Once all my clients’ accounting needs were met, the in-tray low, the inbox zero, the staff fed, watered and paid, and everyone was month-ended and invoiced and debt collected, there might be time for me to do something for me.
Then I woke up and realised that if I left me to the end, there would never be any room for me to put my vital thing first, get anything personal done or prioritised. My life would flash past in the blink of an eye in service to others without me doing the things I really wanted to do.
At that point, I started to schedule extreme self-care time into my diary. I would call it an appointment to lie down because it often involved an aromatherapy massage, or a beauty treatment or a holiday sunbed or simply a nap. If it was in my diary, it was official. It happened.
But it still wasn’t first. I was an also-ran, which is a bit higher up the pegging order but I still wasn’t winning the game of my own life.
I’ve worked with clients since I’ve been a coach where, by habit or design, this is how it works for them too, and they turn up month after month after month with really good busy reasons why they didn’t get to their own vital thing.
And then we started to work out some genius solutions to that problem, unique to each individual although the principle is the same.
The easiest way – or hardest, depending on how you look at it – is simply to get up earlier in the morning, before everyone else does. But that’s a hard game if you are a night owl, and in the cold winter darkness it can feel quite punishing to wrench yourself out of your cosy duvet. And at home, they’ll work it out soon enough and just adapt to your new routine. Sabotaged again.
The only way is to go against yourself, against your natural way, and do it before you do everything else. And that means doing it in chaos, in physical and emotional chaos, and getting comfy with that. Because the other ideal circumstances simply never arrive. No sooner is the house tidy and the laundry done and the kids at school for a couple of hours than it is time to collect them and start the cycle over.
And that’s precisely why you have to up-end your system because that stuff will always be there, calling your name irresistibly.
Work out what’s vital and put it first.
- Go to the studio
- Go to the writer’s chair
- Go for a run around the park
Put that first, make the rest of it wait, the sad truth is that it will still be there when you get back but you will have done your vital thing. You will have put yourself first for a change. That’s a double entendre, by the way.
So the first breakthrough came with one of my earliest clients who was a freelance accountant. He used to leave the house, take care of his clients and hope there would be some time left over for him later. He had a couple of vital things which he wanted to prioritise. One of them was fitness, and the other one was working on his own investments to grow his portfolio and eventually not have to work at all, it was tantalisingly close but forever being slowed down by him not prioritising his own needs. What we decided was that he would do his vital things first every weekday morning and then leave to go and do his accounting, planning to arrive at 11 a.m. not 9 a.m. and that way he would get two hours a day, ten hours a week. See how this works?
That was ten hours a week he wasn’t getting now. Life changed. And pretty quickly too. I don’t hear from him anymore. He was an Aussie, I am guessing he’s back there living the good life.
The brilliant thing about this is that those of us who are conscientious enough to want to put our clients and loved ones first don’t do things half-cocked, so it’s not like there’s any less of us for them. It just happens later. After our vital thing. We make ourselves a priority. We give ourselves that gift.
We are still excellent, on time, raring to go, with plenty of top-notch energy available for “them”, perhaps even more so because we love and respect ourselves for having put ourselves first for that change. We are excited and upbeat and energized by those two hours we’ve done for us. We are firing on all cylinders. People will notice and wonder and perhaps even ask. Up to you whether or not you tell them. I might keep it close to my chest, at least initially, depends who’s asking.
Just because you give your best energy to your vital thing first doesn’t mean that all you have left is second best. It’s first equal energy-wise for we are the sort of people with plenty to give. But those who pay for it by the hour don’t deserve to come ahead of us. First equal by all means, but scheduled so that your vital thing gets accomplished without fail.
So, if you want to get your vital thing done, do it first. And if you want help with working out what that is and accountability to doing it this way, give me a call.
PS This isn’t going to work for everyone starting today. You’ll have to work up to it a smidge. Perhaps. And perhaps especially if you are a single mum, or there are two of you but your kids are tiny. But eventually they will go to sleep and to secondary school and to University and your time will come and you will still be a vital young person. But don’t wait unless you are absolutely certain sure there’s no other way.
This doesn’t need to be all or nothing. You get my point. What can you adapt now to fit your current circumstances so that you can do your thing too? I know it feels impossible so I will settle for far fewer than ten hours a week to start you off. But do remember this, it is also a really cracking example to be setting your kids. We each have our own individual life as well as our joint one. We are multi-faceted and multi-talented and that talent needs expression.
Everybody deserves an hour a day. You can call it self-maintenance if you like, see below. I call it your vital thing. Vital to your life to get it done. And vital in that it will create precisely that in your life – vitality.