When women are asked to list their greatest needs, self-care is often at the top.

Setting boundaries (and keeping them without feeling guilty) seems to be one of the most difficult aspects of our work. Last week I suggested making a list of three types of “activities” you can do that help you feel renewed. (Click here to read the article.)

Below is a list of ideas that might help you incorporate free time into your schedule so you can actually do the things on your list. I am particularly fond of the first two ideas. They work well for me, and help me stay balanced, especially when I’m busy working on a big project.

Be sure to leave a comment, sharing with us how you make time for yourself.

Have Designated Time for Your Work

If you already know how to recharge your mind-body-soul, but have a hard time making the time to do it, tune in next week when I share some of my secret techniques for setting boundaries with clients and my self.

When you are self-employed there is no 9-5 schedule. You might work 9 to midnight. Or not at all.

Unfortunately, your clients do not have the same expectations you have about your “off” hours. In fact, they may not even think you have “off hours.” (I’ve had clients call me on my home phone after 8:00 pm on Sunday to take care of business that could easily have waited until Monday.)

For this reason, I set clear boundaries with my clients. They know exactly how to contact me and when, and they know it might take me a day to respond.

Set Office Hours and Make them Obvious

I have designated hours when I meet with clients, and I don’t start my first meeting until 9:30 am, and I only work with clients the first and third Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of every month. I find I can be more present with my clients (and my family and friends) if I have time every morning and every other week to focus on myself first.

You may have similar needs. Perhaps you prefer to work with clients in the morning and by yourself in the afternoon. Or work Tuesday – Thursday with clients, and the rest of the week by yourself. Experiment until you find what works best for you and stick to it.

Schedule Time for Yourself During the Work Week

A minister friend of mine keeps a paper calendar that is often visible to other people. When a parishioner asks to make an appointment they can see every meeting the minister has scheduled.

If the minister has a lot of empty space in his calendar the parishioner is likely to assume the minister is available. People don’t naturally understand his need to have time to himself, so instead of trying to explain to the parishioners that the “left over” time slots are for paperwork and personal time, the minister fills in the “empty” spots with “appointments.” For his personal time he uses a made up name like Joe. When a parishioner sees the calendar it looks full, but much of what is scheduled is quiet time for the minister to get his work done. This system has helped him create boundaries and a healthy ministry.

Have a Teddy Bear Named “Someone”

Service providers don’t like to lie, and as I mentioned above, people don’t always understand your need for alone time. I once read about a church that had a teddy bear named “Someone.” The teddy bear sat on a chair in the minister’s office. If the minister needed time to herself, and a parishioner called to speak with her, the receptionist could honestly say, “I’m sorry. Rev. Johnson is meeting with Someone. Can I take a message?”

Designate One Day as Your Personal Sabbath

Pick one day of the week and keep it sacred. Do whatever you find meaningful, but don’t work.

In last week’s post I talked about making three lists of activities that help you feel renewed. On the Sabbath day of your choice, I suggest doing something from the first or second list. For instance, yesterday I read most of the day. Today I feel completely invigorated and ready for a full week of work.

Sweet dreaming,