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Getting your priorities right

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the amount of things to do? I certainly do and I can be a maker of my own stress when I create to do lists with millions of things on them. Doing this makes me feel like I’m not ever achieving anything or just feeling completely out of depth and not being able to see the woods through the trees. Increasingly everything feels urgent and a priority. I feel frustrated when I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere, I feel stressed with too much to do, and time management feels like the thing that dreams are made of.

When it comes to prioritising, I sometimes struggle, especially of late as so much feels urgent and that sense if urgency overtakes the priorities. When everything feels urgent it can feel impossible to stay focused on the priorities at hand. The urgency becomes the priority.

Having too many priorities can also overwhelm and leave me feeling like I can’t work well towards any of them. Plus it leaves me wondering why everything is a priority..... the meaning of ‘priority’ is something that is treated as more important than everything else. If everything is a priority then everything is important and I’ve created a whirlwind of chaos, work, unfocused targets and distractions from one thing to another.

I generally make to do lists every day at work. They can help me keep on track and allow me to feel as though I’m on top of things. My to do lists usually include tasks so that I don’t forget to do them. Getting through them does give me a sense of achievement, but if I get distracted or don’t complete all the tasks I have to do then I can feel even more stressed and overwhelmed, or I just work later, which isn’t ideal at all. I end up prioritising the list and the tasks. The lists are there to help me, not make me feel worse, right? The lists should help me manage my time and they should include tasks that help me work towards my priorities, right? But somewhere along the way the to do lists have taken over and they manage me, not the other way around. The lists and the tasks on them have become the priority and the focus of my attention. That’s not right!

It’s time to take control back over to the to do lists and over my time. I need to focus on what actually are my priorities and not see them as tasks, but things to focus and spend my time on. Whether it’s being healthy, spending time with loved ones, being good at my job or saving money. A priority can be personal or it can be shared. If it’s shared then all those that share it should also be making sure they’re focused on it. The priority should come first. They should help us guide our time, supporting our morals and help us achieve our goals. Currently one of my priorities is to move house with the goal of having a more appropriate home for me and my family that supports our lifestyles and businesses. The individual tasks that I’m having to do for this can feel overwhelming and stressful, but keeping my priority in mind makes it feel justified and as though I’m investing my energy in the right area of my life.

What‘s the difference between a goal and a priority I hear you ask? Well, a goal is something we need or want to accomplish, and priorities are the tasks we need to do to accomplish them. Priorities can change daily depending on what’s happening, but our goals generally remain the same once we’ve set them depending on what we achieve or fail at. Goals are short and long term but allow us to overcome or achieve something. Priorities are the tasks we need to do in a certain order to achieve our overall goals.

Something I think I’m quite bad at is prioritising me. I prioritise action and the tasks themselves, but I very rarely include activities on my priority lists. For example, when was the last time you put ‘have a bubble bath’ onto your to do list, or ‘go for a nice long walk in the woods to recharge your batteries’? A priority could be to finish the book that you’ve been reading and love (the priority) so that you can have a good work life balance (the goal). Or it could be to cook a delicious meal for your family (the priority) so that you can spend quality time together (the goal).

The key, I’m finding out, is to not prioritise what’s on my schedule but to schedule my priorities. I’ve started to be mindful of these when writing my to do lists. Yes, there are still tasks that I write onto them or else I will forget them. When I write these I know which ones I need to do urgently or I know which ones can get done when I have time and I’m mindful about them. Most importantly, now on my to do lists are priorities that help me achieve my goals. Each day I make sure there are priorities on my to do lists that help me move home. Even when I’m feeling busy I know that my time is being spent focusing my energy into the right places and not being distracted by other less important tasks.

What are the things I did that you can also do?

1) know what your goal is.

2) ask yourself what the tasks are that you need to do to cachieve your goal.

3) prioritise the actions you need to take, asking yourself what can be done now, what needs to start now (these are two different things), what can be done next and what can you leave until later. 4) prioritise those actions that need to happen now to help you achieve your goals and once they’re done move onto the ones that can be done next and so on. 5) make sure that your priorities, not all of them, just the ones that need doing now, are on your to do list today and slowly work your way through them keep your to do lists updated as the next priority can be achieved.

6) have a priority on your to do list every day so that your time is spent working towards the things that are important to you, the things that in your life are your priority.

I‘m now focusing my time on what’s important to me, not what I think I should be doing. If I don’t, I’m only letting myself down and not realising my ambitions.

Know what direction you want to go in and focus on it, spending time doing what makes you happy and will get you to where you want to be and who you want to be.

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