Saturday, June 19, 2010

How to prioritise your life

This is something I have been focusing on a lot lately. The other I day realised how far I have come in the last month, but also how far I have to go. I thought I would share with you all how I worked out my priorities and what I did to change my life so the things I do and the way I spend my time reflects my priorities properly.

Firstly I sat down and had a good think about what is important to me. I wrote down everything that I love/do/want to do in my life. Who and what mean the most to me. At this stage the order did not matter. What mattered was just finding out what meant the most to me.

I realised that my main priorities are
- My family – which includes my daughters, my husband and our marriage and my siblings/parents etc...
- My religion
- My health
- Becoming financially free

Notice cleaning is not really on there? It does matter to me to have a clean house, but everything else comes first!

Once I knew my priorities, I could place them in order of importance. This can be easier said than done, and I will explain properly further down in this post.

After I realised my priorities I looked at how I was spending my time. This is where you might notice that you’re supposed priorities are not your real every day priorities despite what you think. One thing that might help you with doing this is to keep a diary for a week or month of everything you do and how much time you spend doing it. It may surprise you to see just how much time you spend doing things that have virtually no importance to you.

Another thing this exercise will help you see is what changes you can make to have more time for things that really matter to you.

Once that you know what is important to you and how you spend your time you are in a better position to make the changes in your life necessary to reflect your priorities.

Obviously there are some things that are constant which you cannot change such as sleep, eating, showering, dressing etc... But lots of things you do can be changed to be more efficient, higher on your list of priorities or gotten rid of completely.

Once you take out sleeping, eating, getting ready, work (if you got to work), commuting and other daily tasks, how do you fit those things that are important into your life?

Have you ever heard the story about the empty jar?

“A professor stood in front of his philosophy class, with some items before him. When class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large, empty jar, and began filling it with golf balls. When they reached the top, he asked the class if the jar was full.

They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He gave the jar a shake, and the pebbles rolled into the spaces around the golf balls. He asked again if the jar was full.

Again, they agreed that it was.

Then he picked up a box of sand, and poured it into the jar, and it filled all the spaces between the pebbles. He asked yet again, if the jar was full. The students replied with a resounding "Yes!"

Then, he produced two cups of coffee, and poured them into the jar, filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

When the laughter subsided, the professor said to them "I want you to recognise that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things: God, family, your children, your health, good friends, and your passions. If all else was lost, but they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the things that matter, like your house, your car, your job. The sand is everything else - the small stuff.

If you put the sand into the jar first, there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. It's the same with life. If you put all your time and energy, into the small stuff, you'll never have room, for the things that are important.”

Setting aside those things you can’t change (sleeping etc...) what can you do about the rest to make more time? As I mentioned recently here my husband and I are switching roles, so he will be at home. We are doing this because his current work means he is away for roughly 13.5 hours every time he has to work which is about 10 – 12 days a fortnight. Taking out sleeping and eating it essentially leaves no time for family.

We have made our family our number one priority which has meant some big changes for us. We make a conscious effort to do things as a family such as having meals together, playing games together, taking our daughters to the park, having family picnics, planning day trips. Basically doing things together comes first.

One of the hard things about determining your priorities can be what your number 1 priority is. This can be hard because they can overlap or be as important as each other. If you look at my priorities family comes first, but the other things are all extensions of that.

Our religion is a very important aspect of our family’s life. Most of our friends we got to church with, our religion has all the principles and values we want to teach our kids, we make the time to go to church every Sunday, attend activities for our church etc... It is a very central part of our life. To us it goes hand in hand with everything about our family. In our religion, family is of utmost importance. As such I do not see these 2 priorities as being exclusive or one above the other, even though I say family comes first. I am in the blessed position where virtually all my family, both my side and my husband’s family are of the same religion, meaning all our lives are centred on the same things.

Health is equally important. If I am not healthy I cannot do the things with my family I want to. If I am not healthy everything else is pointless. Thus health is a top priority.

Finally, my aim to be financially free goes hand in hand with my family because financial freedom means more time together as a family and being able to do the things we’d like to do. That said it is on the bottom of the list because when it comes down to it, if I had the choice of having excellent relationships with my family and poor forever or being financially free but have no family relations ships I would choose my family. Sometimes looking at our priorities in this way can help determine what your very top priorities are.

Once you know your priorities, how are you going to change your life to reflect them?

I have done a few things. It is up to you what you do as your priorities will probably be different to mine and your life is definitely different, but to give you some ideas here is what I have done so far...

1.) Started to apply for jobs. I am only applying for what I really want to do, not just any job. I have had 1 interview, which I have gotten through to the 2nd set of interviews, so I am hopeful.

2.) Stopped watching TV. I still let my kids watch ABC kids, but not heaps. I posted about that here

3.) Worked out more of a routine for my day. I have limited the time I spend online and working on my blog with the help of this program 31 Days to Becoming a Better Blogger.

4.) Read what I could about healthy eating in books such as Low GI diet (as I have PCOS and this diet helps with that), Nourishing Traditions, Friendly food and Fed-up.

5.) I also looked at what I could that would save us money from books such as The Tightwad Gazette, 26 Ingredients, $21 Challenge and sites such as Saving advice, Simple Savings and in Wisebread top financial bloggers there are over 500 bloggers who blog about finance and frugality. You will find so much info on there.

6.) I worked out ways we could do things together as a family that won’t cost money, as well as free or cheap dates.

7.) I put cleaning on the backburner. This is not saying I don’t clean. I vacuum like 3 times a day thanks to my daughters. What I mean is my home does not have to be immaculate. If everyone has clean clothes, clean dishes to cook and eat from, if everything is CLEAN I am happy. I do not need to spend 80% of my day picking up things to keep the house tidy. I will tidy of an evening or in the morning, but not all day. I have a cleaning schedule and try to stick to that to free up more of my time.

8.) I got copies of The Duggars, because it helped me appreciate the value of family more and also had lots of great tips on EVERYTHING as well as The busy woman’s survival guide (recommended by Michelle Duggar) and applied what I learnt in these books.

Having a real, honest conversation with your family about what is important to them and what changes they would like to see can really help you set your priorities.

Good luck with it all. It’s not easy to start with but it is worth it.

* When buying books I have found Book Depository to be the cheapest and fastest followed by Amazon


  1. Great post!

    I think it would be a tragedy for people to just meander through life, and never really think about what their priorities are.

    Modern life is so busy, with so many competing demands on our time, that we actually have to make a conscious decision to live by our values and priorities, or we'll just end up spending our lives on the stuff that society says we should be doing (but stuff that's not necessarily important in the scheme of things). I believe Oprah calls it "mindful living".

  2. Oh great post!! I am looking forward to looking at the links. I joined both your blogs - pop over to mine if you like - it's certainly isn't as interesting or informative as yours though :)

  3. Love this post. You've inspired me to write a similar list.


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