everything else – which means they always come last.
Wellbeing is not a fluffy, optional buzz word. It is essential to be the best we can be for ourselves and the people around us. It should be as important as all of the other things we make sure go into our diaries and it should not be something that is seen as self-indulgent or unimportant. It should be built into our diaries with the same regularity as all the other things we prioritise in our lives.
Self-care is not selfish; it is necessary.