How I’m Learning to Put Myself First

The end of the school year draws near. I always forget about the frenetic energy that starts swirling through the house toward the end of May. The kids hustle to finish school projects, assignments, and activities so we can put a hastily-tied bow around the end of the school year. For the first time in seven years, I am not working a traditional job. Gone are the days when I had to ask permission to flex my schedule so I could attend end-of-the-year activities. Gone is the guilt when the answer was “No.” Now my time is my own to schedule as I please.

My challenge this year is not having a daily structure that I must adhere to. Some days I find myself floating through my day like a lazy river. Other days, it’s like the floodgates have opened and I barely keep up with the torrent of activities. Perhaps because my kids are getting older and their imminent departure from our daily lives feels real in a way it never has before, but I’m saying “Yes” to almost every opportunity to help out at the schools that comes my way.

The problem with that is I have a book to publish! I made a commitment to myself at the beginning of the year that I was going to get my book out into the world. And that requires consistent attention and work.

My willingness to fill my time with anything BUT my book sheds light on an issue I’ve been dealing with since I lost my job last fall: It’s so easy to fill my time tending to the needs of others and put my own needs in second place.

If I can’t honor the commitment I made to myself, then how do I expect to honor commitments I make to others? If I put others first, I’ll eventually burn-out and feel resentful. So, I’ve come up with a system to keep myself accountable to myself.

Here are my tricks for keeping myself on track:

  1. I schedule time for myself. I know this sounds compulsive, but I am using my Outlook calendar the same way as I did at my former job. Back then, whenever I had a project at work, one which required my undivided attention, I blocked out some time to devote to the project. At the appointed time, I let my staff know I was busy and I shut my door. I’m doing the same thing now. I am blocking out time on my calendar to write and to work on the marketing of my book. But setting aside the time is only the first step.
  2. I set my intention. When it’s time to write I have a sticky note on my desktop with an inspiring quote to remind me of why I’m doing this.
  3. I just do it. There comes a time when the planning is finished and it’s simply time for action. That’s when I have to do the project at hand. I start with whatever I’m resisting most. I know that whatever makes my chest constrict—be it research or asking people for something—I need to get that out of the way. If I don’t, my resistance will get in the way of whatever else I’m doing.
  4. I reward myself. That means I take the dog for a walk, get something to eat, or do some chores.

An Invitation

Do you find yourself putting others’ needs before your own? Do you make promises to yourself that you keep breaking? What small steps can you take to ensure you are staying accountable to yourself?  Write them down and place them in a prominent place.  Make your dreams a priority.