7 Steps To Getting Your Priorities Straight

In last week’s blog I talked about how overwhelmed I’ve been feeling since many of the items that had been put on hold for Covid have suddenly reappeared on my calendar and my to-do list.  If that resonated with you, then this week’s blog will give you the practical advice you need to start to regain control of your time and your life.

I often hear from my clients that they want more free time, more time to travel, more time for their hobbies or to spend with their families. Then we look at their calendars and it quickly becomes apparent that they haven’t scheduled these things at all. 

Why do we expect that we will suddenly get more of something if we haven’t intentionally set aside time for it?  Do we somehow feel that magically one day we’ll look at our schedules and this open space will just appear to make room for all the things we want to do?

I’ve got news for you.  That won’t happen. You have to create that time and you don’t have to wait for anything to change to do it.  You can create that time right now by following the 7 steps outlined below.

I recommend you set aside 30-60 minutes for this process.  Try to find a time where you won’t be interrupted and turn off the notifications on your phone.  I like to use pen and paper for this, but you can use your computer as well.  If you’re going electronic, close your email and any other applications with notifications so you’re not interrupted.  If that feels uncomfortable, that is another great opportunity for coaching.

7 Steps To Get Your Priorities Straight 

1. Make a list of all your current commitments

Be thorough and comprehensive here.  It’s fine to list work.  It’s much more helpful to specifically list your work hours, committees you sit on, additional meetings you attend, after hours work commitments, etc. 

Don’t forget the daily maintenance of life.  Your list should include all your regularly scheduled tasks.  How often do you prepare dinner or pack lunches each week?  How often do you need to run errands?  What about regular pickups and drop offs?  Do you exercise regularly?  What are your weekly household cleaning tasks?

Look ahead on your calendar.  Do you have any big events or trips coming up that you’re currently planning and preparing for?  Be sure to list those too.

Keep going until you feel like you’ve got everything.  I typically go through this process annually and, when I do, my list is usually 1-2 pages long.  You do a lot more on a regular basis than you may realize.

2. What is the one thing you tell yourself you want more of in your life?  Is it on the list you just made?  If not, add it immediately.

As discussed above, if you don’t prioritize and schedule time for the things you want the most, you won’t do them.

3. Go through your list and rank each item as HIGH, MEDIUM, or LOW priority.

Be brutally honest.  These are YOUR priorities, not your employer’s, not the PTA’s, not your partner’s, not your children’s.  There’s room for all their priorities too, but the purpose of this exercise is to open your eyes to the common disparity between what we value and how we spend our time.

You should have no more than 3 HIGH priority items on your list.  These are the things for which you will cancel or reschedule everything else to accomplish.  These are your nonnegotiable commitments.

Is the thing you want more of in your life one of your HIGH priority items?  If not, why not?

4. Does your schedule match your priorities?

Now look back at your schedule for the last couple of months.  How have you been spending your time?  Have you been focused on your HIGH priority items?

Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t.  It’s easy to plug commitments into our planners without even thinking about them.  Then The next thing you know, there’s no available time left for quality time with the family or that trip you’ve been wanting to take.  This doesn’t make you a bad person.  It’s just something that, now that you’re aware of it, you have the opportunity to fix it.

5. Do you have time in your schedule for everything on your list?  If not, it’s time to release some of your commitments back into the wild

 I really think the visual here is important.  So often we refuse to give things up because we don’t want to quit or back out of a commitment. When I instead think of releasing that commitment back into the wild for someone else to discover and take on, it feels so much kinder and gentler. 

Make a list of the commitments you’re going to let go of and commit right now to the release date for each commitment.

6. Keep this list in a handy place and review it every week when you’re planning how you’re going to spend your time.

I write my 3 HIGH priority items at the front of my planner each year.  This helps remind my brain of what I value most when I’m trying to decide how to plan my time or if I should agree to participate in another “opportunity” whenever one comes up.

7. If you’re having a hard time getting your schedule to match your priority list, sign up for coaching.

I get asked quite often what a life coach actually does and this is one of the best ways I can think to describe it.  As a coach, I help my clients prioritize and achieve their highest priority items.  It’s amazing how much our brains try to get in the way of the things we want the most.  If you’d like to learn more about this, sign up for my free course How To Feel Better On Your Next Shift.  You can also email me directly at hello@unicorndoctor.com.

BONUS! I have created a free printable to help you work through this process. Download it below.

7 Steps To Getting Your Priorities Straight Free Printable