To change your life you need to change your priorities - Mark Twain
If someone asks you what your priorities in life are, you are likely to give them one of these typical responses: Family. Health. Job. Spirituality. Maybe friends, travel, or hobbies are on your list too.
The truth is that we all like to say that we prioritize certain things, things that deep down we believe are important to us, but how many of us structure our daily lives to reflect those priorities?
Making a conscious decision about what life we want to live often means taking a hard look at how we spend our time, money and energy.
For this, a deep self-reflection on our personal truths and behaviors is necessary. And also some major changes to align our daily lives with the things we say we believe in.
True happiness requires brutal honesty, especially with ourselves, and examining the way we have been living and contrasting it with the way we would like to live.
Surely, many times you feel bombarded with daily tasks. Perhaps at night, before going to sleep, you think about all the things you will do the next day with a vivid imagination of how they should be done. But in reality, sometimes unexpected problems arise, and the plans you thought of the night before go awry and you lose your way.
If you want to learn to establish your priorities and have a life more aligned to your values, and above all be happier, this article will be of great interest to you!
Prioritise you life by asking yourself two simple questions
To establish priorities in your life, you can start by asking yourself what it is that you really want and what are the obstacles in your way to achieve it.
These two questions really get to the heart of the matter, because they ask you to be direct and honest. They push you to open a dialogue with yourself about your deepest desires and habits that may be blocking your way. These simple questions are all you need to begin to determine what is a priority in your life. The rest is completely up to you.
We all know, on a deep level, what things are really important to us at the end of the day, and what things light us up inside.
We are also very good at drifting into worst-case scenarios and allowing our fears to keep us stuck, making each year fly by on automatic pilot, until one day, some situatio forces you to reflect on your priorities.
But what if you could consciously clear them up today? What if you could decide TODAY what kind of life you want to live and jump into an existence more aligned with what you really want in your life?
What is the difference between values, objectives and priorities?
If, at this time, you are thinking that you would like to spend more quality time with your friends and family, this may be the wake-up call you need to optimise the time you have been checking your emails, limit the use of your mobile or reduce the hours you dedicate to work.
Being clear in defining what is important to you, and what you value most, is key to establishing meaningful priorities.
The values that you have drive you to act in a certain way, because they are part of your beliefs, determine your behaviours and express your interests and feelings.
To start, connect what is most important to you with the big goals you have set out to achieve. The priorities you set must align with the way in which you want to live and with your values, so that you can find a sense of purpose and achievement.
Priorities versus time: a constant struggle
Do you feel like there is never enough time? Are you feeling overwhelmed by all your commitments and wondering how you will fit them into your calendar?
Yes, sometimes we don't even know where to start. I know from personal experience that it can be very stressful trying to manage your time between running a startup, your studies and your personal life. But it's okay. This is not a permanent situation ... if we learn to take control.
The first step is to recognize that we are in charge of our time and daily activities.
So, for example, when we say that we don't have time to continue working on something, what we are really saying is: "I choose not to continue working at this time because other things are more important to me." It is always about choices!
5 keys to learning how to manage your time
We all have time to do what is most important to us. It's just a matter of defining what those priorities are.
To help you with this, I have five key things to help you manage your time and determine what should be a priority in your life:
1. Determine what is the most important thing in your life
Identifying those activities that you WANT to do instead of those that you feel you HAVE to do will guide you when making decisions.
For example, if the most important thing for you is to spend more time with your family, your efforts should not go towards finding a job in which you spend more than ten hours each day working. Only you can know what is important, there are no good or bad answers here.
2. Keep a "motivational file"
Remember that motivation is the main impulse that leads us to act when we set certain objectives (although it is also true that motivational alone won't keep you going forever and ever)
You can create a file in which you group all those reasons why you are doing certain things in the first place. You can refer to it when you feel frustrated or overwhelmed.
3. Control what you bring into your life
Building habits is based on transforming your environment. If your environment is free from distractions and you use the proper techniques, you will be much more productive. If your environment is full of distractions and interruptions, you will achieve nothing.
In other words, get rid of distractions. For example, just because someone wants something from you, like your time or your attention, doesn't mean you have to stop doing your homework and give an immediate response. Many people usually do this with mobile notifications, and it completely ruins their flow. Does this happen to you too?
4. Schedule your day and create a routine
Try to schedule your day-to-day activities using an actual calendar and not just by creating lists of things to do. Just making a list is not enough. The most important part is to assign them a time on your calendar, otherwise you are just creating a list of wishes.
With respect to the routine, I don't think there is an ideal routine for everyone, just as there is no perfect time to get up. I think you should seek to develop habits that help you feel and work best. In short, you have to design your own routine based on your own personal activities, obligations and preferences.
5. Have a "strategy meeting" with yourself each week
In this strategy meeting, go over the tasks you were working on the week before. Write what went well and what keeps stressing you out:
- Can you do more of what works for you?
