During lockdown, I feel like I’ve gone through every emotion under the sun. Every feeling, every thought, and ambition has washed over me as I continue to ride this roller coaster that is “the world being paused for who knows how long”. During the first lockdown, I was determined to use this time to my benefit. I’ll finally be able to do all of the things I want to do, but don’t have time to do. Very quickly I realised that no matter how much time was available to me, I did not want to clean, or do life admin, or be productive every second of every day.
Now, on my third lockdown, it is still tempting to plunge myself into a pool of expectations. My brain goes there naturally, especially when I’m feeling out of control, but I’m learning how to balance this. I’m learning how to be kind to myself, and realistic with what I am going to be capable of, regardless of the amount of time I have available to me.
This time has also allowed for a lot of reflection. I’ve been contemplating my priorities recently, and not only is it interesting to observe what I instinctively say is a priority, but then how I act because of or despite these ideas.
There’s an exercise I’ve tried recently which has helped me to make more sense of my priorities vs. my actions.
To start, name the top 5 priorities in your life right now.
These should be as specific as possible. Instead of saying “family”, for example, you might say “to nurture my relationship with my children” or “to contribute to my family by being a supportive wife”. You might say “to be able to do 50 pushups in a row” or “to stop drinking soda” instead of saying “to get healthier”. The more specific you make your priorities, the better.
If you’re having trouble pinpointing what your priorities are, think about what goals you currently have, what you want to accomplish in the future, or what is good in your life right now that is important for you to maintain.
An example would look like this:
- To save money in order to move house
- To run a marathon in 2022
- Spend more quality time with my husband
- Finish my L & D qualification
- Spend less time on devices and more time being creative
Now, think about how you spent your day yesterday.
What did you do for the first hour after you opened your eyes? What did you do after that? And after that?
Start from the beginning and write down exactly or as much as you can remember of how you spent your day.
08:00 – 09:00 woke up, made coffee, watched the news
10:00 – 11:00 scrolled through instagram, called a friend, made breakfast
11:00 – 12:00 worked out, took a shower, answered emails
12:00 – 13:00 got dressed, went to the post office, picked up groceries
13:00 – 18:00 did some work, made and ate lunch
18:00 – 19:00 watched tv, spent time with my husband
19:00 – 20:00 cooked and ate dinner, watched more tv
20:00 – 21:00 finished up more work, cleaned the kitchen
21:00 – 23:00 got ready for bed, scrolled through my phone, went to bed
Now compare the two.
How much of your time yesterday was put towards the things you say are a priority in your life?
In the examples above, “spending less time on my devices and being more creative” was a priority, but what is reflected is there are no actions backing that up. “Run a marathon in 2022” is also listed as a priority, but there aren’t any actions showing that is more important than watching tv, for example.
If you have found an inconsistency with your priorities and actions, what needs to be questioned is whether or not the things you wrote down are actually a priority. What I love about this exercise is that our actions do not lie and ultimately, how we spend our time will show us what our futures look like.
If your priorities and actions are not aligned, you have two choices: You can either get realistic about your priorities, maybe dropping or swapping a few, or you can start putting more action in towards them.
Let it go or make it work.
Maybe you really want to make something a priority, but you’re struggling with making time for it. I get it, but what I would suggest is finding 15 minutes a day to put towards it. If something is actually a priority in your life, surely you can find 15 minutes per day to focus on it. If you can’t find 15 minutes, I’m sorry to say, you need to take it off your priority list until you have time to focus on it consistently.
(Don’t think 15 minutes per day is enough time? After one year, that’s 5, 475 minutes – which adds up to about 91 hours, almost four whole days of focus on a single priority!)
Allow this exercise to give you room for some gentle, honest, adjustment and reflection.
If you are consistently in a place where your time is spent in alignment to your priorities, you will undoubtedly be making progress on them or maintaining them. With discipline, there is freedom.
I do want to stress that the point of this exercise is not to berate yourself but instead to open yourself up to your truth. It may require a frankness with yourself that you are not used to, but alignment between your thoughts, beliefs and actions are an important step for living an authentic and successful life.
Try this exercise, and let me know how it goes in the comments below!
Did you find any inconsistencies between your priorities and your actions?
What adjustments do you need to make and what will you continue to work towards?