When I was 9 years old, I started mowing lawns to earn money. My mother used to tell me to “pay myself first.” It was actually a rule back then, not just advice. Half of my net earnings had to go into my bank account.
This philosophy works great for financial freedom. It helped me pay for two degrees without any student loans. This week, I decided to try applying the same philosophy to other areas of life to see if it works just as well.
Taking the attitude of “pay myself first,” I decided things that make me feel balanced, relaxed, and more at ease with the world work like a savings account–they give me energy and a calm state of mind to draw on when things get tough. Since things get tough every day, I decided I needed to return to my old habit of getting “me time” in first thing every day–paying myself before I give any of my time or energy to anything else.
My first rule was not to check email until after I’d spent time doing what I wanted to do in the morning. I got up dark and early most mornings at 5AM to have a few hours to myself before I needed to plug in and get online for work.
I rode my bike, went to the gym, or did yoga each morning. I also made myself a healthy breakfast. All of this made me feel cared for, relaxed, and far more ready to tackle work.
I also set some new limits for myself at work. I decided I needed to limit the number of hours I would spend on work each week in order to make sure I wasn’t sacrificing on sleep. To get 8 hours of sleep, have my time in the morning, and some time in the evening to write my other blog (snapgreatphotos.com), I had to limit my day job to no more than 10 hours a day.
This turned out to be the hardest rule to follow–especially coming back from a week off and knowing that I’m taking another vacation shortly. I repeated the mantra, “I am enough,” over and over. Anything I could delegate or let others handle I let go of. I had to let go of the intense pressure I put on myself to be helpful at all costs. I had to take a breath and ask myself if it was really important to jump in or if doing so would take time and energy away from more important things and/or deny someone else an opportunity to step up.
I can’t say I executed perfectly. I was up later than I wanted to be on more than one night trying to get one more thing done. But I keep telling myself that if I can pay myself first, I will be better at everything else I do and that will make the investment worth it to everyone.