I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately.
My life has been busy and full of good things, but there have been moments when it has become clear to me that I’m not living in line with my priorities lately.
Maybe you’ve experienced this too. It’s easy to sacrifice what is most important for what seems most urgent or more fun.
Your top priorities
You may think you’re pretty clear on what our top priorities are, but knowing them, saying them, writing them out, and actually spending our time in service of those priorities are very different things.
What would you tell me if I were to ask you what your top three to five priorities are?
If you don’t know, this is a great place to start.
What is most important to you in your life?
What do you value most?
Make a list.
Assessing your priorities
Next, assess. Think about your day yesterday or for the last few days.
Start from the time you woke up, think about everything you did — from brushing your teeth to what you did at work and at home, little and big — and categorize them into one of those priority columns. If it doesn’t fit, put it into another column.
How many of the tasks you completed were in support of one or more of your priorities?
How many fit into the other category?
This can be quite revealing in terms of what you say is important versus how you are living.
It’s so easy to get out of step with what’s important to you and to be living a life that is unbalanced, off-kilter, or different from what you ultimately want for yourself.
Balancing your priorities
For me, I basically have three main priorities with some subsets:
- physical health
- mental and emotional health
- important relationships.
I don’t think living in alignment with your priorities looks like a perfect balance of all of them in every moment.
I like to look at my days and weeks more as a whole to judge balance accurately.
There are days when most of my time is spent in service of my family and only a little bit of time on my mental and emotional health.
I have weeks where I focus on doing things to support my mental and emotional health, which means saying no to some requests from my family to rebalance, and that’s okay.
That’s how life is — it’s not meant to be perfectly balanced all of the time.
But once you have an idea of your priorities and look at how you are living over time, you’ll be able to see if there is an overall balance.
If there are things you want to do that you aren’t doing, you’ll be able to see what you’re doing instead.
Priorities impact each other
For me, my top three priorities are all equally important, and they all impact one another.
My mental and emotional health impacts my physical health. When I’m not doing the work and managing my mind, I find I turn to crappy food—usually sugar.
When I’m not taking care of my physical health, my mental and emotional health is impacted.
I’m much less likely to be intentional with my time, which puts me in last-minute mode, scrambling to get what needs to be completed done and without space and time for me.
When I’m not taking care of my physical health and my mental and emotional health, it’s difficult for me to show up the way I want to in my important relationships.
The act of balancing our priorities and knowing what it looks and feels like when we’re out of balance is key.
Priorities require ongoing assessment and adjustment
It requires continuous evaluation and adjustments. However, balance will get easier, especially after you define your priorities and commit to the process of assessing and adjusting.
Every month or every couple of months, you’ll want to check in and see how you’re doing and what you want to do differently. What tweaks and adjustments need to be made?
It’s super easy for other things to creep in one by one. It’s easy for you to set down one priority because something else needs all of your attention and then forget to pick it back up.
Balance doesn’t have to be an accidental act or a precarious one. It can be intentional and controlled.
I have previously established my top three priorities and everything in my life — with a few exceptions here and there — is in service of one or more of them.
However, for the last month or two, I’ve been feeling a bit out of whack. So, I took the opportunity to reassess.
Here’s how I do a priorities check-in. Just a reminder, you need to know what your priorities are and why before you check-in, so do that work first.
Sometimes this check-in may include updating your priorities. For example, there may be some things that were important once that don’t feel as important now or things that weren’t as important that have moved to the forefront.
Since I have clearly established my priorities, and they remain the same, I went right into asking myself check-in questions about each of them.
First, I list the priority I am focusing on and then ask the following questions:
- How is that going currently?
- What have I done over the last few days or week that supports this priority?
- What am I doing instead?
What I learned
I went through the process of answering each of these questions about each of these priorities for myself. One question that offered insight was what I have been doing instead?
My answers included sleeping in instead of working out, staying up late instead of prioritizing sleep, shopping more than usual, watching shows, eating when I’m not hungry, avoiding work or putting it off until the last second, avoiding connection, and opting for alone time.
I’ve been escaping more often than I want to be.
Handling your inner critic
This process isn’t always easy or enjoyable.
In fact, when I sat down to do it I wrote: “Even just sitting down to do this feels terrible. I want to do anything but this. I want to eat, sleep, watch something. I want to be done.”
Instead of being done (because that gets me nowhere and gives me no clarity about anything), I identified what I was feeling.
I asked my favorite question; why?
Why am I feeling so uncomfortable about this? Why do I want to be done so badly?
I required myself to consider it and answer it. Do you know what the answer was?
It felt like criticism.
My inner critic was like, “Oh my gosh, look at you, spending too much time avoiding discomfort. To make up for this, you must set big goals that make you feel massively uncomfortable. You need to feel all of your feelings 100% of the time. You must exercise every day hard and never watch TV.
My toddler brain was in full-on fight or flight.
Focus on what you do right
So, I took some time to inquire about it, to notice how it was interpreting this assessment of my priorities.
The truth I came to after processing through this discomfort is that I’ve been doing my best.
I want to make some shifts to do things a little differently, and I made sure to take some time to acknowledge what I have not been doing and how I have been supporting my priorities.
Your brain will want to focus on the gaps, not the gains.
It does that to protect you from failure and shame and guilt and regret and other flavors of discomfort.
You have to intentionally look at what you have been doing that is aligned, in addition to what’s not and what you want to change. The latter is much easier to see, but the former is equally as important to acknowledge.
Check-in and change your life
Check-in with your top priorities. See where you are.
Consider where you would like to be. Then, decide what shifts you want to focus on to bring you into closer alignment with your top priorities.
This kind of thought work is invaluable on your journey to losing weight for life. If you’re ready to get started, watch my free video on how to lose the first five pounds — and keep going.