It’s hard to prioritize anything when everything feels urgent and important and you’re being pulled in 30 different directions. You have a bunch of work assignments to complete. You need to clean the kitchen (and bathrooms and do the laundry and dishes and….). You need to make dinner and school lunches. You need to volunteer at your kids’ school, and say yes to other commitments.
But something has to give, right? Because frantically running from activity to activity isn’t working.
In her book Slay Like a Mother: How to Destroy What’s Holding You Back So You Can Live the Life You Want, author Katherine Wintsch includes a helpful exercise for identifying our priorities, so we can actually prioritize them.
Wintsch, founder of SlayLikeaMother.com, suggests thinking of five “things that deserve your time because you believe in them.” For example, you might list: family dinners, date nights with your spouse, yoga classes for you, career advancement, and an annual family vacation.
Put these in the “Major League” category. Then for each item, respond to these questions: Why does it matter? What does winning look like with these activities?
Next, reflect on what shouldn’t be on the major list, and list that under “Minor League.” As Wintsch writes, it’s “not that these items aren’t important; you just can’t major in everything.” Her workshops participants have listed things such as “serving as class mom, dressing your kids to the nines, and going to the gym six days a week.”
Under “Minor League,” explore these questions: Why is this less important? What would deprioritizing these activities look like?
Sometimes, after a few minutes of examination, we know exactly what matters most to us. And other times, we need a bit more help clarifying and understanding our priorities. If so, here are some additional questions to explore:
- What do I want my days to look and feel like?
- What am I currently doing that I don’t like and can actually delegate or just stop doing?
- What contributes to my mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health and growth?
- What is missing from my life right now?
- What energizes and inspires me?
- What are my values? Am I living them on a day-to-day basis?
Of course, our priorities can change over time. After all, we change over time.
So it can also help to have an ongoing conversation with yourself (and/or your family) about what’s important to you and what’s not so important anymore. For example, spend a few minutes each night reflecting on your day: As a whole, did you spend it the way you wanted to? If so, what worked? If not, what didn’t work? What needs to be changed? What do you need?
It can feel like everyone but you is dictating your schedule. However, remember that you’re in charge and there are many ways you can create the life you want. The key is to be intentional, ask the right questions, and be flexible.
Maybe you can’t read for an hour every day, but you can read for 15 minutes every morning. Maybe you can’t take a daily yoga class, but you can do a 10-minute practice at home on most nights. Maybe you can’t go out for date night, but you and your spouse can stay in and cook a delicious meal, and still savor a special evening.
In other words, don’t give up. There’s usually a way to honor your priorities. It might look different now and a few months from now and a year from now.
But it’s important to remember that it’s absolutely possible—if you believe it is.