How often do you think about your priorities in life? Have you consciously set them or have they simply evolved over time based on your day to day tasks and routines? Being intentional with your priorities can help you be a little more efficient with your time, fight procrastination, and reach those goals that you have set (hopefully). Here are 5 things that you can do to help get your priorities straight.
IDENTIFY AND UNDERSTAND YOUR STAGE OF LIFE
One of the ways to get your bearings straight is understanding what LifeStage (LS) you are in. Your LS can be defined by a number of different classifications, such as:
Childhood (can be broken up into different age groups)
Young family (1 or 2 young children)
Established family (children in middle school years)
There are more stages of life than listed above or your LS could be a combination of them. While LS’s are traditionally thought of only by age, there are other factors that should be considered such as going back to school later in life, being divorced, finding yourself starting over (unemployed), starting a business, disabled, widowed, or whether you have children.
Depending on your stage of life, you will have different conflicts and impediments to deal with. Understanding the common priorities for your LS can give you a strong frame of reference for challenges that you may face. While you may decide that ‘what is common’ for your LS is not an issue for you, at least you have an understanding of with what others in you LS have dealt.
HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR TIME TODAY?
Your ‘actual’ priorities, not just the ones that you tell yourself, are shown by what you do today. On a piece of paper, write:
- a) your goals that you have set and
- b) the way you are actually spending your time each day.
Are they on this list because they are the most important activities/goals to you or because they are the most pressing or because they are habits that you have unintentionally developed? Going forward, know that the way you spend your time is defining who you are in a sense. If your actions today are not how you want to live your life, you will need to change them.
As a secondary exercise, break down your week with an approximate number of hours spent on all activities.
MATCH YOUR PRIORITIES WITH YOUR LIFE STAGE (LS)
Do your priorities match up with your Life Stage? This is for both types of priorities as discussed above. For instance, if you have a young family, with 2 children at home, and your priorities are to go out drinking and partying all the time, then there is a conflict between your priorities and your stage of life.
- Make a list of any activities that are in conflict with your LS
- Make a separate list of the activities that are in line with your LS
- Make a third list (I know, too many lists) that identifies anything that should be on your list of priorities based on your stage of life (i.e. if you are in school and you don’t study, you should probably put it on this list)
MATCH YOUR PRIORITIES WITH YOUR GOALS/VISION
Do your priorities match up with your goals or the vision you have for your life? If your main goal is to start a business, and you spend all of your free time gaming or, even spending it doing work for your day job, then your priorities are not in sync with your goals. Remember those three lists from the last section? You guessed it!
- Add to your list of priorities that are in conflict with your goals. If it is already on your list, just add a * to that item so that you know it is interfering with more than one thing.
- Add to your list of priorities that are in line with your goals and your vision. Again, add a * to the items that are in line with your LS and your goals/vision.
- Lastly, add to your third list any priorities that are missing but are in line with your goals/vision. And yes, add a * to any priorities that are related to both your LS and your goals/vision.
CHANGE YOUR ACTIONS
Change what you are doing. You have probably figured out that you were not making these lists just for the hell of it. As a matter of fact, you probably already knew what this last item was before we got here. Isn’t that the way, though? We often already know the things that we should be doing but we simply do not think about them. But, I am going to ask you to think about them right now. Not just think, but to take action. Today.
- Do not spend as much time doing things on the first list. Actively try to spend less time, or remove entirely, the items from this list. They are not helping you. Worse, they are hurting you because they keep you from getting and doing the things in your life that are important.
- Keep doing the things on the second list. Great job! Ideally, you will spend MORE time doing these things going forward but celebrate the fact that you do them.
- Do the things on the third list. You will automatically be more productive in your life by adding these items to your list and you will get closer to living the life you want.
Do you see how these 5 things will improve your life? Simply understanding the differences can be an eye opening experience. If you find that your priorities are matching up, then continue the good work and, most importantly, continue to monitor how you spend your time. If your priorities do not match up, then it is important that you SHIFT HOW YOU SPEND YOUR TIME.