When it comes to priorities, the first step is critical: You need to identify the things that matter to you and the resources that you have available.
When identifying the things that matter, try to keep things in broad categories: having a tidy house; spending unstructured time with my kids; contributing to my community; developing hobbies; succeeding in my career; etc. Then, under each category write a few specific things you can do to support that priority. For example, under a tidy house you might place cleaning the garage, mopping and vacuuming twice a week, and scheduling necessary home repairs. Under developing hobbies, you might put taking a class or watching instructional videos, purchasing supplies, and taking time to practice. Try to keep the lists to no more than 3-5 things.
You also need to have a clear sense of your resources. For most of us, our primary resources are time, energy, and money.
It’s hard to quantify your energy, but you likely know when you are more productive. For example, I know that I can’t do anything creative after 9 p.m. unless it’s urgent. So, I use my time before work or my lunch hour or early evening to do things that require creativity. In the evenings I read or catch up on my streaming while I fold laundry or I sweep and do dishes.
Your schedule and your budget are tools to help you allocate your time and your money.
In both cases, you need to remember to start with the rocks – the top priorities. For your budget, that will things like rent/mortgage, food, utilities, taxes. Once those are in, you can add other things based on the priorities you identified earlier. For example, if you want to do home repairs, you can budget saving for them. You handle your schedule the same way. Put in the essential things first, then begin scheduling your priorities. It’s completely acceptable to schedule family time every day/week and to decline other things because of the prior engagement. All too often, we let the things that really matter to us be taken over by things that seem urgent but are not important. Once the top priorities are scheduled, fill in with lesser priorities.
Now, you may notice that you have more claims on your time, money, and energy than you have resources available. That’s when having established your priorities is most important. Having clear priorities helps you make the tough decisions. For example, if saving for retirement is a priority, you might have to put off a large purchase or two. If spending unstructured time with your family is a priority, you may need to bow out of that committee at your church. Priorities give you criteria to judge the competing demands.
Remember, these are not your priorities forever. Priorities change. When they do, you change your schedule and your budget. That’s OK. In fact, it’s good.