Choosing Your Priorities
What Are Your Priorities?
Most of us make our big career decisions when we’re in our late teens or early twenties. By the time we get to our thirties and forties, our lives look very different and our priorities have often shifted dramatically. But we don’t usually take the time to consciously choose our current priorities for our lives and careers, which can lead to living out of alignment with what we truly want.
Focus on Five
I ask clients in my coaching program to think about their top five priorities and to make two lists: (1) their current priorities in terms of how they actually spend their time, and (2) their ideal priorities, or how they would like to be living.
When you constrain to just five things, you get a clear sense of what’s important to you and what’s not. And when you have a written list of priorities, you can use it as a guide to help you make decisions about what to do and decline to do. Because I work with professional working moms, their current lists usually look something like this:
- Involvement in kids’ school or extracurricular activities
- Extended family or friends
What do your lists look like?
Put Yourself on The List
I have yet to have a client tell me that her own mental and physical health is a current top priority. Yet, without that, it’s hard to tend to the other priorities. Many women have the belief that putting themselves on the priority list is impossible because they just don’t have time. But if you’re depleted—mentally, physically or both—it’s highly unlikely that you’re showing up as your best, most productive self to your family, job, friends, and other priorities. When you realize that your own mental and physical health is what fuels your ability to take care of others, you understand that it’s not optional—it’s everything.
Putting yourself on the priority list does not mean that you have to require a huge time commitment. For some, it would only require 30 minutes a few times a week for exercise and an extra hour or two on Sunday to plan and shop for healthy meals. For others, it would require a few more hours to dedicate to a goal, such as finding a new job or working on a manuscript.
If your health and wellbeing are not included on the list, ask yourself why. Write down the reasons you’re not currently making yourself a priority. Chances are, you have the thought “I don’t have enough time.” Although this may sound like a fact to you, it’s actually a thought. You may have a job, a family, and other obligations. But the thought that you don’t have time to make yourself a priority is completely optional and it’s also counter-productive.
When you think “I don’t have enough time,” you likely feel some sort of negative emotion such as stress, which probably causes you to spin in your head and have mini freak-outs when you could be using that time to do something productive. Your inaction results in your not getting everything done, which provides further evidence for the original thought “I don’t have enough time.”
How to Create More Time For Your Priorities
If you want to change your results, you’ve got to start with your thinking. If you tell yourself you don’t have time, you won’t have time.
To create more time, start with recognizing that you do have a choice in how you are currently allocating your time. You may be choosing to work at a job is requiring a certain number of hours or choosing to spend time taking care of your children. Recognizing that it’s a choice is the first step to taking your power back. Instead of telling yourself that you have to go to work, say instead that you’re choosing to work. You want to work because of the benefits it provides. (You may ultimately choose to find a different job or career, but unless someone is holding a gun to your head and saying “work!”, working at your current job is still your choice.)
Second, test the thought that you don’t have time against reality by keeping a time journal for a day (or a week) of every waking hour, so that you can see how you are actually using your time. Often people are shocked to learn that the story they’re telling themselves about lack of time does not match up with reality.
Third, commit to choosing to live in alignment with your true priorities. This will require thinking different thoughts than you’ve been thinking. Instead of thinking “I don’t have enough time,” practice thinking “I am committed to figuring out ways to focus on my top priorities.” And then brainstorm ways you can fit in some pockets of time by asking yourself questions like: What are ways that I can choose to spend my time differently than I currently am? What are the ways I can find more time for what matters most to me.
When you start to make yourself a priority, you will show up in a much more positive way to the other areas on the list because you’ll be coming from a place of abundance and health. If you need help figuring out how to do that, contact me for a free strategy session. I guarantee there is a way!
Go forth and bloom.