Setting Priorities Mindfully
A friend of mine was telling me the other day there are so many things she wants to do that, even being retired, she feels overwhelmed trying to find time. Life is busy indeed. That’s why setting priorities is a crucial skill for maintaining balance. However, it’s not just about creating a to-do list; it’s about assessing mindfully what is your priority. What activities align with your values and nurture your overall well-being? In this article, I’m going to share some tips to shed some light on the topic.
The 7 Habits
Many years ago, I read a book called “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. I was a young process engineer back then, newlywed with no kids, and didn’t appreciate the book that much. Five or so years passed a friend of mine gave me “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families” by the same author. At that time, I was a young working mom with two little kids, and I loved the book. I enjoyed it so much that I started having the suggested conversations with my husband and shortly thereafter we started practicing some of the habits taught by Covey.
First Things First
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey focuses on teaching leaders and whole organizations how to apply the 7 Habits to be productive and therefore successful. I feel like he should have written the second book first as it focuses on the application of the same 7 Habits to the most important organization there is – the family. Which is the foundation, the keystone of our society. Anyways, all the 7 Habits are really interesting but, today I’d like to focus on Habit #3 – First Things First.
Begin With the End in Mind
To be able to practice Habit#3 – First Things First, we need to know what the first things are. So, let’s take a step back and talk about Habit#2 – Begin with the end in mind. This means before diving into prioritizing tasks and activities, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on your values and long-term goals. What truly matters to you? In his book, Covey asks: What could you do every single day that would have a huge positive impact on your life? Those are key questions.
Back to First Things First
No matter what your values are, one thing you can do every single day that will have a huge positive impact on your life is to put yourself first. Self-care is definitely one of the first things. There is a reason why during an airplane crash you must put your oxygen mask first before helping others. If you cannot breathe there is no way you can be of service. Your health and wellness should always be your #1 priority. I know it seems selfish but, believe me, it’s not – if your cup is empty, there is nothing to share.
Self-care is what nourishes your body and mind. It’s ultimately what gives you the energy and the peace of mind to show up in the world. Make sure you have time in your day to prepare yourself a healthy meal and to eat mindfully. Set aside time to move your body in a way that brings you joy and keeps you sane. Treat those times as non-negotiable. An unwinding bedtime routine and a good 8 hours of sleep are non-negotiable as well. The amount of time left in your calendar is what you should use to accommodate everything else.
The Most Important Thing
I find it very interesting the way Jim Kwik, the brain and learning specialist, talks about priorities. He says: “The most important thing is to keep the most important thing, the most important thing.” To Jim’s point, taking care of yourself is the most important thing. In his book Limitless, Kwik makes a clear point about the brain as the most important thing. The brain is your body’s main organ. Your learning abilities depend on it being healthy to perform at its peak. In taking good care of your mental health, you can learn how to learn, and therefore, learn and do anything you wish.
Identify Your Values
Once the most important thing is taken care of, let’s identify your values to find out what else should be a priority. Your core values are the things that truly matter to you. I had to put a lot of thought into this when I was setting my business values. Finally, I decided on Wellness, Integrity, Communion & Love. Thinking about it now, I should have placed Love first. Anyhow, everything that truly matters to me can, somehow, fit into these 4 words. Love, I believe, is the primary reason why we’re on this Earth – it is the answer for all that we’ll ever need.
Without being physically and mentally well I cannot function in any other roles, that’s the reason why wellness is my number one value. Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. Doing the right thing has always been a big deal to me and I value that everything I am and do is authentic to my soul. Finally, sharing or exchanging intimate thoughts and feelings on a mental and spiritual level is the way I want all my relationships to be. So, I value being in communion with myself, my family members, my friends, my community, and nature.
Identify Your Core Areas
After prioritizing self-care, aligning your other activities with your values ensures everything you do is leading you toward a fulfilling and purposeful life. Break down your activities into core areas such as family or relationships, career, and personal growth. This segmentation helps create a more comprehensive and balanced approach. Once you have the core areas defined then set a priority for each one. Doing so should make you feel less overwhelmed.
Learn to Say No
Saying no is a powerful act of self-care and a crucial skill in maintaining a healthy and balanced life. Even though an activity might be something you’d love doing, or the desire to please others or take on additional responsibilities may be strong, recognizing the limits of time and energy is essential. Saying no is a positive and empowering conscious choice that allows you to keep the most important thing the most important thing.
Mindful Time Management
Embrace mindfulness in managing your time. While setting priorities is crucial, it’s equally important to maintain flexibility. Life is unpredictable, and having a flexible schedule allows you to adapt to unexpected changes without feeling overwhelmed. Focus on the present moment doing one thing at a time to protect your brain from burnout. Each priority should receive your full attention. Mindful time management enhances productivity and reduces stress.
Distractions make it hard to manage time effectively. Our modern technology-driven life is full of them. Smartphones and social media are two giants in that matter. It takes a lot of discipline to not let them take over our lives. Jim Kwik’s tip is to not look at your phone in the first hour after you wake up. Use this time to connect with yourself and the universe. This precious first hour is when your creativity flows from your subconscious mind making it the perfect time for journaling. Use it to write down all the fresh ideas that come to mind or to set your intentions for the day. That one first hour free of distractions will help you be as productive as you ever thought you could.
When I first read the 7 Habits, it was not a big deal to prioritize my activities. That’s why the book didn’t resonate with my younger self. Later in my life, when I had to juggle taking care of my two little kids, a job, house chores, and everything in between, the book was a hit. Life is dynamic – as we evolve, priorities shift. Now that my kids are young adults, I can allocate more time to other things I value like volunteering and entrepreneurship.
Regularly reassess your priorities to ensure they still align with your current season’s values and goals. Doing so healthily and mindfully is a process that requires self-reflection and adaptability. I hope that by incorporating those tips you can find a sense of balance, fulfillment, and overall well-being.
After all: Good is what makes you feel well!
For more about self-care read Self-Love
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A Weekend of Feeling Great!
In this book, you’ll find all the steps you can take to feel great. Besides all the foundational principles of multidimensional health, it has a sample of a productive daily routine and a two-day menu with 10 healthy recipes for you to try.