I was coaching a client and gave her an assignment to write down her top 5 priorities for her next session. At the start of the following session she shared those priorities. Then I asked her how her week went. When she described to me what she did with her time it became apparent that not one of her priorities was represented in her daily activities.
When I relayed my observation to her, she was shocked and said she hadn’t even realized she wasn’t including her priorities. Now to her credit this is not uncommon. In fact, I would say it is more common than not common, as I am guilty of this as well.
Just like my client I have found myself feeling a little frustrated because I was not accomplishing things that I had thought were a priority. What I found was that until I became clear on my Principles or what I value most and realized that priorities change depending on my current goals, I would always feel frustrated by this. Making sure my priorities aligned with my principles helped eliminate the guilt of feeling like I wasn’t accomplishing the important things. It also helped me focus on creating a life around what mattered most.
Let me explain further…
We have a desire that this person, place, or thing needs to be a priority. We have thoughts of what we think should be our priorities then we have daily tasks that sneak in if we don’t have a clear view of our principles. Unless our thoughts are matched to our principles then to our priorities, we can get stuck. We often find ourselves going in circles on the infamous hamster wheel, getting frustrated and not getting the results we want because we are so busy doing task work that isn’t based on our principles.
For example, I value Time. I used to think Family and Community were two of my main Principles, but these are not within my control. When I dove deeper into creating a life on purpose, I discovered that valuing something not within your control, like other people, is more of a priority and not a Principle. I then clarified my top three Principles to be Time, Health, and Spirituality; all three of which are within my control.
In Stephen Covey’s book The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People his first three habits all have to do with the “inside job” or managing your mind, personal vision, personal leadership, and personal management. This book is a good example of building a foundation of your Principles before creating your priorities.
But what do these priorities look like? Completing my weekly schedule on Sunday evening is a priority because of my Principle of Time. As I fill in my calendar, I add in time for grocery shopping, meal planning and exercise. Some examples of priorities that represent my Principle of Health would be spending time with my husband on a hike, taking our dog to the dog park together, or going for a walk with a friend.
My Principle of Spirituality is represented by tasks such as scheduling time for meditation/prayer, reading scripture or other materials and sharing what I learn with my boys or husband, and doing some service work or giving to nonprofit organizations that I support.
Everyday tasks such as work, paying bills, housework, car maintenance, etc. are also penciled into my calendar, but these are just mundane tasks that need to be completed. Because I value Time so much, I make certain to not “over-pack” my schedule and leave “blank space” for those unexpected things that can happen. If I don’t plan for it, I will become subject to it.
Once you decide to be clear with your values and prioritize tasks accordingly, along with taking the time to purposely work on your thoughts, your world will become a more peaceful place. Instead of trying to fit people and activities in based on reacting to others’ priorities, create a life based on your principles and priorities, thereby creating a life on purpose.