The other day a colleague confided in me with a massive confession – 

“You know, I’ve been so overwhelmed recently that I booked a day off and didn’t tell my husband or kids, and just spent the day to myself shopping – I feel so bad about it, but I’m just stuck in a loop of doing something for everyone that I just felt like I need the time to myself.” 

This situation made me think about how many of us spend our times being more concerned for the needs of others, that we forget to take a step back and look after ourselves. 

A 2018 study from the mental health foundation found that 74% of people felt overwhelmed and unable to cope – with statistics like this I find it interesting how many people are still being apologetic for putting their own wellbeing first! 

If you are always selflessly giving yourself to others, then I will be breaking down reasons why you should not feel bad when you take time out to look after yourself. 

This post explores: 

  • Why you don’t need to feel guilty about having ‘you’ time. 
  • The concept of sharpening the saw – what it is, and why allowing time to do this make you a more effective person. 
  • The stair theory – a system I use to manage my priorities and ensure I concentrate my energy on the most important things. 
  • Taking time out to improve yourself both personally and professionally. 
  • How you can go about saying no to demands on your time – whether you have nothing else to give, or you just don’t want to. 
Perfect Manifesto: Always Giving Yourself To Others?: Why It’s Okay To Put YOU First.

Why you shouldn’t feel guilty about having ‘you’ time 

My colleague’s confession of guilt stemmed from the secrecy of not telling anyone she was having a day off – she felt if she did tell anyone then that justified, she was available to take on other commitments, like the household chores and seeing her elderly parents. 

By doing this she felt selfish and that she was deceiving others by not offering her free time to the people she is constantly spending all her time serving. 

Remember: It’s not selfish to take a break and spend some time doing what you want to do! 

Perfect Manifesto: It’s not selfish to take time out to do the things you want to do (especially when you always give yourself to others!)

If you find you are suffering feelings of anxiety just because you choose to spend some time taking care of your own needs, then it could be a sign you are a people pleaser. 

People pleasing is putting someone else’s needs ahead of your own, and are often seen as agreeable to the extent they neglect themselves, through continued self-sacrifice to help others. Verywell Mind highlight how to stop being a people pleaser

Knowing my colleague as a person I know how much she juggles, from working a full time job she also is a wife, mother to teenage children, and dutiful daughter to elderly parents. 

Does that sound like a selfish person to you? 

If you work in such a way where you always put others ahead of your own needs, then you shouldn’t feel guilty taking anything from an hour, to a full day, allowing yourself for once to be care free of your responsibilities. 

Do not suffer feeling of guilt for prioritising yourself – taking time out will do wonders for your wellbeing and make you a better person. 

Time out lets you “sharpen the saw” 

In his famous book – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about the seventh habit Sharpening the Saw. 

The chapter title is is inspired by the Abraham Lincoln quote: 

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” 

What this means is that it is far more effective to take time out to invest in yourself. 

A saw that has had the love and care to be sharpened will be much more effective at doing it’s job, than one that has been overused and is now blunt and rusted. The lesson for the people pleaser is it’s important to take the time to yourself to stop you going “blunt”. Time away for your responsibilities lets you can recharge, learn and grow ready to face the world! 

The priority stair theory

If you are struggling with juggling all the commitments life throws at you, I want to introduce you to a theory I created, it was rationalising all the things in life we concern ourselves on, with the focus on putting yourself first. 

Following this model has been valuable in helping me find success in my life – I call it the priority stair theory

The priority stair theory is broken down into steps highlighting different. Like a set of stairs you start at the bottom, and work your way to the top 

Perfect Manifesto: The Priority Stair Theory

Levels of the Priority Stair Theory:

Step One: Change yourself. 

Step Two: Improve your family’s standing in life. 

Step Three: Impact your community. 

Step Four: Impact your country. 

Step Five: Change the world. 

The idea is if you overburden yourself with family problems first, when your life needs sorting out first, then my theory encourages you to be selfish and change yourself before even thinking of moving to the next step. 

And because most people have their priorities out of whack – being obsessed with trying to make the world a better place – something they have little to no control over, the stair theory encourages you to start off small, then as you get things in order move up one at a time, and not concern yourself with anything above your step. 

