You can give too much

A while back I was visiting my GP for a general check up.  My GP is one of those amazing people who dedicates herself to the profession. She not only provides the in-clinic services but also lectures at university, serves on medical councils and boards and gets involved in community work.  She is a great role model for other doctors.

At the time of my visit I was in a particularly busy stretch. The workload and life demands were overwhelming me (yes I am human and just like you).  Given that my GP worked long hours every day I asked how she did it.  What she shared with me were some words of wisdom which I now pass on to you with my own twist.

First of all she has this mantra that she repeats when there is just too much and not enough time. She says:

“I am worth more than my piles of work.” 

This is particularly relevant if you have ever sat at your desk with an in tray much higher than your out tray.  Or if you are an unstructured type like me, you face layers of paperwork and files on top of files wondering when you will get to the bottom.

Then to really work with this statement I teased out the following adjustments we can make to our thinking.

1.  Choose to take time for you

First of all we need to be conscious about the importance of self care.  We are the only ones who can make the decision whether we matter or not.

So for example, take a moment to tally up your day’s effort including hours of sleep (which in case you didn’t know counts as time for you!).  How much time related to you doing work for someone else, looking after other people’s needs, managing chores or tasks that someone else could do?  How much time was just for you?

Are you in balance?

An ideal ratio might be 50:50. So for example sake, lets imagine you sleep 8 hours a day (OK I don’t but it’s a nice idea), work 8 hours a day (on average) and allocate your remaining hours between family, personal exercise, personal hygiene, chores and errands, self development and you time.

The 50:50 ratio means that you are in balance.  You look after other people as much as you take care of your own needs.  You let others help you as much as you help them.  If it is more than 50% then I believe you are out of balance.

It is worth it

So why choose to allocate and prioritise time for you?  Well I think it is fairly obvious.  If you want to deliver on our work, support your family, get the most out of life, be happy, have fun and make a difference in the world, then we need to be in our best form.  The more we focus on how we are going then the more conscious we are about our capability and capacity in every moment of every day.  This heightened awareness gives us great personal power enabling us to really achieve and relax more in life.

2.  Prioritise me

It’s one thing to say I need to look after myself, it is another to actually make it happen. The only way you can ever find time for you is if you prioritise you.  I am sure you have read, heard or worked with some form of time management. This comment is not about the skill of time management. It is about a mindset.  When you are sitting down planning your day, your week or even spontaneously considering what to do with a suddenly free afternoon, what do you do? 

The first thought can be how am I looking after me today so that I can be the best that I can be to do what I do in this world?

Check your me time flow

I like to draw the analogy of a personal budget from a cash flow perspective.

The typical budget starts with what you earn or receive in terms of cash – the inflows. Then you look at what you spend, the outflows.


In the above example I believe that the inflow is time of 24 hours a day.  I think that since this is a given fact we all have this starting point. However some of us may limit our belief that we have 24 hours if we already promise our time away to others on a regular basis. So if you don’t have 24 hours inflow then think about that and ask yourself why.


Then on the outflows side we have the use of these hours.  What I think should be the number one category in the outflows is time for you! Now it is not possible to get this outflow evenly allocated each day. So consider a typical week. See what you have flowing out in time for you.

3.  The work can wait

This last change of thinking definitely requires discernment and situational consideration. I certainly do not believe that at all times we can make this statement. Especially if you are in particular jobs where you sign on to be available no matter what.  However when there is room for negotiation, the time constraints are self imposed or flexible or you simply are not physically up to the work, then the work can wait.

It’s up to you

Only you can make this call.  I know from experience as a coach to many and my own years working for companies that when you are available your employer will ask for more. And if you are conscientious, love what you do or don’t want to let people down you will fall into the trap of just one more thing before you go home or say yes to one more project or job then you can realistically handle.  .

Where do you draw the line?  What is your cut off point?  Figure this out and begin to be aware of when you cross it and why. Then start to make it work. 

Try this simple exercise

Fold a piece of paper in half. Write on the left side what pushes you over the line that you are not able to resist or stand up to. Then write on the right side of the line your non-negotiables that keep your from crossing the line.

Assess where you are out of balance and move more to the appropriate side of the page by changing what you are currently doing.

But wait there’s more

When considering these statements there is one more aspect.  How each person achieves 1, 2 & 3 will be personal and contextual. For example, one person my take time for me by spending time at a spa. Another might find time cycling on the weekend. Another could be reading a book. And another may be simply sitting still meditating.

It is a personal choice.  The main point is that unless you make the personal choice you will have no me time to choose from.

So enjoy this piece of wisdom and see if you can be in balance.

Oh and one more

Taking a two week holiday once a year DOES NOT count as your only outflow of me time!

Let’s go there…


Self careJenn Shallvey