Originally published March 2008. Revised for February 2021
We recently resurrected an article we wrote in 2008 about making self-care a priority. Interestingly, many of the concepts we wrote about in the 2008 financial crisis are still applicable today with a few updates.
There is a concept in the coaching world called "extreme self-care." Coined by coaching guru Thomas Leonard, extreme self-care is putting yourself at the top of your list and spending your time on the things you want to do. Unlike plain old selfishness, extreme self-care doesn't have a negative impact on others. It goes back to that old analogy of the oxygen masks on the airplane — you have to put yours on before helping others with theirs.
If you have the courage to do some of the things we suggest to make your self-care a priority, then you will have the power to be of service to others, and there will be a direct impact on your bottom line. This is especially important in a period of prolonged stress like we have had for the better part of the past year.
It can be difficult in times like these when everyone is clamoring for our attention from our children, spouses, parents, clients and team members. With so many relying on us, it is even more important to take some time for ourselves.
Here are some practical reminders to get you started:
Have a clear vision.
Get a specific idea of where you want to go. Create a one- and three-year vision for your business and your life and write it down. Imagine it is December 31, 2021 — what does your life and business look like? Just as you advise your clients to write down their goals, you will be much more successful if you do, too. Sharing your vision with your team can also bring you together towards a common goal to help your clients get through challenging times.
Be true to your values.
Make sure you are operating from your values. If you look at your to-do list for the day, are you spending time on what is really important to you? With the change for many to working from home it can be easy for our work life to have no end time. It is much easier to say "no" to things you do not really want to do if you are true to your values. By sharing these values with your clients, it is easier to set boundaries and expectations about when you will respond to them.
Make time for what's important.
Have a look at the rest of the year and schedule in personal things of utmost importance first, such as time spent on family, healthcare, relationships and professional development. Even though we may not be able to travel right now, it is still important to book some time away from the office. One advisor we coach decided to delete social media applications from his phone as he found it was taking away from being in the moment when he was with his family. Another found that by working one or two days a week from home he was able to take a break during the middle of the day to get out for some fresh air with his family and was much more productive when getting back to work.
Free yourself from the nagging to-dos.
You cannot move forward with growing your business until you clear up things that are holding you back. In many cases with our clients, blocking a day to clean up a cluttered office has ultimately led to an increase in business. Set aside some time and get rid of those nagging to-dos once and for all. A first step can even be doing a “mind dump” on paper of everything you have on your plate at the moment. Then you can identify priorities, and items that could be delegated to others.
Practice what you preach about finances.
Are you doing the things you advise your clients to do? We see many advisors so focused on their business that they have neglected their own finances. If you take care of this piece for yourself, you will become a much more effective advisor. If we do have an extended downturn or recession what will the impact be on your business? Some teams took advantage of government support for businesses this year and focused on building up cash reserves in case their revenues are impacted in the longer term.
Leverage support systems.
Do you have an adequate support system in place? It is important to have someone to talk to about the challenges of your business. This can be a manager, coach, mentor or study group. If you are feeling extreme levels of stress or depression, it may be time to talk to a professional therapist.
Keep extra reserves in the tank.
Right now, it may feel like the concept of "life balance" is unattainable. That’s ok. It is often said that it is in difficult times that financial advisors earn their pay cheques. It is important to focus on your financial, physical and mental reserves that are built up by taking care of yourself even if it is only starting at a few minutes a day. Just like our mothers told us, getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and moving our bodies each day all make a difference.
To summarize, part of the idea of extreme self-care is having the mindset that what you are doing is what you choose to do versus have to do. By doing this, you will find it easier to focus on growing your business and attracting new clients. And you will be better able to make an impact on your clients' lives, which is one of the key reasons you joined this great industry in the first place.