Top Tip #6

Don’t waste your life on trivia; instead spend your personal capacities wisely on what is most important in your life by training yourself in the life skill of SETTING PRIORITIES.

LEVEL 1 – The technique

Start by asking yourself: “What is my number one top priority in my life?” What do you think of first?

Then on a page draw a large circle like a pie. The circle represents you and everyday you cut portions of yourself that you give way and the question is: who gets what from you?

For the concept of life priorities in general, draw a portion of about one third of the pie as the largest of all and that piece should go to you. Your number one priority should be you. Write “me” in the center of that piece. Every priority after that should receive a smaller portion from you as you see fit, but I think your spouse or partner could be #2, kids #3, purpose of life #4, and work #5. There will only be a small portion left for everything and everyone else.

LEVEL 2 – The training tool template

 Keep your “priority pie” available to review at the beginning of each day to remind yourself of your general priorities based on what is most important to you in life. For daily priorities, make a “To Do” list. Write down what needs to be done each day as the items occur to you. Then rank them by priority for the day (#1, #2, #3, etc.) and go through them according to “first things first,” then “next of all” and so on down the list. Do the best you can to get them done and cross them off. What does not get done that day gets transferred to the list for the next day. End each day by reviewing the list again for what went well and what didn’t. Think about making the next day better (life skill #2). Keeping such a daily list can also be motivating to keep up with the flow of what needs to be done, which is a major factor in keeping your life balanced and in order (life skill #4).

You may well need life skill #3 of boundary setting and assertiveness to prevent others from altering your priorities or even setting your priorities in their favor. As you will see, the life skill of setting priorities will be important in our coming discussion of the life skill of goal setting (life skill #9). Also remember to work on staying relaxed and the other life skills as well.

LEVEL 3 – Try a trial test and see what happens

Run a trial for at least a week or longer using your “priority pie” and daily priorities as your guide. After such a test, evaluate what went better and anything that got worse. The key question is: “Is this working for me?” The longer the trial, the more significant the results are likely to be.

LEVEL 4 – The target

The target would be that you order your entire life according to your priorities (the priority pie idea) by using them as a filter kept in the front of your mind. Everything that comes up in your life is put through the filter and gets assigned a number on your priority list and dealt with accordingly.

LEVEL 5 – Typical cases in point

Many of my patients have not thought their priorities through, and for them it can seem as though whatever comes up is automatically most important number one priority at the time, often at the expense and neglect of what should be more important to them, such as their own health and wellbeing. Negative costs and consequences due to lack of priority management can add up over time, such as burnout and misappropriating your valuable time and personal resources.

LEVEL 6 – The theory

First of all, not everything is equally important. Secondly, you will probably never in your whole life get everything you think is important, done. Therefore, it makes sense to at least get the most important things done first according to your morals and values.

The pie of priorities does not necessarily reflect the time you spend on each priority, just what you think is important. You may spend more time at work than with your spouse or children, yet they may be more important to you than work.

Personal needs are normally lowest in the prime of the adult stage of life, but those needs are important. Actually, looking after your own personal needs is by itself a huge, taxing task. Think about all it takes to look after just the requirements you need for your health. You need to eat properly and all that entails. You need adequate sleep, exercise, social support, relaxation, rest, time to think (properly), and healthy routines. For some people that may be all they can manage. In addition, if you have not been looking after yourself properly as a top priority, you may need to do all the above, plus go on a “health kick” to get back to healthy, such as lose weight, manage any medical issues properly, stop any unhealthy behavior, such as smoking, engaging in upsetting activities, and so on.

Then spouses or partners deserve to be high on you priority list if you want the relationship to survive. It can be a mistake to focus solely on children or career at the expense of the spousal relationship because if things work out well, children grow up and leave the nest, people retire, at which point there may be nothing left of the partner relationship.

Children, of course, deserve a lot from their parents. Raising children well requires an investment by the parents and I think the earlier you make that investment to get child development on solid footings, the better the outcome.

Then your career/work and all the other parts of your life need to be put in their place by your sense of what is most important in your life.

Theoretically, the number of priorities anyone can look after is a small number and the rest are best deferred. The fact is that your energy, time, and capacities are limited, so spend them carefully on what is most important to you. If you fill your pie plate up with unimportant things, there won’t be space or time for your big important ones.

Saving the biggest portion of you for yourself raises the issue of selfishness again, which we discussed in the theory of life skill #3, setting boundaries. You may want to review that again to keep re-thinking it, but there is yet another side of this issue to think about. Everything that depends on you (such as children, work), is contingent on your health and ability to function. That is why you need to think about ensuring your own safety and health first, before helping others, even children.

LEVEL 7 – Try more tests and trials

There will be many instances where you can apply this skill as daily events in your life occur and see if using your priorities as guides makes your life work out better for you.

LEVEL 8 – Tracking progress

Maybe once a month, estimate your percent change for the better in this life skill and build on it.

LEVEL 9 – Take off

Use this life skill to launch yourself away from the problems it can help you solve or resolve and to go on to a better way of living in which you can feel good and function well. Make an extensive list of the specific problems and issues this life skill empowers you to rise above and leave behind. Visualize yourself doing so.

LEVEL 10 – Texts for this topic

For further reading on this topic I can recommend

Please note: Books are not available at this time.