Sunday, January 30, 2011


Why aren't you doing all the things you've dreamed of?
I often hear friends and relatives saying: "I don't have time for any of my own priorities. I'm too busy doing things for other people." I always try to answer with something useful but not too strong, like: "Plan your days to include some relax time and do something that you really want to do." Whenever this happens, I'd always like to say more. But I usually don't. I feel that I'd be intruding on their comfort zone by asking them to explain the details of their problems, along with the possibility of bothering them even more by being too "preachy".

So, now I'm dedicating this page to add something more to the very general remarks I usually make in these situations. Here, I'm being more specific about what you can do to redefine your priorities and do more of the things that you really want to do. With a lot of resolve and a little effort you can set new priorities better suited to your own needs and stop repeating the same tiring efforts that don't satisfy your inner desires and hopes for the future.

First of all, and here comes the part you probably don't want to hear. You already are living out your priorities - right now. Your priorities are what you do every day of the week. The problem is that they aren't necessarily very useful priorities for you.

Think about what you do in your average day. Like it or not, what you spend time on are your priorities. So, take a look at your average day - the usual during the work week (that includes the "Mom sending the kids to school and Dad off to work week"). We get up, we spend our best hours working, we find ourselves tired at the end of the workday, and when that's over, we only find time enough to prepare for the next day. We've learned the routine and we go through the same motions without thinking about if or when we could do anything else in line with our own personal goals.

So, if all this looks like what's happening to you, then stop letting your life be controlled by a set of overwhelming or boring routines. Consider just what are your own lifestyle priorities and make some necessary adjustments.

Ask yourself: What would you like to be doing if you weren't in the same rut day after day? Would you have more time for yourself? Or spend time doing enjoyable things with friends or family? Or read a good book or reconnect with nature in a long walk through the woods. Or try out new recipes that can be the basis for more wholesome and budget-wise meals? Or get involved in a charitable or faith-based organization? Or whatever occurs to you? Don't let yourself get so caught up in the day-to-day rush that you don't even have time to consider what you want to do with rest of your life. Make a short list of what you really want to do - this week or this month - and then take steps to achieve it.

My story
Let me tell you something about my own story of setting priorities. One of my lifelong dreams was to be the great homemaker that I never had time to be during all my working years and the kind of helpful, loving wife I felt I should be to my husband. Another priority was to write and publish my writing. When I was younger I thought that meant writing books or a column in the newspaper. Well, time passed, I worked at different jobs, raised children, and then realized that probably I would never have the opportuntity to publish books or work for a newspaper. But, with the growth of the Internet, I saw another way to reach one of my life's goals. I could have a blog site or a web site (or both).

But while I was working at what seemed to be an endless string of jobs, I just didn't have the energy to begin writing. So, when I reached what I considered retirement age (early retirement by most standards), I told my husband and other family members: " I'm retiring. I'm no longer going to spend my best hours of the week, toiling for a paycheck." Here was my rationale. My kids are now grown. My health, while generally good, has always been less than it should because of constant work-related stress. My husband was (still is) working. I can now be more helpful and loving to my husband and become the homemaker that I've dreamed about being. We can do O.K. with less money. And I'm going to be a blogger.

That's my story. What's yours?

Get started redefining your priorities.
Where do you want to begin? Your health? Your relationships? Spiritual well being? Work or service to others? Leisure or relaxing activities? Your homelife? Your financial concerns?

What needs immediate attention? What are you doing well now that you can do even better? Is there a secret dream that you’d like to devote more time to? If so, what is it? To get started on this process, you have to free up some time - first, just the time to consider what you want to do. And then, time enough to actually advance in whatever you choose to do.

So, think about a typical week in your life. Make a list of all the activities that make up your usual week. Write down the number of hours you spend in each activity during the week. Then add a qualifier to each one.


Once you've sorted out all your everyday activities, total up the hours in each category and then make a grand total. The fraction of the total hours in each category per week gives you an overview of your situation. Obviously, if the hours in Groups 1 and 2 are low and those in 3 and 4 are high, you've got a real imbalance in your life. But you know you can do better with some effort.

So, now that you have a picture of your current priorities, you can make a plan for the following week. Write down some things that can give you additional hours for doing activities that fit in Groups 1 and 2. Write some things that can help you minimixe the hours for things in Group 3. And don't try to do much about Group 4 right now (because your opinion of these particular items may change groups as you go through the process described here).

Here's a kind of goal-setting guide that shows you how to begin making changes in your life and continue with any changes once you understand the game-plan. Start small. Think of positive things that improve your situation and that can be done in about a half hour. Now on each and every day of the week, schedule at least two priority activities. Above all, choose things that are completely DO-ABLE for you. For example:

Catch-up on emails or phone a family member or good friend
Go for a walk.
Write an entry in my personal journal.
Try out a new recipe or adapt an old-favorite.
Attend a class (could be yoga, needlework, cooking, art, other hobby, etc.)
Clean out or organize a drawer or closet.
Go to the library and find an interesting magazine or book.
Go to a thrift store and just browse around for a real bargain.
Write a blog or comment on one.
Rest quietly and listen to some of my favorite music (without doing anything else and with no interruptions.)
Some longer activity could go here. (You've got the idea, now fill in the blanks as you like.)

Look at some time-management blogs
If you're unsure about how to free-up time for your priority items, you can find a lot on time management in a search on the Internet. Read some on the general topic and then decide what suggestions could be helpful to you. After one week of effort, review your progress. Were you able to increase the time spent on Groups 1 and 2 and reduce the number of hours you spent on Group 3? If you were, that's great. Make a plan for the second week that continues adding time for things that are satisfying to you.

If you find you weren't successful, think about the reasons why this happened? Can some of this be changed in the second week of the new plan? Here are some areas that can lead to failure in time management.

- Being overwhelmed by some evolving crisis - usually involved with family and friends.
- Lack of concentration and focus, causing you to spend too much time doing even simple things.
- Your own emotional blocks - guilt, anger and frustration that cause procrastination.
- Illness

In any of these situations has happened, your first step is to recognize the problem. Some situations will disappear on their own. Others will need real work. Browse the Internet for ways to overcome some of your failures or brainstorm for yourself ways that you can minimize those problems that continue to keep you from doing what you set out to do.

Continue with your time-management plan
As you see, being successful in reaching personal goals is often a matter of paying attention to your daily routine and figuring out what's the best use of your time. Now, let's go over the method.

1. Use the weekly list of daily activities as your basic time budgeting guide.
2. Each week, re-evaluate your success and come up with a new game-plan. Try to
increase - even if it's only by a half hour - what you do in priority areas.
3. After one month, hopefully you've made some headway. Then it's time to fry even
bigger fish. Make a longer term list - a monthly, seasonal or yearly list. Include those personal goals that are on your secret list of dreams. What do you want to accomplish over the next month or year? What do you need to to do, to research, to find or buy?

If you use this method and are faithful to your plan, you are likely to have a successful "remake" of your life over a period of months. Not only will you have a more fulfilling life, but those around you will benefit, too, in the long-run. People who know their inner needs not only discover ways to reach their own goals, they also are very capable of helping others. So, stick with your plan. Your new life is (and always has been) within your reach.

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