This is an important model to keep in mind because even when you have commitments like family, it always keeps you in perspective – it may sound selfish but if you are physically, mentally and spiritually a wreck, then you’re no good to anyone. 

If you want to learn more about my thinking behind this theory, then check out this post where I introduce the priority stairs.

How I take time out 

In my personal life 

Outside of family and work there are two things I love doing with my time – writing and going to the gym. 

Going to the gym gets me out of the house, but at times I do feel guilty if the kids have been playing up while I’ve been away. However, there are massive benefits – as well as helping me keep physically active and look good, the act of leaving the house gives me a break for the responsibilities of being a dad, and I find I’m less cranky with my kids after a workout. 

As for writing I enjoy applying me mind to craft some thoughts together, creating content that I (and hopefully others) find interesting. It can be a struggle to keep up this routine, and at times between writing, the gym and my must do commitments I often think something has got to give. 

I manage this by trying to find time to write – there is something about escaping in my own head, that does wonders for my mental clarity, and has made me a more rounded, greater person. 

You can see from the discussion in this post, how these activities contribute to sharpening the saw, but also applying my priority stair theory to focus on the first step to change myself. 

In my professional life 

Although in employment you are paid to do a job it benefits to have time out whether it is to focus on your development or taking time out to reflect on how situations have gone down in the workplace. 

My job is ridiculously busy where there is something that always needs doing. If you are not careful you get caught on a treadmill – always running but going nowhere, as you give yourself to always be obliging to others helping people do their jobs, and responding to last minute email requests. 

Sometimes it feels everyone wants a piece! It is only by being selfish and taking a step back to focus on professional development am I able to grow. 

By taking time out in my job, I’ve been able to reflect on my performance, identify what works/what doesn’t and put in plans to make improvements so I can work smarter rather than harder! 

Saying no to demands on all your time 

I’ve studied many ways to be more effective with your time, and tested various methods to get more done with less time, but nothing has been more effective for time management than the ability to say no

Perfect Manifesto: The most effective time management tool is saying NO!

If you have a genuine interest in the task, or just want to help the person, but are busy – say no, but encourage them to ask you again at a later date. 

And if you’ve got a lot on, and have no interest, avoid making excuses, avoid delays and maybes as this sets false expectations. Just give the requestor a clear and firm “no thanks!” 

In my post How To Be A More Assertive Confident Communicator, I share an approach for people who struggle to say no. 

Conclusion: Taking time to find who we want to be

Over eight years ago I started writing this blog. My reason for starting? I had an untapped creative itch and no hobbies to test my brain. 

Doing this came at personal sacrifice, because every time I chose to sit down to write, I dedicate my energy to this pursuit, rather than to something elsewhere – whether that is another hobby, sitting down with the family, or playing a video game. 

All those years taking this time to myself has given me opportunities to explore who I am as a person. Blogging was an outlet to distract myself when times were hard, and explore ideas that have changed my thinking. 

I start a blogging because it was something I always wanted to try – I never knew if I’d stick with it, or go onto the next big thing. But I ended up falling in love the process of creating content, and being able to express myself. 

Those time outs sitting down to write has improved me as a person – but those benefits were internal and couldn’t be seen on the outside… 

…That is until last year when my life changed forever – inspired by my enthusiasm for creating, and applying the skills I’d learnt from blogging I used it as an opportunity to change my career as a project manager, moving into communications. 

It is only through taking time out to myself I could commit to this and become closer to finding something that gave my life meaning. 

My point to all this? Just focusing on our responsibilities all the time robs us of the chance to explore our spiritual meaning of who we are destined to be. 

If I’d never took this time for myself, I’d probably still be sat working a routine admin job, a bitter person, dissatisfied with my life! 

Therefore, remember to take time to keep doing something for you – at worst it allows you a moment to recharge and look after your wellbeing, at best it may help you pursue a desire that will change your life forever! 

Remember: 

  • Don’t feel guilty for using your free time to focus on you. 
  • Allow time to sharpen the saw – focus on recharging and personal development. 
  • Get good at saying no to demands of your time. 
  • Recognise the benefit to your mental, physical and spiritual by having time out with yourself. 

Wishing you the best in your success 

James @Perfect Manifesto 

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