If you know my story, you know that my self-care journey started when my multiple chronic illness diagnoses became too much to manage on top of a full-time job.
A BIG part of that was my workaholism.
And one of the reasons it was always so hard to pull myself out of flares? How often I would just forget to do the very, very basic things I needed to do to take care of myself…because I was so obsessed with work.
I was so engrossed in work that I would just straight up forget to eat, to drink water, to take my meds, sleep. It’s very sad and not good.
Eventually, I realized it was so bad that the only way I would start treating self-care with the seriousness with which it required was to treat it like work. Also very sad, I know.
But it worked! I totally tricked myself. I still tell myself that “self care is my side hustle.”
It is a job that I HAVE to do in order for everything else to happen.
And so I started treating it like I treated my jobs – my day job at the time and this newsletter. I got organized and started planning. 🤓
I’m nothing if not a Type A nerd that would Amy Santiago and Leslie Knope proud.SI strategized just like I would do with a new project at work.
And that mindset shift was magical. ✨
These are all things that we use in our lives and work so much already. Especially if you work in tech or startups, or own your own business. I know that there’s such a good chance that you use a project management tool and automation.
But has it ever occurred to you to use that stuff for your health and self-care too?
Through self-care tools and systems, I slowly got healthier, changed my mindset around self-care, and got my workaholism under control.
And even though my self-care tool kit has changed over the few years since I first created one, the important part is that IT EXISTS.
It’s still core to how I stay healthy, how I stay balanced and how I stay mentally well (well, as mentally well as I get 😉).
So I want to share with you the 3 types of self-care systems you can get started with, and my favorite self-care apps and tools for implementing them.
We are going INSIDE my precious bullet journal, y’all! Get excited. 🤓
Here’s the video, but scroll down if you prefer to read.
1. Recurring Tasks & Reminders
The first way I started systemizing self-care was by putting recurring tasks for important activities into my task manager.
I use Todoist, but you can do this whether you use Trello, Asana, or the built-in app on your phone (I think). Pretty much all tools that you can add a task to, you can add a recurring task to nowadays.
I have recurring to-dos for everything from taking my meds on a daily basis, to refilling them at the end of the month.
There are also weekly and monthly routines that are more focused on mental health and reflecting on it, than day-to-day personal care. For example, I have a weekly to-do to check in with my therapist since I was forgetting to way too often.
Here’s what my self-care project looks like these days:
It’s basically a big self-care to-do list, divided into the following sections:
- Appointments for to-dos related to specific medical appointments. For example, current tasks are complete intake forms for a new primary care doctor, take out cash for my weekly acupuncture (they don’t take card or check), and reschedule my biyearly colonoscopy for my IBD.
- Wellness for miscellaneous stuff, really. There’s a to-do in there to redeem a Groupon deal I have for a massage, but that’s all at the moment.
- Daily routines for important care like taking my meds, going through my morning and evening routines, and talking to my online therapist (my insurance doesn’t cover in-person help).
- Monthly routines for mostly planning-related activities, like an end-of-month reflection and setting up my calendar and bullet journal for the month ahead.
2. Digital Journaling Templates
The second thing I’ve done to practice self-care more consistently is make it easier to journal on the reg. That was thanks to templates and reminders for digital journaling.
I feel like a lot of our ideas around journaling are like, spending 30 minutes writing with beautiful handwriting inside a gorgeous notebook. And I’m not gonna lie, I have the gorgeous notebooks, we’re going to talk about them in a second.
But when you really need to be journaling, when you’re going through a rough time with mental health or there’s just a lot in your brain?
You’ve gotta make it as easy as possible for that to happen.
For me, that means using templates, writing in quick bulleted lists, and setting recurring reminders like I mentioned above.
I feel like I’ve spent my whole life buying notebook and not filling them. And you know what finally got me journaling offline consistently? Letting myself journal online sometimes.
