When it comes to personal productivity, neglecting self-care is one of the most costly mistakes you can make.
By definition, productivity refers to output over input, and while your output can refer to whatever you produce, generate, or create, your input can be anything you "put in" from your personal resources of time, energy, attention, etc.
Following this explanation, anytime you're unable to give 100% of your self towards an activity, project, or task, you aren't being as productive as you can be.
Fortunately, this is where self-care comes in.
Self-care includes activities that promote your physical, mental, and emotional well-being as well as anything that refuels you, makes you feel positive, awakens your senses (touch, smell, hear, see, taste), and increases the overall quality of your life.
To be your most productive self, continue reading for 15 self-care habits worth prioritizing.
01. Say no
As you begin to say "yes" to self-care, consider what you need to say “no” to first in order to make that happen.
Obviously this will vary from person to person but what you can say “no” to can refer to working late nights and in weekends, too much TV or social media, agreeing to too many favors from people, opportunities that you can’t fully focus on right now, or too much work that you could instead defer, delegate, or automate.
Whatever it is, prioritizing self-care means considering the tradeoffs between your choices and identifying what you need to give up in order to make room for what you will gain.
02. Make positivity lists
Prioritizing self-care also means being proactive instead of reactive. Making lists that specify what makes you feel good (in every sense of the word) will come in handy whenever you need a boost in a particular area.
You could make a list of affirmations, small or big wins, milestones, compliments, memorable experiences, happy places, motivational quotes, things you're grateful for, favorite food, etc.
03. Reflect on what you’re grateful for
In moments that you’re fully focused on being grateful, chances are that you’re not angry, upset, or stressed—the very opposite emotions of what self-care is all about.
For this reason, gratitude deserves its own number in this list and practicing it can be as simple as mindfully taking a look around you, reflecting on things about your life that you value, or listing three things you're thankful for each day.
04. Inject humor
Self-care doesn't only refer to deep, serious, or solemn activities. In many cases, laughter and humor can lift your spirits more than any other activity.
Try watching more comedy shows or movies, seeing the positive side of circumstances, hanging out with more joyous people, learning to laugh at your mistakes, and many more. "Laughter is the best medicine," after all.
05. Rest well
By rest, I don't just mean sleeping for eight hours at night (although this would do you wonders). Try dedicating some alone time, napping in the afternoon, pausing between tasks, or taking a break from other things as well (ex. take a break from overthinking, from toxic people, from social media or electronics, from self-criticism, from comparison, from competition, etc.).
Much like most of the items on this list, your idea of rest may be different from other people. Identify what rest really is for you and make it a point to do it often.
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06. Listen to music
Music has been proven to have powerful effects on our mood, energy, and outlook so it's best to incorporate more of this in your day. Identify what kind of music you resonate with the most (ex. pop, rock, classical, hip hop, nature sounds, etc.) and listen to it while working, working out, traveling, or cooking. You could even attend more concerts or broadway shows if you prefer.
07. Eat Well
You don’t have to be a foodie to appreciate a good meal. Not only will delicious and nutritious food fuel you and make your tastebuds come alive, but even the process of preparing your own food or eating out can have positive effects. Just remember to put away distractions like your smartphone to fully enjoy the experience and to also drink lots of water.
08. Feast your eyes
Our sense of sight is one of the easiest to nurture. Whenever we see fireworks, architectural masterpieces, wonders of nature, beautiful artwork, and even well-designed websites, something positive happens. In fact, this is why there's such a thing as color theory, graphic design, landscape design, architecture, and other fields.
Because colors, shapes, and images greatly affect how we feel, respond, and act, the point here is to be more intentional as to what we expose our eyes to. You could make it a point to be more in touch with nature (national parks, beaches, mountains), go out in the sun more often, add beautiful pieces to your home or office, visit a museum or art gallery, and many more.
09. Create something with your hands
Continuing the "nurture your senses" theme, create something using your hands to not only awaken your sense of touch, but also ignite your sense of accomplishment. Try taking up pottery, calligraphy, gardening, painting, or anything that gets your creative juices flowing. Consider this a much needed break from plastic keyboards, glass screens, and metal devices.
10. Get physical
Promoting your physical well-being is quite simple: engage in physical activity. Whether it's running, hiking, CrossFit, yoga, pilates, biking, or something else, consider the physical activity that you personally enjoy the most.
Not only will it increase your energy, but it will also help you strengthen your bones and muscles, control your weight, sharpen your mind, boost your metabolism, and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and other illnesses, improve your endurance and stamina, and many more.
11. Don't forget your sense of smell
Don't forget that self-care involves activities that make your senses come alive and this includes your sense of smell. In fact, I’ve met people who are very particular about how their environment smells. Some love to have candles in their bedroom, incense in their living room, plants in their office, fresh flowers in their entry way, and even freshly baked goods in their kitchen. If you're anything like them, notice what smells you respond to the most and find ways to add them to your space.
12. Get help
Though this is a self-care list, this doesn't mean we have to do everything on our own. Whether it's paying a visit to your doctor, setting a dentist appointment, hiring a coach or mentor, or even seeing a therapist, it's important to recognize the benefits of enlisting the services of experts who've been professionally trained to care for your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
13. Organize your environment
An organized environment can do wonders for you whether in terms of your productivity, peace of mind, or sense of control, and even the actual practice of tidying up has been proven to be therapeutic.
Aside from tending to your physical surroundings, consider your digital environment as well—declutter your phone apps, organize your computer files, and clear your email inbox.
14. Learn something new
Our brains may not be a muscle but it pays to treat it like one. Constantly learning new and interesting things will not only help you use it, stretch it, and get it fired up, but it will also boost your creativity, productivity, and mental well-being.
Aside from reading books, you could listen to podcasts or audiobooks, watch Ted Talks or documentaries, pick up a new hobby, learn a new language, enroll in online courses, or simply talk to interesting people.
15. Connect with others
Since humans are naturally social beings, connecting with others fulfills this aspect of self-care in a very meaningful way. While genuine connections with others seem to come rare these days, remember that they're not that difficult to initiate and the benefits are well worth it.
You could connect with others emotionally, physically, or via conversation. You interact with your loves ones without looking at your phone. You could strike up a conversation with a stranger. You could hug your family members. You could help someone with a problem. You could volunteer, pay someone a compliment, reach out to an old friend, etc.
While each of the items on this list can be powerful on their own, I encourage you to engage in activities that combine two or more of them at the same time. For example, you could go on a trip to the beach with friends, say no to working late and spend quality time with your family instead, schedule some alone time at the spa, attend a concert with your partner, and many more.
Lastly, take note that the entire point of this article is to promote self-care habits, as opposed to one-time self-care activities. In order to reap all the long-term benefits of being healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally, consider scheduling your chosen self-care activities and making them a non-negotiable part of your daily routine.
Share in the comments below: Which of these 15 self-care habits do you already do? Which are you looking to develop very soon?