We all have the freedom to choose our priorities. Every day we are defining what we value most in life, even if it is happening unintentionally. See, your actions are clear indicators of your priorities. You give time, money, and energy to the things you value most … or do you? Today I want to look at closing the gap between our best laid plans and our reality. How do we align our values with our time, money, and energy so we can live intentionally focused and driven?
Determining Your Actual Priorities
Here’s a quick mental exercise. Think about the actions you took every day for the last week, the time and money you spent, along with the mental effort you exerted. Then bucket them into 10 categories labeled 1 through 10 in order of most time, money, and effort spent to least.
Here’s an example of what one could look like:
At the Office (50 hours)
Quality Time with Spouse (15 hours)
Working on House Projects (10 hours)
Watching TV (10 hours)
Working on Side Job (10 hours)
Quality Time with Kids (5 hours)
Workout (5 hours)
Errands/Shopping (5 hours)
Social Media and Internet Searches (5 hours)
Spiritual Renewal (1 hour)
Next mentally add a title to the top of that list. My list would say, “Chris’ Priorities.” Now, imagine that list is the obituary that will be read aloud at your funeral.
Are you happy with it?
Don’t get discouraged if the answer is “no”. In fact, it most likely is. Heck, it would be “no” for me most of the time too, and that’s the point. We often imagine our priorities and values lie somewhere other than where are spending our resources. It’s one of the byproducts of the busy world we live in today.
Finding Your Top Three Priorities
Now, let’s create the list we actually want for our life in order of importance. If you’ve seen my Life Story guide you’ll notice that what I’m asking you to do is similar to the exercise in the “Priorities” section. Feel free to refer back to what you wrote there or download the guide now and check it out. This list should include the the things that you want in your life; the cornerstones you would want to be attributed to your life after you are gone. There’s not a right or wrong number of priorities to list, but I’ve found that ten is average for most people. However, for this exercise I just want you to list your top three. If you aren’t able to keep your top three priorities, you’ll never get to the rest of your list. These priorities are the three things you value most. Defining your priorities is the foundation to building the life you want. And if you don’t first define what you value most, you won’t know where to focus your time and energy.
Whether in your head or on paper, you now have two lists: a list that shows the reality of what you value based on your time, energy, and resources, and a list of what you know in your heart to be the three most important elements in your life. It’s time to merge these two lists and begin living the life you choose.
How Do I Keep My Priorities in Focus?
Focus on today and today only. What can you do today to make your top three actually your top three? When you lay your head down tonight, and every night, focus on that for the next day. I’ve found that when you make your top three priorities the focus of your day, the focus you want for your life becomes a reality instead of a dream.
When I was newly married, my wife once said she didn’t think she was getting the best of me. She said that by the the time I got home, I’d given the best part of my day to work. And she was right. Ninety-nine percent of us will fall into this same predicament. We will spend a large amount of our daily time allotment at work, and we “have to be on” when we’re at work. For most, this is not one of our top three, but it is a reality.
I want to encourage you that just because you spend a large amount of time at work doesn’t mean you can’t give an inordinate amount of “high quality time” to your priorities. Sure, it takes extra effort after a long day, but your true priorities deserve the best of you. Just like by a simple change in attitude and commitment to give my wife the best, even after a long day, I’m able to make her a priority, you can do the same with yours. For years now, I’ve been getting up early to write and make my dream of being an author a priority. Sure I sacrifice a bit of sleep and sometimes doing things at night that would be fun … but what I don’t sacrifice is my dream.
Sacrifice things that are worth being sacrificed, and live the life you were meant to live.