The struggle of the creative entrepreneur is real.
When I'm working with overwhelmed clients to streamline their business, I ask them to make a list of all the things they have to do on a day-to-day basis. It's obvious that every one of them is trying to balance the fun, imaginative, creation-focused parts of their lives with more practical tasks like paying bills, wrestling with tech issues and marketing our products or services.
But almost every single one of them completely forgets a vital category.
I get it. It's easy to let yourself go a bit when life gets hectic. We've all been there. But the truth is, taking care of yourself should be your number one priority.
Every. Single. Day.
Even when you're busy. Even when you're on a deadline. Even when you're 3 days away from a huge launch and still haven't finished those final touches and don't want to be bothered by minor concerns like food, water, or sleep. (Especially then!)
When I was managing a law firm, my husband used to text me around 1 pm. "Have you eaten?" He knew I had a tendency to get so wrapped up in work that I would forget to take a lunch, and he was tired of me coming home famished, cranky and exhausted.
Skipping lunch meant skipping my workout, grabbing whatever was easiest for dinner (usually some not-so-healthy takeout delivered by Favor), skipping my evening writing session, and flopping down on the sofa to watch TV until bedtime.
But, hey. At least I was still pulling in big bucks for my law firm, right?
When I left my day job to write full-time, I carried that same "all work, no play" attitude with me to my home office. Only now, instead of watching TV until bedtime, I was working on my creative projects until 3:00 am. Then I'd get a few hours of sleep, wake up and do it all over again.
That routine didn't last long.
In less than a week, I was knocked out by major cedar fever, which turned into laryngitis and then allergy-induced bronchitis. My immune system was wrecked by a bad diet, lack of sleep, and too many hours in front of my computer screen.
And my body finally had enough.
I missed a concert with my brother and sister. I missed a birthday event for one of my best friends. I had to reschedule all of my coaching calls. And I missed out on six days worth of writing because I was too run-down and doped up on antihistamines to think straight. (Six days of writing = 25% of a novel in my world. That's a lot to catch up on!)
I knew I had to make some changes to my daily routine if I wanted to make a living as a creative entrepreneur. And I knew it had to happen fast.
Because when you ARE your business, you can't afford to let yourself go. You have to give your brain and your body the resources they need to support you in your creative process, even when you feel there just isn't enough time.
But don't worry. Adding a regular self-care routine to your busy schedule isn't as overwhelming as it sounds.
I whipped myself into prime creating shape with these seven simple habits to boost physical health, mental well-being and creative productivity. And if I can do it, so can you.
1. GET ENOUGH SLEEP: No brainer, right? How many times have you heard about the importance of a solid 8 hours? But somewhere along the way, sleeplessness became a badge of honor in entrepreneurial circles.
#NoTimeToSleep? Yeah, yeah. We get it. You're working. So is everyone else. Let's see how long you can keep that up without a decent amount of rest. Figure out a way to get the sleep you need. #MakeTimeToSleep. Naps encouraged.
2. HYDRATE: Another obvious one. And yet so many of us are chronically dedyrated. On average, the human body is made up of at least 60% water. The human brain is made up of 75% water. So it makes sense that failing to keep yourself hydrated results in decreased physical and mental capacity. And even if you're drinking 8 glasses of water a day, it may not be enough.
Antihistamines, prescription meds, caffeine and low-carb diets are just a few of the things that can contribute to dehydration. I like to start my day with the juice of one lemon squeezed into 8 oz of water to rehydrate my cells after sleeping. I aim for 32 ounces of water before lunch, 32 ounces before dinner and 32 ounces before bed. It sounds like a lot, but using this awesome tumbler with a wide straw makes it easy.
3. NOURISH YOUR BODY: I'm not a nutritionist, and I won't even attempt to tell you which of the latest fad diets is best. But I will tell you that you need to eat nutritious food at regular intervals if you want to maintain productivity in a creative career. That means plenty of lean protein, healthy fats, and fruits and veggies. (And don't skip meals. Nobody likes it when you're hangry.)
4. MOVE: You don't have to win a Crossfit competition or train for a marathon. (But that's cool if that's your thing.) All you have to do is give yourself some freedom to move in a way you actually like. Do some sun salutations before breakfast. Take a walk after lunch. Once you're used to increased activity, ramp up the intensity. Start swimming laps, lifting weights, or going to yoga or kickboxing classes. Just move, and feel your creative energy flow in new directions.
5. KEEP YOUR ENVIRONMENT TIDY: This is a big one for me. I'm easily distracted by a messy room, but I'd rather spend my time creating, learning or reading than doing chores. Before I quit my day job, I spent a week decluttering my entire house and reorganizing my home office. I found a laundry service that picks up and delivers twice a week, and invested in a fantastic housekeeper that cleans my house top to bottom weekly. Knowing I don't have to worry about the more time-consuming chores makes picking up and doing dishes less of an annoyance. Plus, it just feels good.
6. SOCIALIZE WITH SUPPORTIVE PEOPLE: Creatives need a network of encouraging people to support them, inspire them and lend a new perspective to challenges and problems. But a lot of us tend to isolate. (Writers, I'm looking at you! Yes, YOU. Do you want to be that stereotypical drunken author alone with his typewriter and her depression? I didn't think so.)
Make time at least once a week to socialize with like-minded creatives, even if it's just over lunch or a cup of coffee. If you don't have any creatives in your life, FIND SOME. Connect with other people in Facebook groups, forums, or local Meetup groups.
7. TREAT YOURSELF: What brings you joy? A new book? Brunch with friends? A manicure? A massage? A good old-fashioned Netflix binge?
Make a list of 50 things you love having or doing. Once a week, without fail, treat yourself to one of those things. It doesn't have to be expensive. (It doesn't have to cost a dime.) But it should be something that lifts your spirit and makes you feel good.
Commit yourself to self-care every single day, and watch your self-esteem and your creative output soar. What are some of the ways you take care of yourself when life gets hectic?