During my first year as a freelance web designer, I stressed about getting more work and making ends meet.
I used to work 12 hour days. Sometimes even working well into the night to finish just one more project. I used to say “yes” to every request I received.
Just as I was trying to get more clients, I had to deal with new decisions every day. I went from only having to do web design, to wearing all the hats in the business.
Without knowing, I was turning into the most terrible boss on earth. I was overworking, demanding absurd results and on top of that, I always felt I wasn’t enough.
One day, I was just unable to work. Thinking about getting up and working was too scary. I was afraid of failing, but I didn’t want to do anything. I just wanted to stay under the blankets.
Naturally, I failed a ton of deadlines and lost project after project. I was on a terrible downward spiral of desperation.
I felt defeated.
I would love to tell you I solved it right away with some magic productivity trick. But life doesn’t work that way.
I kept my workaholic habits and pushed forward. I learned how to stay consistent with deadlines, but I still wanted the day to have more than 24 hours.
And I did this for years.
There is no way someone can keep that insane pace, and I’m no exception.
I had to find a different way before risking going back to a 9-to-5.
I decided to test my assumptions and turn things around. I started bringing these issues to my coach, and immediately we devised a plan to get things straightened out.
The first step was to change my mindset. You see, it’s easy to assume you can work at your best all the time and overestimate how much you can do in a single day.
In reality, every day is entirely different. Some days you are incredibly productive, and you may be able to knock off every item on your to-do list with time to spare. There are others when just getting out of bed is an achievement.
You are not a machine. It’s not about turning on the “work mode” and just taking breaks to refill your fuel so you can keep going.
You are a living and breathing person with varying levels of energy. You have to keep a delicate inner balance to create your best work.
You are the heart and soul of your business. And you should treat yourself as such.
In my particular case. I switched my regularly-missed self-care routine from evening to first thing in the morning, no exception.
In the beginning, this was insane for me. I felt I would miss out on emergencies or I would miss an urgent client request. I worried about all the possible things that could go wrong.
But, none of them happened.
I could start my mornings just the way I wanted, without worrying about email or work for at least the first 3 hours of my day.
My mornings transformed from chaotic into peaceful. I also noticed how I was able to ease into work and enjoy it again. This slow start allowed me to work at the peak of my energy.
Now, I’m not saying you should do the same. It may work for you, but it’s better if you understand yourself before just jumping into changing everything.
To create my morning self-care routine, I analyzed myself first, my goals and values.
I’m in no way a morning person and I was trying to force myself to work first thing in the morning, even before having breakfast.
Instead, I started running a series of weekly experiments to see how I felt each morning based on the first things I did after getting up. These are a few examples and their results:
- Meditation: For me, it was a quick way to go back to sleep.
- Exercise: I dreaded getting up, this felt just as bad as working first thing in the morning.
- Reading: I felt more active and engaged if I read just 10 minutes while still in bed.
- Cooking breakfast: I noticed I wasn’t even hungry, so I stopped this experiment halfway through the week.
As you can see, I’m far from those people with perfect mornings. But through this experiment and setting a sustainable growth mindset, I was able to change my mornings into something that aligns with me.
After a few months of experiments and a bit of journaling my experiences, I created this routine:
- Reading a book while still in bed.
- Practicing yoga.
- Meditating for 10 minutes.
- Writing three things I’m grateful for and journaling my thoughts and worries.
- Making the bed.
- Cooking breakfast.
- Planning the day.
- Start working.
I’m not saying this is the perfect morning routine for you, but it has worked well for me, and I bet it can inspire you to find a self-care routine for you.
Remember, you are the heart and soul of your business. You need to manage your stress and keep your energy levels as high as possible.
If you actively devote time for your self-care every day, you will start seeing some drastic changes in your life. You will reduce your levels of anxiety, and this will immediately show in your creative work.
You will have a clear mind to take decisions and to spot opportunities for growth.
But perhaps the best benefit is that you will keep depression at bay. You will feel in control of your day, and this will show not only in the fantastic work you will create but also in your health and relationships with others.
Self-care is not just for hippies and those “woo woo” entrepreneurs on the health and wellness industry. It’s for everyone, and even 15 minutes can help you improve your life.
Working for yourself is all about creating the life you want. Be the best boss you could ever dream of and take care of yourself. You will thank yourself later when you have a booming business and a healthy and balanced life.