- What steps can you take to relieve stress from continuing next week?
Set some goals for the next week:
- What are the priorities?
- What are you going to do and when?
You want to start each week knowing exactly what you need to do.
Time management is difficult and it is not something that is mastered overnight, but you will find that you improve much more by setting priorities in your day to day.
How to manage your priorities to be more productive
Shaping your life to be more productive depends on how much you learn to manage it.
Self-managing means being in charge or controlling the things that need to be done over time. According to Peter Drucker, in his book Managing Oneself, success depends on ourselves, on the ability we have to know how to develop ourselves, and for this it is necessary to self-analyze, in order to define the strategy that we will use to achieve that success.
Time is of the essence to make self-management more achievable. In addition, if a person does not have certain qualities, and does not intend to develop them, he will hardly learn to manage his life. And it is these skills/qualities that I shall turn to now...
What skills should you develop to successfully self-manage your life?
Some of the qualities to be successful in self-management are:
1. To be organised
You can't afford to be disorganized knowing that tasks are piling up and deadlines are haunting you. You have to learn to work smart.
2. Be analytical
Being analytical is helpful because it will allow you to redirect your focus and stay on track from moment to moment
3. Know how to stay calm
Learning to stay calm ensures that you always remain in control of what you are doing and your emotions. You must realise that your emotions play a huge role in how you act everyday, so don't let them dictate your life.
4. Know how to act by working towards specific objectives
It is difficult to continue in life without clarity about what to achieve and without knowing the purpose of achieving them. Knowing the reasons why you want to do what you do will increase your motivation.
The importance of saying no: define what is worthwhile
I'm going to ask you a simple question: Why do you feel guilty about saying "no" when you do something that helps you strengthen your values and improve your life?
It has happened to all of us. A new email appears in your inbox (or a new WhatsApp message on your mobile) and it is from a co-worker, neighbour, friend or even a stranger who asks for your time and help. Your calendar is on fire, but maybe you could just squeeze your schedule, miss a gym class, or get home a little later.
You could say "yes" and make it work, but what you really want to say is "no." So how do you say no without damaging that relationship? You don't want to be selfish or disappoint anyone.
I've been in that situation myself many times, and I've realized what it means: unnecessary stress. But when you learn to be mindful and selective about what you say yes to, you can say yes to the things you really want to do.
Everything is an opportunity cost, which requires that we give up one thing to do another. And the most amazing part of practicing saying no is that most people actually don't mind! When you take care of yourself, you can take better care of others and they respect you.
But let's look at the art of saying "no." Why are you afraid to say no? Disappointment? Guilt? To show that you are supportive? I get it. We often say yes to show that we are reliable and capable.
I am not saying that we should not continue to do things for others and say "yes." Because saying yes can open up opportunities, new friends, and lots of great things, but what happens when it conflicts with our priorities?
Whatever your priorities, trust them and people will respect them. If they don't, they aren't the kind of people you'd like to be around, right?
The "everything is important" paradox: habits that will help you prioritise aspects of your life
Most big changes will require you to put in consistent effort over a long period of time. Calculate which daily habits will lead you to your goals and prioritise them on your calendar.
Small habits, constantly followed over time, are the stepping stones to achieving big goals. Every time you complete a daily habit, the brain releases dopamine, and it makes us feel good. When your brain takes a hit from this neurotransmitter it is rewarding, so you will want the associated behavior to repeat itself. And over time, those repeated habits lead to great transformations.
7 habits that will lead to big changes in your life
1. Improve your physical health by exercising constantly, eating healthy and prioritizing your rest.
2. Build meaningful long-term relationships with people who add value to your life.
3. Practice gratitude for what is already present in your life daily, allowing yourself to appreciate the little things.
4. Find a balance between your work and personal routines.
5. Learn from your inevitable failures so that you can continue to grow as a person and professional.
6. Travel and spend time in nature
7. Practice disengagement from ideas, plans, and expectations - learn that flexibility creates adaptability, which creates happiness and maintains success.
When you learn to prioritize in your life, you can intentionally focus on what really matters and achieve your most important goals.
Priorities are complicated. There are things you really want to prioritise at the beginning of each year, like spending more time with family, doing a project that you are passionate about, or starting a business. And there are things that you should prioritise, like taking care of your family or going to work.
Then there are all the distractions that get in the way of achieving what you really want. A well-paying job seems too good to pass up, even if it means spending less time at home. Day-to-day activities, like answering emails, doing business, or hanging out on social media, take up more time than you'd like.
Also, when you learn to manage the things that are important to you, you can align your actions with your values. So you can commit to your long-term goals and build the life you want.
Try some of these approaches to start putting your priorities first, even when distractions arise in your life, and tell me if learning to say no works for you.