Minimizing Priorities & Prioritizing Properly

My to-do list is long and I have many competing priorities at the moment. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed again. There is a tensity in my body. This uncomfortable sensation is a warning and a reminder that I need to focus, re-evaluate, and most of all, start minimizing priorities. Because everything can’t be a priority. Right?

Right.

What Are Our Priorities?

When we have many priorities, it’s safe to say that we don’t have priorities at all. We have a list of things competing for our attention that we should be doing. In fact, the word priority was only ever used singularly until the 20th century. I have lots of things I consider important to me. There are also lots of tasks I’d love to cross off my to-do list. But I need to own up to the fact that they are not all imperative at this moment, and that I am not focusing on what actually is most critical.

According to The Minimalists, our priorities are how we spend our time.

“Your priorities are what you do each day, the small tasks that move forward the second and minute hands on the clock: these circadian endeavors are your musts. Everything else is simply a should.”

Every day I tell myself I “must” work on my integrative and life coaching certification coursework. Yet every day for the past several days it has been nothing more than a lingering “should” gnawing at me. I allow other things to become higher priorities. At the start of 2017 I committed to the goal of finishing the first draft of my novel by the end of the year. I considered it one of my top priorities. But if actions speak louder than words, which they do, I am nothing more than an aspiring novel writer considering I haven’t spent more than ten hours on it yet so far this year. Clearly, I haven’t made my novel a priority.

My Real Priorities (according to how I spend my time):

If our priorities are determined by how we spend our time like The Minimalists say, then my real priorities have been: my day job, walking, my garden, meal planning and cooking, cleaning out my email inbox, going to yoga classes, spending time on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, cleaning, reading, writing blog posts, sleeping and socializing.

Nowhere in that list is my novel or my coursework. So until I am willing to MAKE them priorities, my claim is a lie. I can only make those things a priority by setting the time aside and minimizing the less important false priorities that I have allowed to distract me and steal my time away.

Does This Belong?

So clearly I need to refocus and become the master of my own time. I need to do as Bruce Lee says and hack away at the inessentials.

“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.” – Bruce Lee

Patrick Rhone poses a question in his book, Enough. That is: Is this where this belongs? Clearly I am spending my time on things that don’t belong: cleaning out my email inbox and falling down the rabbit hole of social media are the two most glaring. As for the cleaning, I have been enjoying spring cleaning. But clearly I have chosen a bad time to wash my windows, blinds and curtains for the first time in nearly six years. They’ve waited this long, I think they can wait a tad bit longer. Therefore, clean windows does not belong in my list of top priorities.

My top priority is hands down my health and weight loss efforts. Thankfully, this is actually demonstrated in the time I spend walking, going to yoga classes, and meal planning and cooking (yay me!). Those things stay. Social media as a distraction and pacifier has to go. It adds value to my life when I use it intentionally, but otherwise it is nothing but a thief of my time.

Unfortunately my day job also has to stay (unless someone wants to support me? I didn’t think so.) As for the other things, I just need to prioritize and ask myself what belongs where. Gardening can’t be done in the dark or in the rain, allowing time for other things. I can say no to more social engagements. I can get up earlier. And I can commit to staying up an hour later or forfeiting that last half hour of the day unwinding in front of the television. Television doesn’t belong in my list of priorities. Sleeping does belong, but perhaps not as much.

Your Turn

If, like me, you’ve been finding yourself  overwhelmed lately, think of your priorities. Then be honest with yourself about how you really spend your time. THOSE are your actual priorities.

They all don’t belong, do they?

Go ahead and hack away at the inessentials. I will be doing the same. It’s time to start minimizing priorities and prioritizing properly.

Minimizing Priorities

 

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Our priorities are determined by how we spend our time, not by what we claim them to be. Evaluate how your time is really spent, and you'll realize it's time to start minimizing priorities and prioritizing properly. #Minimalism

What do you think?

  • This was a great post! It’s important for us all to step back every now and then and take a look at how we spend our days. It’s so easy to talk about the things we wish we had time for, while ignoring the ways in which we squander our time doing. For me, I’ve had to turn to using apps like Freedom to block non-productive use of the Internet for hours at a time.

    One way to “work” on your novel even when you don’t have the time/energy to actually be writing is to always keep a notebook handy when you’re reading. And always have a book to read. Every day, I’ll encounter a sentence or description or turn of phrase that could either be adapted for use in my own book or inspires a new idea for my own book. And I write it down in my notebook. Then, each week, I take all of those little notes and ideas I get and sprinkle them into the “document notes” section for each scene in Scrivener, where they’re most applicable. That way, even when I’m not “working”, I’m still making progress.

    • Thanks, Doug! That’s a great tip. Early in the year I counted listening to writing podcasts and reading craft books as “working” on my novel, but then I moved away from both as other things came up. April was the first month this year that my novel wasn’t in my list of intentions. That’s because the class was. So we’ll see. I am being flexible. But you’re right – I need to at least get back to those podcasts and craft books. They inspire me and give me loads of ideas.

  • Great post!

    When determining my priorities, I use a set of techniques I borrowed from the Agile/Scrum movement that has so radically increased the productivity of software developers. People don’t think about it, but these techniques are totally applicable to everyone.

    One of the simplest is to categorize everything according to impact and effort. If you lay these out on a matrix, you want to avoid low impact activities wherever possible. That leaves high impact activities that are low effort (low hanging fruit–love these!) and high impact activities that are more effort (typically these are the strategic things that can create big wins but they take longer).

    This sort of thing can help bring clarity to how you prioritize your activities.

    I’ll be coming out shortly with a free ecourse, “Work Smarter and Get Things Done” that details this and many other techniques. Check out my blog @ bobwarfield.com for more!