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By: Chalene Johnson
1. Prioritize, in writing, the most important areas of your life based on your current situation. Many skip this all-important first step or fail to re-visit this question on a regular basis. Although you may believe you have prioritized your values, goals or agendas in your mind, listing them on paper helps to clarify their importance, so you can re-evaluate your activities. Our top priority is often easy to identify, its numbers 2, 3 and 4 priorities that sometimes over-lap in our minds and fluctuate depending on changing circumstances. Writing down your priorities makes it easier to make tough decisions.
Be ready to “shift and move”. As circumstances change, so will your priorities, therefore, so should your schedule. Any shift in circumstances, work-load, family, finances, health, etc. should require you revisit your written list of priorities.
2. Create a calendar, or list, of your regularly scheduled activities. List everything, including leisure time and sleep. Closely estimate the amount of total time each activity requires. For example, when listing a class or client, be sure to include set-up, cleanup and drive time.
3. Star those activities that support one or all of your top 2 or 3 priorities. These are the items you should fight to keep on your list, but be careful you don’t have too many! Fitness is on my list of priorities, but when too many workouts cut into family time (my first priority) then a few work outs need to be moved.
4. Underline neutral activities. Neutral activities are those which neither take from, nor support, your priorities. Some examples of neutral activities might include Saturday morning coffee with your girlfriends, art class, watching television, surfing the internet, etc. These are activities that you could give up if needed, but should be evaluated for their “peace of mind” value. Never underestimate the refueling power of mindless down time, something few A-type personalities allow for.
5. Next, boldly circle the activities or obligations that contradict your present order of priorities. This is going to take some courage. In some instances, it takes a non-objective 3rd party. Here's a personal example: One of my weekly activities was a late evening class at a health club 35 minutes away, at a rate of pay far less than I normally earned. I had the class for years and felt the students, who had become my friends, would “perish” if I gave up the class. Even though I was a new Mom, I felt I'd be letting them down if I gave it up. I was keeping the class out of guilt, a sense of obligation and, to be honest, ego gratification! It took a friend to point out, that by keeping the class, I was actually hurting my young family in terms of loss of time with them. Giving up that class was far less painful than I imagined.
Now, when I personally struggle with the decision to get a sub or give up a class, I remind myself that at the end of my life, I want my family at my bedside, not my Saturday morning step class.
6. Make an "Immediate Action" To- Do List: Each item which you bravely circled now needs to be removed. These aren’t areas that you’re going to “try to do better.” It’s time to take specific action. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. The change doesn't have to be permanent, but it should be immediate. If the act of relinquishing responsibility, inconveniencing others, or change has you frozen in your tracks, look at your top three priorities and find the courage to endure a few uncomfortable moments for lasting peace of mind.