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  • Writer's pictureNicki Bass

Why is it so hard to put ourselves at the top of our to-do list?

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

I have had a knotty muscle in my back for at least two months now. I know it would make a real difference if I booked in for a sports massage…yet I haven’t. If I think about it, I could probably come up with half a dozen things that I need to do for my own wellbeing, but that haven't got around to because I "haven't got time".

Yet, the reality is that I probably do have time, if I really prioritised it. But in between the competing demands of work and family, many of those things always seem to end up at the bottom of the to-do list.

And from the feedback I get from coaching clients and friends, I know that I am not alone. So, why do we find it so hard to prioritise ourselves and our own wellbeing?

And just as importantly, what can we do about this?

Having helped many clients consider how to best approach this, here are 4 simple ideas that I know help to redress the balance.

1. Pick one thing.

What is the one thing on that list that will make the biggest difference? Or even, what is the one thing that is easiest to do?

Often the biggest challenge is just getting started; by starting small, we minimise the barriers and the excuses we put in our own way.

It could be putting on your trainers when heading out for a dog walk. Or it might even be as simple as forcing yourself to sit down and drink a hot cup of tea. In other words, pick a fight that you think you can win.

2. Plan your "me-time".

Look ahead at your week. Are there any spaces in there - spaces you know will get filled with stuff, but that you can block out in advance?

For me, often the barrier is not carving out the time for the appointment, but prioritising the phone call to book it in the first place! Booking in a 10 minute slot to do the arranging, makes it much easier to commit to the event itself.

3. Sit still.

And leading on from the above, book in time to sit still. Even if it is simply for 5 minutes.

Sometimes we aren’t able to prioritise ourselves because we can’t even hear ourselves above all the noise. Our brains get overwhelmed by all the doing and we find it hard to think at all. By forcing our brain to take a time-out, we can start to identify what it is we really need.

4. Accept that you are enough.

Ok, this one is probably the hardest, but it is probably the most important.

We are constantly bombarded by messages that increase the pressure on us to be the best partner/ parent/ friend/ boss/ live our best life etc etc.

But unless we can start from a place of accepting imperfection, we will constantly be striving to achieve the impossible. And when we focus on achieving an “instagrammable” ideal, rather than what we actually need, we are left depleted and disheartened.

There is a lot of truth in the saying “you can’t pour from an empty cup”.​ But if we don’t even recognise what a full cup might look like for us, then it is even harder to get there.

And getting there, in the end, requires a mindset shift, moving to a place where we focus on our strengths rather than our deficiencies and surround ourselves with people who lift us up.

It is then that we can start to find our way up that to-do list ladder again.

To find out more about how to increase resilience and wellbeing through 1-1 coaching or team training, drop me a line at


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