“To change your life you need to change your priorities.” John C. Maxwell
Frustrated, demoralized, and unfulfilled we walk through our lives not making progress blaming others for our failure to reach our dreams. It’s always the circumstances, unfair rules, poor relationships, and someone who is holding us back from greatness. I must admit that I have found that there is something big that is handicapping our ability to ascend in our spiritual, career, family, and financial lives. That big hindrance is our priorities in life.
We are unable to accomplish our big audacious goals and make progress because we fill our time with things that don’t offer a return. The majority of our day we walk around distracted.
See Also: Stop Avoiding Your Problems
Distractions From the Priorities in Life
From social media to television, there are so many things prying for our attention that it is not shocking that we often find ourselves sacrificing hours of our day and not accomplishing anything. A quick status update on Facebook transforms into a hour long scroll on the newsfeed where we see things that give us hope in humanity just to be followed by something that takes that joy away. Instagram allows us to freeze brief moments in time to chronicle our lives and things that are important to us, but this same tool shackles hours of our day.
The list goes on and on as we often trade out one distraction for another switching from Facebook to Instagram to Snapchat to Periscope to Twitter to the local news or prime time TV dramas. Don’t forget about Candy Crush, Subway Surfer, Flappy Bird, or whatever your game of choice is. We give priority to things that entertain but don’t change us.
How often have you wasted time and then felt guilty about it?
Ralph Waldo Emerson said this about the value of time. “Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a successful life.”
Priorities are the level of importance given to the action that you take and how you spend your time throughout your day. It narrows down to what is important to you based on how you spend your time. For example, as a father one of my priorities is to provide for my family. For this reason, I go to work on a daily basis to ensure I earn sufficient income to meet their needs. Earning an income is a top priority. However, my income can be earned in many different ways. I can earn it through an hourly wage or I can earn it by completing writing projects. I have to prioritize my time to determine which of these methods will give me the greatest return of investment.
If reviewing your daily priorities on a pie chart the hope would be that distractions wouldn’t take up more than 30% of the active hours in a day. The sad reality for some is that they spend 60% or more of their day distracted. Our priorities are focused on things that don’t matter.
“The reason most goals are not achieved is that we spend our time doing second things first.” Robert J. McKain
How to Set Priorities
Choosing what to do and when to do it is one of the most critical aspect of setting priorities. This process requires you to do some deep introspection into the different aspects of your life. Here is a breakdown of how I personally set priorities:
- Define your Roles: We all have different roles we play. I am a father, employee, husband, Christian, and a writer.
- Determine What’s Mandatory (Roles): As a father it is mandatory that I am available for my children. As a employee I increase the revenue of the business unit I am apart of.
- Be Aware of Time Sensitive Matters: What is urgent? What is important? When does it have to be completed?
- Plan Your Day: Use your roles, actions required related to your roles, and urgent matters to plan your calendar for the day.
See Also: How to Manage Time with 10 Tips that Work (Entrepreneur.com article)
Planning Your Day Based on Your Priorities
With an understanding of who I am, what my responsibilities are, and knowing what is due on my upcoming calendar, I now can take the time to plan my day. My plan is based on the simple idea of acting strategically in all of my roles in a way that will give me the highest return on my investment of time. Below is an example of the things I invest in daily:
- Family: Dinner Time, Play Time, Bedtime
- Christian: Prayer time, Study Time, Reflection Time
- Employee: Production Time, Development Time
- Husband: Communication, Relationship
- Speaker: Study Time, Practice Time, Reading Time
- Personal: Study Time, Growth Time, Reflection Time
This is the short list but I think you get the idea. With all of the many items I try to commit to on a daily basis you can imagine that I do not have a lot of free time. However, each one of these items have assigned times on my calendar which allows me to consistently act upon them daily without them becoming overwhelming. The block of time allotted to each activity is dependent upon my personal thoughts about which area requires the most investment that day. I commonly begin with 15 minute blocks for all my roles (with the exception of employee) and urgent role related matters automatically get 30+ minutes on my schedule. (Want to build a calendar like this —>Be sure to subscribe below as I will share it through my newsletter soon.)
Once all of my role related responsibilities are put on my calendar, I can fill the gaps by allotting more time to projects, roles, or distractions.
Overcome Distractions to Daily Planning
After planning my day often what happens is distractions (see above) cause me to sacrifice something related to one of my roles but not without consequence.
Distractions in large quantities of time may cause me to reduce my production at work which in turns affects my overall performance rating for the year. This then causes me to get a smaller raise, reduces my bonus, and impacts my finances. I then have to work overtime to make up the difference causing me miss dinner time with my family and limit the time to spend with my wife which impacts our relationship. The strained relationship deteriorates my mood causing me to dig deeper into fillers/distractions which make the situation worse.
This is why it is so important to manage your priorities in life. Here is how I stay focused on my priorities:
- Review Priorities Daily – It is common for your priorities to shift on a daily basis dependent upon what is currently going on in your life at that time. As emergencies arise there will always be the need to make adjustments.
- Organize Your Free Time Thoughtfully – Distractions are not completely avoidable but make sure that you spend your free time doing something that is going to help you progress in one of your roles.
- Stick Closely to Your Plan – Everyday I pray, read, and write. These activities occur when I am sick, on vacation, am tired, or any other factors that would limit me. I am committed to my family, my faith, and my development.
See Also: The Powerful Effects of Focus
The Benefits of Prioritizing Your Day
There are so many benefits to acting on your priorities on a daily basis that I would need an entire article to cover them all. To sum it up quickly, you will experience the following benefits:
- Improved Focus: Thinking of the impact distractions have on my ability to reach and achieve goals, it becomes easier to keep my attention on what I am working on. This focus allows me to increase my productivity and efficiency.
- Reduced Stress: By planning ahead and taking time to be ready for situations before they arrive, I am able to avoid many stress triggers in my life that come from waiting to the last minute to get things done. When I act on the things that give me a high return I also give myself a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment as I make progress.
- Consistent Growth & Progress: Limiting distractions and prioritizing the things that matter will allow you to move forward in your life in ways you would never imagine. The simple practice of reading on a daily basis has transformed me in ways that will have long lasting benefits for my entire life.
- Organized Day: My priorities have created habits that I do on a daily basis which may be as simple as eating dinner with my family at the same time to investing 30 minutes into learning something new. My schedule is more consistent and now my time is more impactful.
We cannot allow distractions to take over our lives and stop us from reaching the heights and depths we can ultimately reach. Set meaningful priorities in your life and stick to them daily and your life will change faster than you could ever imagine. Do what matters!