“To say, I don’t have time is to say I don’t want to.” — Lao Tzu
What does it mean to prioritize your priorities?
That you figure out what is most important to you, make time to do that, and then actually use the time you’ve set aside to do what you planned. That can be much easier said than done. Here are four steps to help you.
1. Assess What You’re Prioritizing Now
The reality is that our priorities are often not reflected in how we spend our time, but if you break your day or week down into hours spent on something, you’ll find what you’re actually prioritizing. So, step one is figuring out how you’re spending your time.
Depending on your time organizing style, you may like to fill out a time log for a day or a week so you can get a specific picture of how you’re spending your time OR you might just create a rough sketch. This doesn’t have to be minute by minute. The goal is to see in broad strokes how you’re spending your days.
One of the stumbling blocks in organizing time is that some people (me included) don’t love following a schedule. Figuring out the rhythm of your energy helps as does having a system to help you remember what you want to do without locking yourself into it. I have tools to help people with both a scheduled approach to time organizing and a more mood/energy-based approach. If you’re convinced you just can’t organize your time, you may have just been trying to use tools that didn’t fit how you work.
2. Create a Priorites List
Consider your life aspirations, big and small. This can include bucket list goals and daily habits like flossing your teeth or exercising. What makes a day feel well spent? What would you like to be working towards? When you consider the time log or sketch you made of how you’re currently spending your time, consider what you wish was on there instead.
- Connect with people you love or finding more people to connect with
- Develop a skill
- Take care of your body
- Complete a project
- Get more sleep
In my Women Learning How to Be Happy(er) group on Facebook, we’ve been doing a Time Decluttering and Organizing Challenge with prompts for people to consider what they would like to spend less time and what they’d like to make space for on their schedules. Contact me if you’d like a copy of the challenge prompts and answer tracker.
3. Determine What You Want to Prioritize
Once you’ve considered what you want to spend less time on or eliminate from your schedule altogether and what you want to make any or more time for, think about what you want to prioritize now.
Clearly, some of the things on your priorities list will take longer than others. While some may take one large block of time, others may be a daily habit that you need to set aside time for, and others may be a larger goal that needs incremental time spent to accomplish. For instance, if you’re trying to establish a daily yoga habit, the tasks will be different than if you want to travel to Italy for a month.
So, after you’ve determined what some of your priority goals are, you need to break down the steps you’d need to take to meet those goals. Do you need to sign up for a class, buy equipment, enlist a buddy to do it with? Do you need expert help, more information, to save money?
Pick something you’d like to prioritize. The time frame might be a month, till the end of the year, or something that’s part of a five-year or longer plan.
Write down the steps it would take to achieve that goal.
4. Block Out Time for Your Priorities
Make an appointment with yourself or whoever you might need to help you accomplish those goals or complete those tasks. Show up for that appointment in the way you would a commitment to another person, whether lunch with a friend or a well-check at the doctor. If you have a schedule conflict, be sure to reschedule the appointment to another time or day. Don’t let it fall off your calendar.
For many of these priorities, you won’t just be scheduling one time. You’ll need to schedule time for each step, maybe multiple times in the short term or a daily block of time for as long as you’re maintaining the habit or behavior.
Thinking about something doesn’t get it done, nor does having it on a list. As Gretchen Rubin says, “Something that can happen at any time often happens at no time.” That’s because there’s no urgency, no deadline, and no scheduled time to do it.
Making your priorities a priority means that you actually spend time on what’s important to you rather than simply thinking about it. You identify what you want, the steps needed to get there, block out the time to do it, and then actually do it.
So, as Mary Oliver so eloquently asks, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
If you need help organizing your time or simply figuring out what you want to prioritize so you’ll be happier, schedule a free discovery call with me or contact me by email. You can tell me about what you need, ask me any questions you have, and see if I am the right person to help you.