5 Ways to Put You First
'Putting You First' is more than a seductive, self-help catch phrase.
When my “big picture for life,” became my priority and I backed up my desires through my choices and actions, I started experiencing unbelievable developments. It completely changed my life. This is precisely why I teach all my clients how to do the same in their daily lives. Life moves so fast these days. Learning how to direct yours more efficiently will pay big dividends in satisfaction and greater peace of mind. In case you’re unclear about what I mean when I say “put you first,” check out my column post What is Putting You First?
Before we get into the meat and potatoes, it’s essential to recognize that you have relationships with more than just people. Virtually everything you have an association or connection with constitutes a relationship. Therefore it’s super important to grasp that you are the only common denominator in all of those relationships —which means the one you possess with yourself is vital to how you set up and manage all the others. I say this because as we look at the following 5 ways to put you first, you’ll notice the examples go beyond the way you relate and interact with people…
Your Schedule: What kind of schedule are you keeping? Few people think about putting themselves first in the relationship they have with their calendars, yet without taking care of yourself, you’ll inevitably burn out at some point. Even worse, when you’re operating on reserves, you’re not giving anyone or anything, close to your best —so what does that accomplish? The relationship we have to our schedules is crucial because it establishes how we value our time in addition to how we value our wellbeing. No matter what your career or daily responsibilities entail, you have the power to schedule certain aspects of your life around you, instead of setting yourself up to stretch, bend and flex through countless commitments that will be impossible to fulfill. Everyone has reasons why they over-schedule, but in truth there’s always something that can wait. The problem is that over-scheduling causes unnecessary added stress. Managing the relationship you have with your calendar is one of the most powerful ways to put you first. Start by scheduling you time that enables you to catch your breath, take inventory and be sure your basic health needs get fulfilled. You’ll enjoy a greater sense of productivity, satisfaction and peace of mind.
Your Commitments: With every new technological device engineered to save us time and increase our productivity, we heap more tasks on our plates leaving us with serious indigestion on a regular basis. It’s no wonder that OTC gastrointestinal products are in such high demand at every local pharmacy. Ultimately we have more to do and less time to fulfill those commitments. Even worse it’s become the norm to live at the mercy of our commitments instead of retaining a sense of control and direction by choosing what we do and when we do it. Now I understand you can’t always dictate when you’re going to show up at work for example, however you often have more power than you choose to exercise. In truth the majority of the commitments we make are not related to keeping a roof over our heads or food on the table, which is why learning how to put you first when making commitments will go a long way in preserving your sense of sanity. Start taking your power back now by factoring in your state of mind, health and personal needs when considering a potential commitment. Prioritize by identifying where and how those commitments bring value to your life. If they are extraneous activities or favors, check in with yourself realistically about how they fit within the overall scheme of things. When you feel pressure to do something ask yourself why you feel so compelled to do it and what you’re actually getting out of it. We all need to recharge in order to function well. If your only goal at the end of the day is to be alive, then you’ll likely run yourself ragged regularly. Be honest about how much you can, should and desire to heap on yourself. Think before you commit and weigh your choices against the bigger picture you have for your life.
Single-Task! In spite of all the progress we’re making, people feel more scattered today than ever —and there’s no mystery as to why. Technology has made multi-tasking the norm whether you’re working, driving or trying to pick up a simple gallon of milk. If you’re not talking, you’re texting or sending emails from your smart phone. I can be as guilty of it as the next person but the reality is no one gets your best when your attention and focus are split into several different places mentally, emotionally and physically. One of the best ways to put you first is by taking a time out from multi-tasking. I know this one is tough as few of you can stand the thought of missing a communication, but it’s extremely important to give your mind a break and recharge. We were not meant to operate 24/7 like a machine. In fact even your cell phone and computer occasionally need to be shut down and rebooted to perform properly. Your body and mind can only take so much activity before they shut down as well. Did you ever think that perhaps problems with your digestion could be from more than just food? What if your body is trying to tell you that you’re taking in more than you can mentally digest?! Constant interaction and split concentration wears us down and burns out our internal batteries too. Put you first by taking some time every day to focus on only one thing. Leave your phone in the car for the 15 or 20 minutes that you grocery shop. Set a time for the computer and cell phone to be turned off at night and don’t charge them by your bedside. Give someone your undivided attention. If you’re in a serious relationship or have a family, have everyone put all the “stuff” away and spend a little time talking face to face and eye to eye. It’s powerful and it’s getting lost these days along with your sanity and sense of peace. Choose to put you first and take it back.
Give yourself a Daily dose of Nurturing: When we’re children we are typically motivated to do something by the promise of enjoying some kind of reward at the end of it. In generations past, the practice of gathering around the table to enjoy a meal often served as an end of the day reward. These days whether single, married, with or without a family, very few people find ways to acknowledge their mere existence —and there’s nothing worse than losing sight of what it’s all for. This is your life and you can get more out of it with greater self-awareness. By taking even five minutes aside to paint clear polish on your nails, play with the dog, look at something beautiful or reflect on one funny or positive moment from your day, you show yourself care. It’s not about what you do, it’s about the intention of you creating that moment for you. When I was growing up, my parents made time for themselves by establishing their alone time and instructing us to entertain ourselves for a while. Sometimes they talked at the kitchen table, other times they went in their bedroom and shut the door. They nurtured each other by making time to connect —at the same time teaching us to respect them as individuals and develop the ability to find solace within ourselves. I’m sure it contributed to the successful marriage they’ve enjoyed for more than 40 years. You CAN take time for you if choose to make it a priority. Check in with yourself. Look in the mirror. Ask yourself what your eyes are telling you. You can buy yourself flowers, peruse a magazine or stare out the window for 15 minutes. Identify the things that like a lifeline, pull you out of the daily tide and give you a sense of warmth. Then put you first by giving yourself a dose daily…
Give Yourself Permission to Cancel: Trying to leap tall buildings in a single bound, manage fifteen after school activities, attend every networking event and consistently be everything to everybody is not practical, nor does it support your health or promote a sense of sanity and self-care. Superman and Superwoman are Superheroes. Like it or not, we are human beings who can make better strides and accomplish greater things when we treat ourselves as such and recognize when something has to give. Despite being brought up to honor my commitments, I finally came to realize that sometimes in the game of the life you just need to bench yourself. Giving yourself permission to cancel plans is another powerful way to put you first in your life. While writing this article I had to cancel a breakfast meeting I had with a friend as a result of having a work deadline moved up. I might have been able to do both, but I knew it was unnecessary to heap that much pressure on myself. I’d rather reschedule and enjoy the leisurely visit I was looking forward to than rush through breakfast distracted by concerns of meeting that important deadline. We’ve grown too accustomed to viewing invitations as obligations rather than gestures for our consideration. Consequently that sense of obligation often weighs heavily on the mind when we’re faced with a lack of energy or ability to follow through. Then there’s arrogance, which can seduce your ego into thinking whatever it is can’t possibly happen without you. Now I’m sure you’ll be missed but get over yourself. If you’re burnt out, need a break or plain don’t want to go… let it go and cancel.
When I first started advising people to put themselves first, it was because I’d already learned what it meant through action. I’d also experienced how doing so changed all the aspects of my life for the better. There will always be deadlines. To catch up with everything is to have nothing to do, so learn to live with the ebb and flow of all that comprises your life without becoming a slave to any of them. Put you first and give yourself the gift of more satisfaction in life by scheduling you time and seriously assessing the commitments you take on. Give yourself a daily dose of nurturing by single tasking and give yourself permission to cancel when you need additional you time, family time or single tasking time.