Declutter Your Mind: How to Stop Worrying, Relieve Anxiety, and Eliminate Negative Thinking - S.J. Scott, Barrie Davenport (2016)


Strategy #2: Clarify Your Life Priorities

Once you’ve defined your core values, you should use this information to complete another exercise that will enrich your life—clarify your life priorities so you know exactly how you want to spend your time, energy, and money .

Without knowing our priorities, we allow the pressures of life to determine our actions and decisions. An email comes in, and we respond. An enticing offer appears on our Facebook page, and we buy it. Someone interrupts our work flow, and we allow it. When we don’t know the bigger “why” of our lives, there are no rules, no boundaries, no priorities to help us.

Here’s another exercise that we recommend that will help you figure out where you are currently spending your time, energy, and money.

Answer the following questions as honestly as possible. (Also, be sure to have your list of personal and professional core values handy as you answer.)

·                   How much time per day do you feel you waste on activities unrelated to your core values (i.e., surfing the net, watching mindless TV, shopping, or working in a job you hate)?

·                   How are you spending money unconsciously?

·                   How are you interacting with the people you care about unconsciously?

·                   How do you make career decisions (i.e., do you have a predetermined plan or do you spend most of your day in “reaction mode”)?

·                   How much time do you spend worrying about how you should best spend your time and money?

·                   What tasks, obligations, and relationships are you allowing in your life unconsciously?

·                   How are you neglecting other important parts of your life that you never seem to have time for?

Now that you see how you’re actually spending your energy and focus, let’s determine the ideal way you’d like to prioritize the important areas of your life.

For the sake of this discussion, let’s look at seven main life areas to help you establish your priorities and how you want to spend your time and money.

If you want to add or remove any of these areas, feel free to do so if they don’t apply to you now.

The areas are:

1.                 Career

2.                Family

3.                Marriage (or love partnership)

4.                Spiritual/personal growth/self-improvement

5.                Leisure/social

6.                Life management (i.e., home tasks, financial planning, budgeting, etc.)

7.                Health and fitness

If you sleep 8 hours a day, that leaves 16 waking hours. Let’s remove 2 hours a day for personal hygiene activities and eating. That leaves 14 waking hours a day or 98 hours a week. For the sake of simplicity, let’s round that up to 100 hours a week.

In an ideal world, how would you prioritize those seven key areas of your life? How many hours of those 100 per week would you prefer to devote to each area (using your values to help guide you)?

Two examples…

Barrie’s current life priorities focus heavily on career, love relationship, and life management. Her children are young adults, and since she recently moved to a new city, many of her friends and family aren’t nearby.

Ideally, she’d like to give more time to leisure and social activities, as well as fitness and self-improvement. She is trying to focus more on these things as she gets more acclimated to her new location.

Steve’s current priority focuses heavily on family, due to his recent marriage, the birth of his son, and the fact that his parents just turned 70. So his current goal is to spend as much time as possible with the people he loves the most in the world.

While his career (i.e., online business) and fitness were the biggest priorities only a few years ago, they now are less important than his interpersonal relationships. Often, this means “letting go” of the major goals that once seemed important. So while he still likes to work hard, he has learned to not feel anxious if he can’t hit a milestone related to business or his fitness.

Now, these are just two examples from the authors. To help you find your priorities, we recommend answering two simple questions:

1.                 How different is your current life priority reality from your ideal?

2.                What are some actions you need to take to focus your efforts on what really matters to you?

We recommend you begin with the priority that can make the most positive difference in your life or where you feel the most imbalance . You may find this area reflects one or more of your values that you aren’t honoring.

For example, you might have a core value related to family, and a life priority of spending more time with your family. Start small by making the decision to add one extra hour a week spending quality time with your family.

Of course, this will bump out some other activity, but you often bump out something that can be easily bumped out—or at least something that isn’t a big priority.

Continue adding weekly time to your life priorities until you have them rearranged to more closely match your ideal.

Sometimes, changing a priority can be difficult. If you want to spend more time with your family, will that impact your work schedule? If so, what do you need to do to manage any fallout?

If you want to focus more on your health and fitness, you’ll have to create new and challenging habits to ensure you follow through on this priority.

If you want to have a healthy, happy marriage, you may have to give up time in front of the TV or on the computer, which might be hard at first.

Just stating your life priorities isn’t enough. You have to take the sometimes difficult actions necessary to make the changes you want to see in your life. But the closer you come to your ideal, the less internal conflict and struggle you’ll feel.

Over time, you won’t miss those old habits, choices, and behaviors—and your life will flow more easily because you are living authentically, true to your values and priorities.