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?
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.
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.