by Heather Robertson
“Our life is frittered away by detail … simplify, simplify.” — Henry David Thoreau
“Where do you find the time to work on everything you have going on?”
I get this question a lot.
And the answer is simple, although it’s not always easy to make happen: I have a very short priority list.
My priority list consists of my family (hubby and kids), taking care of myself (exercise, eating right), and Half Size Me (podcast, weekly menu, connecting and supporting my audience, etc.). That’s it.
For example, if I know that I’ve got a afternoon activity with the kids, I am home schooling in the morning, and in the evening I am recording a podcast episode – well, then if 5 o’clock in the morning is my only time to work out, then that’s when I work out.
If I know that in the evenings I have some free time, I might plan to go to the gym then.
I balance my life as if I have chess pieces and I move my workout into the open slots that I see, or I put exercise in first and then I shuffle everything else around it.
You have to know what’s important to you. It’s the only way you’re going to create a short priority list and achieve your goals. You need to decide what matters to YOU, not someone else. You ever hear the expression, “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part”? Sure. it’s a cliche, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
You can keep your priority list short by not allowing non-important attention takers to creep in.
You know, things like:
— “the shoulds” (I “should” go to that party even though I don’t really want to.)
— so-called obligations to others (usually that means someone thinks you’re obligated to do what THEY want you to do– and you’re not!)
— passive time wasters like watching T.V. (Nothing wrong with a little T.V. The hubby and I watch a couple hours during the week, but I used to watch 4 – 5 hours… a day!)
— all the little fires that go along with being a mom and living life.
Now, it’s not always easy to keep these time drainers at bay. I used to really struggle with, well, all of them. But you can simplify your life and get the truly important things done by following these strategies:
(Special thanks to Leo Baubata at Zen Habits for the following list!)
1. Write down your top priorities.
Write down a list of the most most important things you want to accomplish. Keep it short, only 3-4 things will do. Your list might include going to the gym three days a week, or cutting out sugary foods or sodas from your diet, or maybe doing one physical activity with your family every day.
You can change the list later if you decide you chose the “wrong” thing. The point is to take action on figuring out what you want. But be sure to right down the list and post it somewhere (or in several different places) you’ll see it regularly.
2. Eliminate at least one of your commitments.
Write down another list. This one can be as long, or short, as it needs to be. Think of all the “have tos,” “shoulds,” and obligations facing you over the next week and month. Make a call, or send an email letting those involved know your schedule won’t allow you to get to whatever it is they wanted/needed.
You may disappoint someone, but aren’t you disappointing yourself if you’re always putting someone else’s needs above your own?
The important point is to remove all the “clutter” from your life. You’re trying to prioritize your new, healthy lifestyle, and you need to make room for the priorities that will change your life!
3. Simplify your to-do list.
Think of all the tasks you do in a given week. Dishes, laundry, cooking, cleaning, paying bills, and shuttling the kids to Karate lessons or dance practice. And if you work too, there’s all the repetitive tasks there too.
Well, is there anything on that list you not only don’t want to do, but you don’t have to do? Could you give the task to someone else, like one of your kids, your spouse, partner, or even barter with a friend?
Bartering is an excellent win-win scenario. For example, say your neighbor loves yard work, you could ask her to mow your yard and you’ll babysit so she and her hubby can get a date night out.
Try and keep your to-do list as short as possible, cutting out anything you can. Even if you can’t cut a lot out, choose 2 – 3 a day to focus on to help prevent overwhelm.
So what you are going to need to do is create a very short priority list and choose the three essential things that you need to do on a particular day.
It might be your exercise routine, spending time with your kids, or maybe you have a dream art project or business you’ve always wanted to pursue.
Whatever your top three priorities are for that day, plug those into your schedule, and then fill in the other things you want to accomplish, around those three priorities.
It is very easy to lose sight of the things that are most important to you day-in and day-out, if you let a lot of other things overwhelm you or work their way into your daily schedule.