M2M Day 359: How to prioritize your life

This post is part of Month to Master, a 12-month accelerated learning project. For October, my goal is to defeat world champion Magnus Carlsen at a game of chess.

My flight from New York to San Francisco just landed, which means that I’ll be back to my regular routine tomorrow. As part of this “regular routine”, I plan to greatly accelerate my chess efforts.

For the past eight days, I was in New York, primarily for a family function that lasted through the weekend (Friday through Sunday). During the six weekdays that I was in New York, staying at my parent’s house, I was still working full time. This wasn’t a vacation.

As a result, I needed to make a decision about how I wanted to use my extracurricular time in the evenings.

Typically, I mainly use this time for my M2M project and related activities, but, given that I haven’t seen my parents, sisters, or extend family for months, and don’t see them very often, I wanted to allocate a lot of this time to spend with them.

As a result, truthfully, in the past eight days, I probably spent a total of two hours working directly on my chess preparations, which isn’t very much at all.

But this was largely by design: I decided that I would prioritize time with my family over doing work (in all the forms that takes), and that I would find extra work time in the coming weeks, now that I’m back in San Francisco, to balance things out.

It’s often challenging to prioritize time with friends, family, etc., and similarly challenging to prioritize time to relax, play, and think, since these activities don’t have any timelines, deadlines, or ways to measure productivity or progress. It’s especially challenging to prioritize these activities when there are other available activities that do offer a greater sense of progress, productivity, or urgency.

We, as humans, want to feel important and often use progress or productivity (or even unnecessary busyness) as a way to prove to ourselves that we are important.

But, we can also be important just by enjoying the love we share with others (by spending time with friends and family) and by enjoying the love we have for ourselves (by relaxing, playing, exploring, etc.).

In fact, when I reflect on my life, my strongest memories are either of the times I spent with people I love or of the times I explored new places or things (traveling, learning new things, etc.).

Of course, when I was in New York, there was the option to lock myself in my bedroom and pound out chess code for hours. In fact, if I took this approach, I’d likely be in a better place with my preparations right at this moment.

However, I very happily sacrificed some of this preparation time for a lot of great time with my family. And, the truth is… I didn’t sacrifice this time at all. I simply decided to reallocate it to this upcoming week.

Often, in our lives, we create a fake sense of urgency around things that, when we zoom out, aren’t so urgent or grand after all. It’s very easy to chase these “urgent things” our entire lives, preventing us from enjoying much of what life has to offer.

I’m not perfect at resisting this temptation, but this past week was good practice in doing so and reaping the benefits.

With that said, now that I’m back in San Francisco, I’m going to reestablish this massive, largely artificial sense of importance and urgency that surrounds this month’s challenge.

So, here I go…

Read the next post. Read the previous post.

Max Deutsch is an obsessive learner, product builder, and guinea pig for Month to Master.

If you want to follow along with Max’s year-long accelerated learning project, make sure to follow this Medium account.