No matter what we do or want to do in a given day, we’re all bound by 24 hours. Even with the best intentions, the hours, days and weeks get away from us and our "to do" list gets even longer. Women – especially women juggling a family with a career – recognize the need to prioritize their time. You can’t get it ALL done so it makes sense to focus your precious time on your priorities.
At work, prioritizing is usually fairly straightforward. You’re usually clear on the parameters to evaluate your priorities, whether they’re deadlines or what’s most important to your boss. What about your home and family life – how do you prioritize that area of your life?
Remind Yourself of Your Values
To prioritize personal and business aspects of our lives, it’s helpful to start at the very basic level and remind yourself of your values. Not necessarily moral or family values, but the guiding principles of how you live or want to live your life. What qualities are important to you in life?
Maybe it’s hard to find the time and energy to reflect on values when you’re just trying to keep up, but it’s worth the effort. In the end having this clarity will save you time.
Here’s a helpful exercise to identify your values:
1. Begin with listing your values, what you need in your life to feel satisfied and complete. Below is a starter list of values you can choose from and add your own to the list. Only you know what’s absolutely necessary to have a fulfilled life. Then pick 5 values that speak to you and that are most important to you. The easiest way may be by process of elimination, by picking 10 first and then whittling it down to 5.
Beginner List of Values
2. When you have 5 put them in order from #1 to #5. If you’re having trouble deciding which is more important to you, create scenarios for the tough-to-prioritize values. For example, let’s say you’re trying to decide between community and spirituality. Ask yourself, "Which would I rather do – go to a neighborhood meeting or meditate?" Often these scenarios make the order clear.
3) If you have a partner, have your partner do the same and compare your top 5. They don’t have to be the same, but it’s helpful to know where each of you is coming from.
Are You Aligned with Your Values?
Now that you’ve clarified your values, you can start thinking of each task or "to do" throughout your day and determine whether it aligns with one of your top five values. If it doesn’t, then maybe it’s something you can put off to another day or not do altogether.
Ideally, this exercise should be done on a regular basis. Values evolve as life circumstances do – children, mates, money, careers – they all have an impact on our current priorities. Life is hectic but having a clear set of values gives you a shortcut for making decisions intelligently. By prioritizing what you do according to your values, you can start maximizing the little time you do have by identifying and cutting out things that aren’t really valuable to you.