If I went into clinical practice, I suspect that I’d be like Bob Newhart and just yell “stop it!” to everyone who started confessing their phobias.
But kindness and empathy are vital human needs.
And the person who needs kindness from you most is…you.
In this post, I’m going to share with you 5 ways that being kind to yourself can actually make you more productive.
And it all starts with giving yourself permission.
The Gates of Permission
I’m a mom to two great kids. As a parent, one of my common roles is permission-giver. I grant my kids permission to watch TV, hang out with friends, eat junk food (on special occasions!), etc.
For my kids — and really, for many adults — permission is a gate to a secret garden. Once opened, there are joys and wonders to experience. The problem is unlocking the stupid gate!
My children must ask politely to obtain my permission. They’ve even been known to deliver persuasive PowerPoint presentations!
But my clients, like most healthy adults, must discover how give themselves permission in life.
The secret gardens that lie beyond the gates of our adult permission are things such as self-care, self-love, self-esteem, and other mushy-gushy (but important!) self-stuff.
The first step toward being kind to the person in the mirror is to give yourself permission to do so.
1. Give yourself permission to focus on one thing
In a previous post on Redbooth, I harped on and on about the evils of multitasking.
I also have a YouTube video that documents my feelings on the subject if you really want to see me rant. You’ve likely heard the arguments before and don’t need them reiterated. We’re being kind today.
Here is what giving yourself permission to focus on just one thing looks like:
- You schedule time on your calendar to work on important tasks…and say no when others ask you to give up that time
- You get rid of distractions by closing the door to your office, taking your laptop into a conference room, working from home for a day, or even escaping to a hotel for a few days to work
- You pull out your phone, set the timer for 20 minutes, and commit to working on one thing — and-one thing only — until you hear the buzzer
Given that it’s well established that multitasking doesn’t work, it’s amazing that you have to bend over backwards to let yourself focus on one thing.
But once you do…it’s pretty great.
2. Give yourself permission to take a break
In a prior Redbooth post, I wrote about death, martyrdom, and vacation-taking. So I won’t go too much into that here. The point is, take your vacations.
You earned them and you need them.
A vacation doesn’t necessarily need to involve an airplane and tropical cocktails with little umbrellas to be effective.
One of my clients takes “three-hour vacations” when he feels that he has had a particularly productive week. The mini-vacay serves as both incentive and reward.
In addition to “real” vacations, schedule time every day for breaks.
Don’t wait for your calendar to get filled with meetings to figure out when you’re going to go to the bathroom. Plan your breaks in advance — and then take them.
3. Give yourself permission to forget stuff
I’ve got a bombshell for you: You are officially fired from the job of remembering stuff.
You probably stink at it anyway. Feeling like you need to remember everything is a stressful way to live. It’s not very kind to yourself to insist on something so unrealistic.
In lieu of trying to remember stuff, try doing the following:
- If you’re a solopreneur, keep a consolidated and comprehensive personal to-do list, preferably in electronic format. Refer to it every day, multiple times. If you’re part of a team at work, software like Redbooth is designed to consolidate your work and reminders.
- Use a tool such as Evernote or OneNote to store all of your fun facts, meeting notes, and stuff you liked on the internet.
- Centralize your contacts into one place — and yes, this means throwing away all those business cards you’ve collected. Add notes to help you remember who the heck each person was and maybe even what they look like.
4. Give yourself permission to fail spectacularly
You’ve surely heard this platitude: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
But, those “ventures” are easier said than done sometimes. While giving us an opportunity for success, they often carry an even greater risk for failure.
That is scary. Failure is bad, right? Consider the following:
X (formerly Google X) actually pays people to fail — in a sense. It is through failures that innovation has succeeded:
We work hard at X to make it safe to fail. Teams kill their ideas as soon as the evidence is on the table because they’re rewarded for it. They get applause from their peers. Hugs and high fives from their manager, me in particular. They get promoted for it. We have bonused every single person on teams that ended their projects, from teams as small as two to teams of more than 30.
— Astro Teller
And our failures can give us our greatest opportunities for learning. Tim Fargo, CEO of Tweet Jukebox and author of the book Alphabet Success, says, “Analyze your mistakes. You’ve already paid the tuition — you might as well get the lesson.”
Redbooth’s CEO, Dan Schoenbaum, has written about how losing a hockey game can lay the foundation for future success.
Maybe failure doesn’t have to be so scary after all.
5. Give yourself permission to be imperfect
The road to professional burnout is paved with the belief that you can control everything that happens to you.
Striving for perfection can lead to some completely unproductive outcomes:
- Failure to complete needed tasks
- Failure to start (procrastination!)
- Excessive time spent on non-value-added tweaks or “improvements”
Strive for progress. Strive for completion. Be perfect at forgiving yourself when you fall short of perfection. Your most significant goals are achieved through a series of small, often imperfect, steps forward.
Remember, you are an adult.
The only one who can give you permission to be kind is you. If you are being unkind to yourself, the only one who can open those gates is the person in the mirror.