Have you ever noticed how when you have an appointment with someone important, usually a doctor who has a 2-month waitlist and charges you $75 to cancel an appointment, you always keep the appointment even when the unexpected creeps up?
This happened to me the other day. I had a new-patient appointment with a doctor who has a very long waitlist, and the afternoon beforehand, my boss says, “Hey, I know your calendar says you’re busy, but we need to move our client meeting to <exactly when the appointment was>.” While slightly panicking on the inside, on the outside I calmly said, “Oh gee, I have a really important appointment then that I do not think I can move, let me see if I can reschedule it.” Then I called my super popular, busy doctor and of course she could reschedule my appointment … for two months from now. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t like waiting 4 months for a doctor’s appointment, so I went back to my boss and said “Hey Boss, I would love to make the client meeting but I have an appointment that I unfortunately cannot move; could we meet with the client at a different time?” Then as if by magic, my boss found another time to meet. Wow! Disaster averted.
Now, I should point out here that I am the kind of person the boss-man and boss-woman love – when asked to stay late or rearrange my schedule (which sometimes involves semi-superhuman skill when it comes to coordinating picking up my kids, running errands, making dinner, and running a household), I say “Sure, no problem.” And I pat myself on the back for being such a good “team player.” Barf.
Because of this, I feel rushed and have very little “me” time (aka “breathing room”). And that is no bueno.
Well, this particular incident got me thinking: If I can acknowledge the importance of keeping an appointment with a doctor I have never seen before and push back (nicely) when other forces attempt to intrude, why can’t I do the same for myself?
Specifically, I am going to argue here that we should treat our free time with the same respect and commitment that we reserve for our doctor’s appointments. Now before you say something snarky like “Well, I don’t have two wait 2 months to hang out with myself,” answer this question honestly: When is the last time you guiltlessly enjoyed an hour or two of time to yourself doing something that you find meaningful?
With the exception of right now, the last time I really guiltlessly enjoyed time to myself was about 3 weeks ago when I splurged on a pedicure (and it was glorious). This outing was exceptionally refreshing because I actually let myself enjoy it. Usually, I find some kind of excuse as to why I don’t have time for free time (“Oh, gosh, I would love to spend time relaxing now that the kids are in bed but I really need to iron their underwear right now.”) and so I don’t make free time a priority. Or when I do have “free time,” I spend it checking something off of my to do list (“Yes, installing kitchen cabinet latches is super fun!” “Yes, I will remain on hold while you look up my insurance policy!”).
In short, I am the kind of person who needs to schedule appointments with myself so that I can be a “well-balanced” person who is not totally burned out. Burned out isn’t healthy.
So, I challenge you to schedule your own Dr. ME Appointments. Here are the guidelines for making these appointments successful:
- Pick a block of time that is equivalent to how long you would actually spend going to a doctor’s appointment. I find this is usually 1.5 hours long.
- Determine how you will spend your time. Will you go on a nature walk? Paint a picture? Get a manicure? Write poetry? Take a circus arts class? Choose an activity that you will be able to immerse yourself into and wholly enjoy.
- Take out your calendar and schedule the appointment. Make sure you pick a time that you will not be tempted to move. You can even write “Dr. ME Appointment” to remind yourself that this appointment is just as important for your well-being as a real doctor’s appointment (albeit in a slightly different way).
- Mentally check out when it is time for your appointment: no cellphones or multitasking allowed at the doctor’s office; none allowed at your appointment. This time is for focusing on what you are there for: taking care of yourself.
- Charge yourself a “No Show” fee ($50) if you do not make your doctor’s appointment or you are more than 15 minutes late. Then, reschedule your appointment for a “time when the doctor can see you” and use your no show fee to do something fun (because if you really had to miss your appointment then something really serious must have been going on because you respect yourself and your time). Just don’t make yourself wait two months for that next appointment.
- Schedule follow up visits with yourself so that you can ensure you remain a pleasant person to be around. We want to change the adjectives we use to describe ourselves from “stressed,” “tired,” and “burned out” to “relaxed,” “rejuvenated,” and “fulfilled.”
So go ahead, open your iCalendar, and create that appointment just for you.