I think that my story of priorities might share some similarities with yours, so, I am going to share my process of learning my priorities and how to make them fit within my day-to-day life.
Hopefully, this will be helpful in your priority navigation process. Every morning I wrote my list of priorities for the day and look at my long-term list; this was part of my routine. I thought my “to-do list” kept me focused on the next thing so I wouldn’t get distracted and for the most part this task-based approach worked.
However, when the pathologist came in to go over my biopsy results with a book and box of tissues, I was not thinking of my “to-do list.” Before she could tell me that my self-identified lump was an aggressive form of breast cancer, my heart raced and my mind jumped to the irreplaceable people, faith, love, hopes, and dreams in my life. These are my actual life priorities.
As I processed my new diagnosis, I pondered the possible ramifications that could affect my actual priorities. My lightbulb moment was the realization that somewhere along the way my actual priorities had been overcome by the minutia of tasks that always needed to get done. This was a hard truth to swallow. It made me sad to realize that I had become more and more accustomed to getting my to-do list tasks done first and the important people and intangibles (faith, love, hopes, dreams) in my life got whatever was left of my time, energy, and attention after the to-do list was completed. This was not at all how I had intended to live my life, how had this happened?
A professor once told me that there will never be enough time in the day to get everything you “should get done” done and that I would have to get good at figuring out what things on my to-do list don’t really need to get done (or don’t need to get done immediately) in order to have a healthy work/life balance. I have gotten better at making that distinction since graduate school, but I still have work to do.
How well I balance is determined by how conscious my choices are. So, in addition to writing the work/life tasks I need to accomplish on my To-Do Lists, I now include specific family time, activity in nature, and amount of time for renewal on my lists. Because I love to cross things off my lists, my lists include more than work stuff because work stuff is not my only priority. After all, I don’t want to have to learn this balancing lesson again. It is said that you either love the lesson (i.e., balancing) or you love the learning. I love the lesson and want to “get it” this time.
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