Your health is your essential career, business and life asset. Take care of it.
Do you take good care of your health? Or does it come after taking care of everything and everybody else? Prioritise your health with these 5 tips to make a better contribution in your life.
How healthy are you?
I see this all the time - women often put themselves at the bottom of their list of priorities. However, you would never put a flimsy foundation at the bottom of a house. It's not selfish to take care of yourself - it's actually a selfless gift to your loved ones.
You need to consider how healthy you are. Taking stock of your own state of health will bring many benefits to your home, career and financial life. Your health is precious, you should take care of it, first because there is only one You, and secondly, because your health is also a major asset to your happiness and wellbeing. And that includes your financial wellbeing: being healthy will boost your finances, too.
I suggest that you ask yourself these these five questions:
1. What processes do you have in place to manage your own physical health?
It may sound very corporate to ask yourself about processes and procedures when referring to physical health, but let's look at this objectively and create a sort of measurable diagnostic. Do you eat five portions of fruit and veg per day? Do you get twenty minutes of cardio exercise three times per week? Do you consume a maximum of 14 units of alcohol per week? Do you go for a full body check-up once per year?
There are lots of other ways to build small, healthy habits into your lifestyle: simply have a look at the Live Well section of the NHS website.
I take a healthy habit every month and work at making second nature. The one I'm currently working on is drinking eight glasses of water every day. Small habits add up.
2. What processes do you have in place to manage your mental health?
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health: stress and anxiety can take a serious toll on your productivity and morale. How well do you take care of that? Do you practise mindfulness on a daily basis? Do you use tools to write down the plethora of "things to remember" that are swirling around in your head at any given moment?
If you feel frazzled as if you were an internet browser with 483 tabs open, capture all these things in an app, in a planner or on paper, so that you can leave work behind you when you go home. I personally love to use Trello.
Do you take some guilt-free time just for you every week? Do you have a good friend or support group you can talk to to avoid bottling up anxiety? Mental Health Ireland have a five-point plan that can act as a guide to protect your mental health.
3. What's your personal development plan this year?
Health can be broadly defined and I include personal development within the scope of that. We teach a baby how to walk, a child how to read, a teenager how to figure out algebra equations, an undergraduate how to complete assignments, a new recruit how to work in teams etc. When does it stop?
Theoretically, it never should, but setting development goals and achieving them are key to maintaining relevance in a career (and I wholeheartedly include full-time parents and carers in here).
This can also directly influence one's financial health too. For the year ahead, you could register for a specific qualification (e.g. Diploma in Taxation), an industry recognition to widen your pool of opportunities (e.g. Chartered Director), an eLearning course on a certain topic through LinkedIn's Lynda.com (e.g. Advanced Excel) or simply commit a number of hours each month to reading a development book.
4. How happy are you at work?
We spend about one third of our week in work and often much more of our conscious thought is given to it. It's important to consider the habits we form as a result and the outcomes we get. They can be positive: reward, socialisation, professional development; and negative: stress, exhaustion taking away from our non-work quality time, time poverty.
Take the "Happiness at Work" survey: the analysis it will give you will allow you to see what works for you even more clearly and to find ways to improve it.
I undertook the test, which is a very interesting exercise to do as a company founder. I created much of my work environment, so if some element didn't align with my needs, I would only need to look right in the mirror to see both the source of the problem and the solution.
That's not to say that it's easy to remedy the former to implement the latter, but it does diagnose that all-important starting point.
5. Do you feel that your career is fulfilling and meaningful?
This is a very qualitative question with a very personal answer. It's hard to measure, but if you take care to listen to your intuition, the answer will rise up naturally.
First, what is the role of your career in your life? Is it to make a contribution to society (whether that's to one or a million people)? Is it to give you a change from your home environment? Is it to build up your skill set? Is it to make money so as to fulfil your passions? Is it a stepping stone to a promotion or new opportunity?
Think about it: are you making the needle move on those objectives? If not, then what do you need to do about it?
Women too often put the needs of others before their own: we take care of the physical, emotional and mental health of our children, partners, parents. We do our best to keep on top of things, wrok hard at work. Then when they get home, many women also take the lion's share of housework.
But we need to put our own health much higher up in our list of priorities. You know what they say: put on your own oxygen mask first, if you want to be able to help others.
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