3 keys to make time for your own wellbeing

As a busy leader, how can you make time for your own Wellbeing? This is often the question that comes up at the start of a coaching relationship with clients, with various nuances.

“I used to love to dance, I never do it these days though! (laughs)”

“I used to be quite fit and sporty but work has taken over recently.”

“I love cooking but hardly ever cook from scratch, there’s too much going on, I can see it around my middle.”

“I’m drinking too much to cope with the pressure, I need some space..”

I can hear the disappointment and self-recrimination in their statements.

The people I coach are busy, capable and highly accomplished in most areas of their lives, yet often find it really hard to make time for themselves in one area or another.

If this is you, you’re not alone.

I’ve been reflecting on what really works to shift things and in this post I share with you the nuggets of what has actually worked for my clients.


1. Think big but start small to make time for your own wellbeing


Leaders are typically big picture, visionary and strategic thinkers. When I work with clients, we start here, with their big vision. What would their life look like if they had it set up exactly as they want? What would they be doing?


They love this session, it draws on strengths and creates a lot of clarity and momentum.


However, the next part is generally harder because we look at breaking it down into smaller, manageable actions.


I know it’s hard, because I’ve felt this resistance myself. The tendency, especially amongst high-achievers, is to want to set big, ambitious action points that will be a stretch.


Usually though, this backfires because we fail to follow through on doing what we say we will and then feel guilty and less motivated, even if we’ve actually done 50% of what we said we’d do.


What I’ve found is that when I partner with clients to start with smaller actions, it builds motivation and momentum.


What would it look like to you to make time for your own wellbeing?


So here’s a tip: pick ONE thing you can do in the next 7 days. Just one. What will yours be?


2. Schedule it into your diary and create a reward


Secondly, when clients commit time in their diaries to follow-through, it’s much more likely to happen. I will often ask clients to tell me exactly when they will take their one action. I then ask them to prioritise it in their diary, in the same way they would for any other meeting.


This is a strategy my client who I’ll call Hannah* uses to remember to stop and eat lunch. Nowadays, as far as she can she avoids meetings between midday and 12.30pm to create time to stop and eat a proper lunch.


For years Hannah found this hard to do, until she set herself a ‘rule’ that this was to be her lunch slot. Sure, occasionally she needs to miss it, but those times are now the exception and she knows they’re coming, so she can plan for them.


The reward part is important too. In Hannah’s example above, the reward was immediate because she felt better and had more stable energy and mood throughout the afternoon, instead of crashing at 3pm and reaching for the caffeine and sugar like she used to. She created an additional reward of texting me – her coach – a photo of her lunch each day and receiving a response.


When will you schedule your one thing? What will your reward be?


3. Set up some accountability


Finally, set up some accountability for yourself so that you follow through. This can be as simple as telling your partner or a friend what you’re up to. You can even ask for their support, “Please will you ask me how it’s going with switching off my laptop at 8pm?”.


Another method that has worked for my client John* is to deliberately set up to do something with someone else at the same time. John wanted to get back into his morning run and was surprised to find that his brother did too.


We are social creatures and we can use this to help us create support networks for following through. Beware though, this can work both ways so choose wisely! I’ve also seen clients trying to give up drinking being derailed by well-meaning friends who’ve come over with a case of wine.

Although they live far away from one another, John and Paul created a little ritual of going for a run at 6.45am on Tuesdays and Thursdays and texting one another after each run to say they’d done it. This created a little bit of healthy competition and they egged each other on.


Who can support you with following through?

So there, you have it, think big but start with small actions, schedule into your diary and create rewards and set up accountability.

*Not their real names.