Powering through busy seasons: the value of a Top Priorities List
Updated: Aug 28, 2019
Trying to tackle a big goal like snagging a degree, or starting your own business? Just had a little one? Struggling to balance competing priorities? We all have seasons that seem to require every single bit of resources that we have. At times, more than we have. This post is about how to navigate those high-output seasons. Stick with me.
This season won’t last. But while it does, you’ll likely need to dial back certain aspects of your life to avoid burnout and maintain health. While you may miss having more leisure time, participating in volunteer work, or time with friends, [brace yourself for truth] now might not be the time for it.
In this season, highlighting your most important goals will keep you focused. Take some time to identify the 4-5 things most important right now. This Top Priorities List should help drive your decision-making.
Everyone’s Top Priorities List will be a bit different, but making one helps in decision-making and measuring success. By making a list, your plan is right in front of you. Short. Simple. In writing.
A Top Priorities List might look like this:
1.) Health (physical, spiritual, mental) 2.) Being a loving mother 3.) Being a loving wife 4.) Excelling in my studies 5.) Doing a good job at work
Here's a scenario. In our scenario, let's name our fictional friend Heather. The Top Priorities List above is Heather's. Heather is earning her degree, works, and has a family.
Say Heather has turned down invites to spend time with friends a lot lately. Perhaps she feels bad about it. A couple things should help neutralize all of Heather's negative feels: remembering that this won’t last forever and close friends likely understand that, and remembering this is about resource allocation. Not sexy, but true.
Like it or not, the phrase “I’ll make time,” is rubbish. None of us can make time. Time is finite. But we can choose how we spend it to reach our most important goals. Perhaps once in a while Heather could invite friends over to join in her family dinner. That’s a reasonable compromise that might work for this season.
Using the example Top Priorities List above, decisions will be easier and quicker for Heather. For instance, say Heather gets a request to volunteer for a non-profit in her community. She is fond of the non-profit and believes in its mission. Plus, this will look good on her resume and she'll get to network. She may initially feel tempted to say yes, but a quick check of her Top Priorities List brings a needed dose of reality.
Heather's self-talk might go like this: Well, while volunteer work is important to me, it is not listed as one of my top priorities right now. Plus, I am really busy and adding things to my plate might affect my health (physical, spiritual, mental). It will also take time away from my spouse, kids, studies, and may affect my performance at work. All of these things made my Top Priorities List. Perhaps I can volunteer in the future once I have earned my degree. I’ll send a quick email thanking the volunteer group for the offer and explaining that I don’t have the resource of time required right now, but I will reach out in the future if my schedule and commitments change. Voila. Decision made sans agonizing and unnecessary guilt.
Make the Top Priorities List and put it in a couple of locations that you see often. When you feel pulled in a hundred directions and not particularly successful in any one area, looking at your list can bring clarity and encouragement.
Say our fictional friend Heather feels fairly 'meh' about her overall performance today, but she is giving it all she's got. A quick look back at her Top Priorities List will help her take a quick inventory and evaluate herself.
Heather's self-talk might go something like this: I don't feel like I am killing it lately. I haven't been out with friends in a while, and I didn't volunteer to help plan that event at work.
Where's my Top Priorities List? Okay, today I did practice self-care. I meditated this morning, ate healthy foods that I enjoy, drank water, and took a short walk at lunch. Check.
I spent time cuddling my kid this morning before we got out of bed, and we sang his favorite songs and finger-painted while dinner was cooking this evening. Check.
I told my husband how much I appreciate and love him this morning, and we said a quick prayer together before we went to work. On my break, I bought him a tiny gift online and it should arrive in a couple of days. Check.
I was attentive at work, gave things my best effort, and stayed positive. Check.
I spent time listing to a podcast about my field of study while I drove home from work. Then, wrote a reflection paper on it after dinner. Check.
Heather had a full-day. But, after checking her Top Priorities List, she sees that she actually is excelling in all of her top priorities today. She's not slacking. She's using her resources wisely.
Remember, it's only for a season.
How do you remain grounded and focused when life's demands seem endless?