Taking the pressure off myself to fill multiple pages of a notebook each day, and just fill out a template instead, was what finallybuilt the habit for me.
There are two tools that I recommend for this: DayOne and Evernote.
A. DayOne Journaling
The first app I used for digital journaling wasDayOne. It’s specifically a journaling app, so it has really detailed features around building this habit on any device – computer, smartphone, etc.
This was great for me since the app was always with me when I needed it. Whether I was trying to journal as part of an evening reflection, or to deal with feelings in the moment, it was a few taps away.
They offer multiple ways to create templates, so you can get into the habit of using certain journaling prompts or following a certain journaling routine.
And what I loved most about DayOne is the menu bar tool. So you can keep that at the top of your computer to braindump any thoughts into when necessary. You can save a new note without even opening the app that way.
B. Evernote Journaling
The only reason I don’t use Day One one as much anymore, is because I use Evernote for so many other things that I started using it for journaling a bit too. ‘
It’s easier for me since I keep Evernote open all day, and working brighter is about finding what works FOR YOU and customizing that. So now I have Evernote templates to fill out every day that help me check in on my mental health, productivity, and other important parts of my life.
3. Habit Tracking
The last thing that I’m going to talk about today is habit tracking. These are a really great way to measure your progress, hold yourself accountable, build consistency, and keep yourself motivated.
Keeping up with a habit tracker helps you build a chain of momentum you won’t want to break. If you’ve ever heard of the Jerry Seinfeld Break the Chain productivity tip, it’s that.
Except fun fact: Jerry Seinfeld never actually coined that phrase.
It’s still a good idea though! 💁🏻♀️
There’s a whole challenge on building and tracking habits in the Work Brighter Clubhouse, which works with both digital and analog habit tracking and includes a free habit tracker for you.
I personally use a bullet journal habit tracker, but not like a fancy one that you might see like on YouTube or Instagram. I simply draw out grids and color them when I complete things.
Sure, they’re colorful, because I’m still me, but they’re minimal.
At the end of the day, and watch some TV and I color in my bullet journal. It’s as relaxing as a coloring book, but more helpful. 🙃
If you don’t want to use a bujo habit tracker, you could just print out a calendar and mark off days you complete your habit. Or if you think you’ll keep up with a digital tracker more easily, you can do that.
You’ve got lots of options…
A. Spreadsheet or Calendar
Most simply, you can just use a calendar, note, or spreadsheet to mark down when you do things.
But specialized tools often make things easier, and there are a few fun habit building apps that I like to use.
B. Aloe Bud
The first app I love for tracking self-care is Aloe Bud. It’s specifically a self-care tracking app, where you can build a personal dashboard to remind yourself to do things that are good for you.
The habits I have on my dashboard are to hydrate, motivate, move, take meds, and fuel. So anytime I do one of those things, I can open Aloe Bud and quickly log it in the app. It also offers reminders and notifications, but I don’t personally use them for the sake of avoiding digital clutter.
Another self-care app that’s really freaking fun is Habitica. Check it out if you like RPG and gamified productivity,, since it’s essentially gamified, RPG-inspired habit building.
The final habit tracking app that I like is Strides. It’s for habits in general, not specifically self-care or self-improvement. And it’s a really easy app to log different activities.
I like how customizable the habit tracking is, so you can really apply it to anything you’re trying to do. And that it creates a calendar of how long you’ve kept the streak going.
Want more advice and recs for self-care tools?
We’re obsessed with both tech and taking care of ourselves inside the Work Brighter Clubhouse, and don’t believe they oppose each other.
Check it out and join us today if you’re interested in building self-care systems for yourself. 🙌
And if you’ve already build your own self-care systems, tell me about them in the YouTube comments!
And if you liked this, you’ll love:
- 4 Keys to Building “Happy Habits” for Better Self-Care
- Energy Management: Why Productivity is All About Energy
- When Batching Tasks Badly Leads to Burnout (and How to Avoid It)