Do you agree with this statement? How often do you find yourself dealing with things which seem urgent but aren’t really important – responding to text messages straight when they arrive, looking at notifications on your phone etc. Do you prioritise what is actually important to you in the big picture and is this what you spend most of your time focusing on? Pause for a moment to think about this.
We often say that health is the number one priority, but is this reflected in how we spend our time on a daily basis? Good food can improve our health yet so often we say we don’t have time to cook. Activities which let us disconnect from work and help us relax can improve our health yet so often we are too busy to squeeze these in. Get clear on what is actually important for you and then check if this is manifested in your everyday choices.
Let me give you an example
Let’s say you regularly stay late at work. Because of this you don’t have time to shop, you don’t have time to cook, you spend less time with your family and you don’t get to regularly attend your favourite fitness class as you are often too tired. If your work truly is your top priority in life right now and if you really have to stay that late that often because you have to deal with tasks which are both important and urgent, well then your choice to stay late is probably the right one. But if you say that work is not as important to you as your family and your health, then perhaps it’s worth checking whether you do need to stay that late that often? You could ask yourself:
- Are you managing your time well during the day or could you improve on this in order to finish on time?
- Is there a way you could organise your work or your team better so that extra hours become a less frequent necessity?
- Are the tasks you do after office hours that urgent and that important that you need to sacrifice your real priorities, be it eating healthy home cooked food, being actively involved in parenting, nurturing the relationship with your partner or spending time on a hobby, which awakens your intellect and creates great opportunities to socialise.
Your own situation is unique of course. Moreover, as your circumstances change, your priorities will evolve too. That’s why it’s important to once in a while find some time to just reflect on whether your everyday efforts are serving the purpose you consider to be the true meaning of your life, at this particular point of your life.
Big decisions and small everyday choices..
Have you heard of Eisenhower’s Decision Matrix? It’s a great tool which can be used to manage your workload, but also to help you check how you spend your time outside of work. It’s very likely that when studying the Decision Matrix you will realise that you don’t spend your time according to your actual priorities. You can read more about the Matrix in this article, which uses some examples referring to both professional and private life.You can also watch a short video here.
I generally encourage simplicity in life and don’t recommend any complex time management systems. What I want to invite you to do is not to start some multi-level to-do lists for each day. Instead I want to suggest that once in a while you find some quiet time to look at the big picture, define what is really important for you and then reflect on whether you actually live your life according to this priority.
Don’t lose sight of what really matters to you
Next time you say that health is the most important thing or family is the most important thing, pause and look at how you spent your time in the past week or month. How much time did you invest in the relationships with your family? How much time did you spend doing things which improve your health and fitness? Be honest with yourself and don’t let the pace of your everyday life and the overload of tasks and information blur your real priorities. And don’t forget that important matters are seldom urgent and urgent matters are seldom important..