Prioritize your life before someone else does

Thought N° 002

My brother Matthew on our trip through Grand Teton National Park, 2010.

How often do you find yourself being pulled in multiple directions at once? The pressure of deadlines, to-do lists, social networks, friends, family, and your calendar reigning down on you. That consistent feeling of being over-committed and under-satisfied whilst the days and weeks fly by can leave you filled with dread and unaccomplished.

This is a pattern I’ve noticed frequently in my life but had never quite been able to fully understand or solve for in a concise manner. I’ve always been a ‘yes’ person, believing that lending a helping hand will benefit the greater good and could provide further opportunities for me in the future. Often times I would help co-workers with their projects if asked, I’d jump at the prospect of a freelance job for a friend, and would repeatedly double book my evenings or weekends.

“If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will” — Greg McKeown

As you can assume, this approach was not sustainable. I found my performance suffering, felt an increase in stress levels, and let down my co-workers, friends, and family. If everything I wanted to accomplish was a priority, then nothing could ever truly be prioritized.

Luckily, I recently picked up a copy of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown based on a recommendation from Tobias van Schneider. Over the course of the last week I flew through its chapters, fascinated by its contents and insights. I strongly recommend this for anyone feeling the way I have described above.

The author uses many examples of situations and approaches, but the main takeaway is simple; by creating a way to systematically decide what is essential to you, you’ll have full control over where you spend your time and energy.

Let’s remind ourselves, our time here on Earth is limited — very limited (please excuse the morbidness, but it’s a fact nonetheless). Ask yourself, if I had one year left, what would I spend my time on? What is the most important thing to accomplish?

Rather than rolling this out to your entire life, first try it on a small scale. You’ll be surprised with what you can accomplish.

Try this exercise today:
1. Make a list of all the important tasks that you’d like to accomplish today.
2. Cross off every item except the one absolute essential task.
3. Focus on that one task today, and let all others wait until tomorrow.

After you’ve tried the technique, let me know your thoughts @jms_bk. I’ll be continuing to discuss this approach to life in upcoming posts soon. Enjoy the rest of your week!


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