I don’t think that self care is as tangible or eventful as we make it out to be. I don’t think it’s all spa days and fuzzy slippers. Really, I think self care boils down to being mindful of how you spend your time and energy, and having the hard conversations with yourself. It’s making sure you’re not overextending, and it’s saying no to the things that aren’t realistic for you. It’s planing adequately for the week so that you’re not left frazzled and stressed with no time to cook, too many errands, and no time to do everything on your list.
As a creative, I’ve been finding how important it is to do the hard self care to set myself up for a week where I have the mindspace to do the creative work that’s waiting for me. Here are 10 things I’m doing (or working on doing) to set myself up for a week of creative wins.
1. Meal Prep:
Hangry people don’t make good art, and stressed people who are running to find dinner or cook every single night aren’t making as much art as they could. When you grocery shop and meal prep on a schedule, this frees you up to avoid the hangriness and focus on creating when you need to. I also know that I get really stressed when I’m hungry and my blood sugar starts dropping, and anxiety attacks can send me completely spiraling and knock me out of my groove for the rest of the day. Especially as women we need to eat, and we need to eat often. So pack yo’ tupperware, and get back to the art stuff!
2. Get adequate sleep:
We all know how important sleep is, but we’re so bad at actually putting that into action. Sleep is important for memory, mental health, energy, immune system, hormones, etc. When you’re tired you can’t do your best work, and you can’t work at all when you’re diseased and falling apart.
And hey, I’m really bad at prioritizing sleep. I know it’s hard. But I’ve also noticed the days where adequate rest has set me up for creative wins, and I know it’s possible with enough effort.
3. Keep your head down.
We’re all our own worst critic, and it’s easy to get distracted scrolling through feeds and looking at all of the other work there is to compare ourselves to. I love Jenna Kutcher’s “Create and then consume” rule, and I’ve found it really beneficial for me as a creative. I try to avoid the “scroll cycle” and getting trapped in my inbox until after lunch when I’ve done my flow state work and can move into more administrative tasks. This way I’m sketching, coding, and creating without copying anyone else or slowing myself down with second guessing.
4. Batch work repetitive tasks
My blog routine used to be a mishmash or cooking, writing, posting, pinning, liking, and commenting. Sound exhausting? It was. Now I have time blocks each week for each main task: one day I cook, another day I edit, and then I have 2 hour blocks for instagram scheduling, Pinterest pinning, and newsletter writing. I’ve found I get much more done and I have so much free time left over to create or (get this) relax!
Would you want a list of all of the tools I use to help me automate and batch work my life? Let me know!
5. Limit social media
Ugh. Social media can suck the life out of us. I’m disgusted with how much time I’ve wasted just looking at other posts or checking to see how many followers I have. Social media is great for connecting with people, sharing our messages, and expanding our businesses, but it an also become a time-sucking vortex if we let it. It’s easy to think you’re being productive if you’re on social since you have to work on engagement to beat the algorithm, but we’re probably all spending more time on there than we really need to be. I’m working on putting up barriers both time-wise and mental-health-wise so that I’m not wasting precious minutes or following accounts that make me feel negative about myself or my work.
6. Take breaks
We actually get more done when we take regular breaks and then refocus. I like trying 30 minutes on/5 off or 45/10. I believe theres a definitive scientific answer for the ratio that works best, but I also think we need to find the right balance that fits with our work schedule.
7. Work during your best flow state time.
You know that time where you can actually sit down and think of creative ideas without hitting a mental wall and finding yourself on Instagram? The times where you totally lose yourself in your creative work? That’s your flow state time, and it’s when you should be tackling your open-ended creative tasks and shutting down external distractions. For me this is in the morning (after coffee, of course) and in the evening after dinner. Pay attention to what works best for you creatively and protect it!
8. Limit your inbox time.
The inbox is such a trap, especially if you get stuck in a back and forth conversation that goes on throughout the day. I recently moved all of my mail and social media apps to the last page of the apps on my phone and it’s certainly helped me avoid mindlessly clicking! Try to avoid email until after your flow state work is done, and have template responses ready to send for questions that you are commonly asked. This last part has been a total game changer for me!
9. Say no.
Not only should we be saying no to things that don’t fit in our schedule realistically (because burnout doesn’t help anyone) but we should be saying no to things that don’t help us grow creatively, or that take up our valuable flow state time when we could be creating things of value. It’s really hard to say no, especially when we’re trying to make money and expand our network, but tired, overextended creatives aren’t the ones making a difference. Focused, grounded creatives with strategy and a healthy approach are the ones making real strides. It’s hard to remove the guilt we associate with the word no! Personally, I’ve tried to work on viewing too many yeses as the thing I should feel badly about, because I know that decreases my ability to serve others with my best work.
We also have to say no to ourselves. Say no to spending too much time on social media, say no to laziness, say no to staying out until midnight when you need to work the next day. What we want in the moment isn’t always what serves us.
10. Surround yourself with positive creative people.
Alone time is important for creative work, but it’s also important to collaborate, to ask for feedback, or to spend time with the people who are trying to serve with your work. People can either inspire and encourage us, or drain us. We have to be patient and loving with everyone in our lives, but we do have a choice of who we let influence us. Make sure you’re keeping the right distance from the people that make you feel badly about your work or who aren’t driven in the same way as you. Being around other go-getters keeps us motivated to succeed and make the world a little better.