I Started Adding Self-Care Items to My To-Do List, and It Changed My Life

Young woman working at home

I used to put a million things on my to-do list. As you can guess, most of the tasks on the list never got done because it was simply unrealistic. I’d wake up at the same time as my toddler, give him a bowl of fruit, and whip out my laptop so I could get to work. By 1 p.m., I was lackadaisical and disappointed at my lack of productivity.

That is until I realized I was doing my to-do list all wrong. Why? Because self-care was never anywhere on the list. When weighing which tasks took priority for the day, giving myself a scented bubble bath just didn’t seem as important as meeting a stringent work deadline. Until I had an epiphany and realized self-care should take priority over every other task. I won’t pretend this is a groundbreaking conclusion I came to on my own. Multiple self-care focused therapy sessions and a book titled High-Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard helped me change my life.

I break my list into four sections: self-care, work, family, and personal development.

So, what does my to-do-list look like now? Instead of one long blurb of endless tasks, I take a unique approach. I break my list into four sections: self-care, work, family, and personal development. I also limit the number of tasks I can include in each section to two. This way, I’m setting realistic expectations, giving myself ample time to complete each task, and eliminating unnecessary pressure. It also helps me curb feelings of underachievement and guilt that creep in when I set unrealistic goals and don’t meet them.

By including self-care on my list, I’m forced to consider my own needs. What will give me the physical energy I need to get through the day? How can I boost my focus and resilience? How can I raise my emotional frequency? What will give me the patience I need to balance parenting and working simultaneously? Ultimately, this approach forced me to explore what self-care means to me and what I’m doing when I feel at my best. I concluded healthy meals, physical activity, scented candles, and doing nothing for an hour a day were some of the best forms of self-care for me. That said, I don’t advise blindly copying self-care ideas from other people. Remember your needs aren’t the same as everyone else’s, so it will take some reflection to find what works for you.

Over time, I’ve built a self-care routine that I stick to during the week. On the weekends, I’m spontaneous as I have more free time and flexibility. From Monday to Friday, my self-care tasks include:

  • Meditation
  • Reading
  • Journaling
  • Hair care
  • Rest
  • Exercise
  • Affirmations

This holistic approach to self-care ensures I get a mental, physical, and emotional boost before I start my day. It also means I’m setting the tone of my day and not leaving it to circumstance.

You might wonder if it’s possible to do all of this with so many tasks to get through each day. Well, I once thought the same thing. But when I realized days devoid of self-care were less productive, unfulfilling, and stressful, I made time for it. Also, completing this list doesn’t take me more than an hour. I do a 30-minute workout and then dedicate the other 30 minutes to reading a few pages of a book, meditating, journaling, and setting my intentions for the day. In terms of rest, I take a break during the late afternoon when I need it most.

Because I’m human, I leave room for imperfection and also allow flexibility. Sometimes I might do shorter workouts or journaling doesn’t get done — and that’s OK, too. On those days, I do what I can, but I avoid skipping the entire list. That’s all any of us can do.

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