How many times have you pressed the “snooze” button instead of waking up early for that yoga class? Or maybe you said “yes” to staying late at work, only to miss yet another dinner with your family? In what seems like a constant battle for more time, getting clear on your priorities might just be the key to not only gaining back precious time but also unlocking your fullest potential.
Build your boundaries
Life seems to be one big inquiry for our time. “Can you do____?”, “Do you want to go ______?” When we’re faced with an inquiry for our time, the most immediate emotion the question sparks is obligation. Feeling obligated can lead to making decisions out of shame, guilt, or fear, which can then lead to giving false answers.
Think about this: How many times have you said “yes” to things you don’t really want to do?
The word “no” is commonly mistaken as a negative reply, and “yes” to a positive one. However, it’s important to consider, when we say “yes” to something that means we’re saying “no” to something else. For example, if I say “yes” to working late, I’m saying “no” to dinner with my family. That’s why it’s so important to be extremely clear about our boundaries.
To set boundaries, we first have to define: what matters most? Maybe it’s time spent with family, a daily run, weekly date night, time in nature, road trips, a hot bath, or reading. Think about the things that truly “fill up your cup”.
By defining what matters most to you, you’re then able to create a boundary around that very important value. For example, if it’s important for you to eat dinner with your family every night, leaving work on time becomes non-negotiable. Instead of staying late, ask your boss if you can come in early thus, exercising your priorities.
Set your objectives
Do you have big goals, but have a hard time achieving them? Sometimes falling short on our goals can make us feel like our priorities are out of wack. Maybe you’ve tried to run a marathon, write a book, start a new business, or buy a home, but can never seem to see it through to completion. The #1 reason people don’t reach their goals is that they don’t know how to make them happen.
How do we make sure your big goals become a priority? By getting crystal clear on your objectives.
Think of it this way; goals are your desired destination, and objectives are the vehicle to get you there. When creating objectives, start small and work quarterly.
Break out each quarter of the year.
Set 3-6 specific objectives for each quarter (make sure to include your day-to-day functions in those objectives so you don’t overload your schedule).
Under each objective, write specific action items that will support the completion of the objective.
Reverse engineer each one and put them in order of importance. For example, if your goal is to run a marathon, your first objective may be to register for the race, the second, to purchase new shoes, the third to join a run club, and so on.
Keep in mind, when strung together, these small action items, bring the bigger objectives to life thus, bringing your goals to completion. This method is also in place so you don’t take on too much at once. Stray away from multi-tasking and work each objective one by one – it’s important to concentrate your efforts vs scattering your energy around to each.
Practice, practice, practice
Now that you’ve defined what matters most, and set your objectives, it’s important to remember to practice integrating them into your daily routine. Instead of striving for perfection, consider striving for progress. Start by writing down how you typically spend your day. Then, drop in your objectives. How will you make time for these? Does something need to fall off your list? Can you delegate or automate time-consuming tasks? Think about how you can do less with more impact.
Remember, start small and slow. Shaking things up all at once can be a shock to your system and the people around you. Start day by day, week by week, before you know it – your new routine will be full of your top priorities
Mind the distractions
When practicing your priorities do you notice that something or someone is repeatedly standing in the way? Take note of the people, places, and patterns that follow your new routine. If you start to feel overwhelmed with your objectives, pause, and observe how you’re spending your time.
Do you need to reinforce your boundaries? Revaluate your objectives? Instead of giving up, or quitting, take the time to pause and evaluate where you might be feeling off-centered.
Keep in mind, it’s easy to confuse “important” with “urgent”. Making exceptions often to tackle the “urgent” things instead of the important ones can create a mountain of excuses that move you further and further from accomplishing your goals. Check-in with yourself regularly to make sure the urgent matters overshadow the important ones.