Your Priorities

Choosing your priorities is the first thing you need to do before you take any actions. So do it now (or after you read this post).

Why is this so important?

One reason for this is that it allows you to clearly identify what’s important to you. Many of us tend to spend the majority of our time on our job, studying, housework, or something else. But is that the best distribution of our time? Do we spend a sufficient amount of time on the things that are most important to us? In order to make sure that we are, it is helpful to have a clear hierarchy of the projects we undertake.

Very practically, having a list of priorities can also resolve time conflicts. If, for instance, you are wondering if you should do some work or go swimming right now (and neither is particularly pressing), you can take a look at your priorities list. If doing work comes before swimming, then do work; if swimming comes before doing work, then go swimming. This gives you a simple answer to your dilemma. In some cases, you will feel unhappy with the outcome. To take up the same example, your list might tell you to do work, but you may strongly prefer to go swimming. If this happens often, then you know you need to re-order your priorities in order to be true to your preferences. So go ahead, put swimming before doing work!

How to determine your priorities?

priority_list_by_inspirationisjustapo-d3i2h5i

First write down the activities, events, things, and people in your life. You can start general with things like working, studying, doing sports, taking care of my pets, etc. Then order those around according to how important each is to you. Here is a sample list:

  1. Keeping close with my friends, family, significant other
  2. Taking care of my children
  3. Taking care of my pets
  4. Keeping myself healthy
  5. Working
  6. Studying
  7. Doing sports
  8. Meditating
  9. Doing housework
  10. Running errands

Once again, this is only a sample list. I don’t even agree with it. But it demonstrates the idea. You can get more specific as you identify more specific projects. For instance, related to “Doing sports,” there may be “Running,” “Strength training,” and “Walking.” These sub-projects are related to the main one, but each of them may have a different priority. You need to try this out in order to see how much specificity is helpful to you.

Try to act according to your list once you have it. Make sure to spend an amount of time that feels sufficient to you on your top priorities. You may still be spending more hours working than taking care of your children, but this may feel appropriate to you. It’s not about the absolute number of hours that you spend on an activity; it’s about what amount of time you find appropriate to fulfill your projects.

Sometimes conflicts will happen, and you will have to make a compromise. For instance, even if you prefer to spend the evening with your boyfriend and your boyfriend is more important to you than your classes, you may still have to write a paper for your class that night. That’s just how it is sometimes. But in that case note that you have made a compromise with your priorities and make sure to spend another evening with your boyfriend in order to fulfill that priority.

Personally for me, my priorities list serves as a reminder about what’s most important to me. When I get pulled away by energy- and time-consuming tasks that are actually not central to my values, I can regain my perspective by glancing at my priorities list. For example, I may be spending hours and hours on this one assignment, worrying about whether I will manage to finish it and whether it will be good enough. At some point, I remember my priorities list though. There it clearly says that classes and thus assignments are less important than my physical and mental health. This allows me to take a breath and go more easily on myself. In this way I regain my perspective of what is most valuable and what is less valuable.

Let me know what you think about this! Do you find a priorities list helpful? Do you have a variation of this that you’d like to share?

I’d like to thank Rebecca Fraser-Thill from workingself.org for sharing this idea with me. I have found it quite useful!

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