The word priority has been in my head for quite a while now. There are different associations I make with it. When I think of priority setting, time management inadvertently comes to mind. This association was formed by me when listening to Ted talks that discuss time management. The resonating tone of these talks is that time management is a question of proper priority setting.
I’ve been struggling to manage my time properly. For some reasons I don’t have enough hours in a day to fit in my priority list. As I struggled to get a grip on this topic, winter came along. This winter was very hard on my mood and overall energy levels. And during this time I came to the understanding that priorities have to shift sometimes.
Before I explain what I mean by that, I want you to reflect on your own priority setting. How do you prioritize? Life presents us with millions of opportunities. We navigate through life based on the priorities we or others have set for us. We may make decisions based on our dreams and aspirations. We may make decisions based on social norms or values that we formed ourselves or were transmitted to us by our environment. I don’t want to get into a discussion of what’s considered right and wrong priorities in life because each person gets to decide that for themselves. But be mindful of how you prioritize things in your life and why you do it. I also want you to understand that if you don’t make the decision of how you want to prioritize your life yourself, others will prioritize for you.
So how should you choose? When setting your priorities, you have to understand where you are right now, what you want and where you want to be in the future. Based on that, you form your priorities in life. Goal setting and priority setting is one and the same thing- so the process looks the same: If you want to be a dancer, your priority has to be dancing and if you want to eat healthier, a priority might be to learn more about how to cook and make healthy food. Additionally, I think we need to be aware of the fact that life is not always linear and your resources and capacity to follow your goals and therefore priorities may shift from time to time. If you are like me and have several things you’d like to have as a priority, it’s important to understand that you can’t always focus on everything simultaneously. And there are certain priorities that are more important than others. I for example made writing one of my priorities, but when I struggled with my energy levels and mood, I felt the need to take a break from writing and pay closer attention to my core priorities: My work as a personal trainer and my wellbeing. I made a decision but I couldn’t stop beating myself up about it. It was really hard to stop thinking about the fact that I haven’t written in months. I was very impatient and frustrated with myself.
Only now do I realize the importance of having taken a step back. As I went through this down time, I started reading a book that focuses on the Art of Essentialism. It talks about the fact that our society these days favors the tendency to prioritize too much and therefore we tend to spread ourselves to thin and eventually burn out in one way or another. The rule of Essentialism is to prioritize less- not more. And the author talks openly about the sacrifices that need to be made in order to prioritize the essential few from the trivial many.
So what did I learn from this? It is ok and even necessary to eliminate priorities that at this moment no longer serve you. Be aware of what your core priorities are and eliminate everything else in times where it just all becomes too much to handle. I wrote my core essentials down so I can look at them, when I feel overwhelmed. Just because writing is not part of my core essentials, doesn’t mean it will not continue to be an essential part throughout my life. Priority setting sometimes means sacrificing a nonessential item on your list. But know that if you get rid of a priority right now, this doesn’t mean you can’t go back to it when the time is right.
Book Reference: Essentialism: The disciplined pursuit of less by Greg McKeown.