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A Mathematical Approach to Putting Yourself First

You’ve got to take care of yourself first. All that is really worth doing is what we do for others. Do only what makes you happy. The key to happiness is in helping those around you.

Confused? Yeah, us too.

We’re constantly absorbing contradictory advice on when, where, and how we should prioritize the time and energy we give ourselves or give others. Opposing sides of the argument may resonate with us from one time to another, making us vacillate between doing more for mankind or “indulging” ourselves. But this January, we’re encouraging you to put yourself on top of your priority list.

From where we’ll live to what we do for work or where we’ll eat dinner, we get so caught up in routine that we can forget everything in life is a decision that offers the opportunity for self-care. So we made it our business to find a strategic way to examine how you’re putting yourself first, and the result is the following, mathematical approach. 

A how-to

First, we outlined four categories that encompass the largest areas of our lives — from leisure to relationships. In each category, you’ll have the chance to record three things you enjoy doing for yourself. Next to each of those items, you’ll write down how many times in the last month you were able to do those things.

Once you’ve completed this first step, you’ll tally up how many days out of 30 in each category you got to do something just for yourself. You are bound to have more success in certain categories that are of higher priority to you, but if you’re spending less than a third of the month in any one category, it’s a strong indicator that you ought to shift your focus into balance.

Take a look at my personal exercise, below.

The exercise

Leisure: This is where your hobbies and activities that satisfy the need for “me time” belong. For me, it includes the pottery class I take on Mondays after work, or the art nights at neighborhood galleries on Thursday evenings. Spend time here as you wish!

  1. Pottery: 1
  2. Shopping: 3
  3. Art gallery visit: 2

Tally: 6 of 30 points

Relationships: From a colleague to a potential paramour, this category represents what you genuinely like to do with the special people in your life. To be clear, don’t count the boring play your mom made you see or a double date your best friend begged you to go on. These are best viewed as shared activities that are enjoyable to you, no strings attached.

  1. Went on a date: 1
  2. Visited my favorite dessert spot with a friend: 0
  3. Took a weekend getaway with Mom: 0

Tally: 1 of 30 points

Health: Whether you’re a yogi, an acupuncture regular, or dodgeball team captain, these are activities that you enjoy doing for your body and overall wellness.

  1. Yoga: 4
  2. Massage: 0
  3. Meditate: 3

Tally: 7 of 30 points

Work: This category is trickier than most. We recognize that more often than not, there are certain circumstances that are unavoidable when it comes to work — like spending a late night at the office to meet a deadline. For the purposes of our exercise, we’re only focusing on the good. This is where efforts like actually taking your lunch break or getting to collaborate with a specific coworker really pay off.

  1. Shared a new idea in weekly meeting: 0
  2. Left by 6pm: 1
  3. Got to work with the design department: 2

Tally: 3 of 30 points

Total monthly tally: 17 of 30 points

examining the results

In tallying up the time I spent doing things for myself over the course of a month (which for me was a total of 17), I quickly learned that I was lacking in two major areas: relationships and work.

In my life, these are the areas that consume most of my waking hours, but also represent where I take care of myself the least. This exercise also made it apparent that in areas that involve other people, I find it hard to put myself first. However, in the areas of health and leisure, I manage to make it happen.

My goal for next month is to shift my focus at work and in my relationships to include more moments that benefit my overall wellbeing. At the end of the month, I hope to have done something beneficial for myself in each of these areas at least 5 out of 30 days.

If we continue to put ourselves on the back-burner, months will pass and nothing will change. I think I can do it, who else is with me?

By Natalie Stoclet