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Live a Life You Love: 5 Steps to Set Your Priorities Straight

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“It’s not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: what are we busy about?” ~Henry David Thoreau

About a month ago I decided to add more at-home exercise to my schedule.

Since I found out that sitting for multiple hours a day can increase our heart attack risk by fifty-four percent, I have figured out that the more movement I add to my life, the better for my longevity.

Being vital and living a long life are important to me, so making the decision to add more exercise was easy.

Yet, my plan did not work out quite well. Even though I aimed to add twenty minutes of home exercise a few days a week, I am not doing it more than once a week.

I could not help it but ask myself why I am not following through.

If there is an area in your life where you have not been following through and you are like me, then you have probably made the same mistake. You have confused the important stuff with the urgent stuff. 

You are being busy.

Countless things demand your attention, now.

  • Your phone just buzzed because you were tagged in a photo on Facebook.
  • You have a deadline at work tomorrow.
  • You must prepare lunches for your kids.
  • You must pay that bill because it’s due today.

The stuff that you devote most of your time to on a daily basis is urgent. It must be done today. You cannot postpone them for tomorrow, or at least, it feels like that.

The result? You clear out the important stuff to make time for the urgent. But you didn’t do that consciously. It just…happened.

You let the urgent stuff take control of your time and your life.

  • And you get fat.
  • Your parents complain that you are not as close.
  • Your kids are growing up—without you.

You are sensing something is wrong, but you are not sure what it is.

After all, you’ve been trying hard!

Of course you have been trying hard. The urgent stuff multiply themselves like rabbits. Or, better said, one-cell microorganisms. You kick off one and two more show up.

“Stop!”

That’s what I said to myself. It doesn’t have to be this way. There is another way to run your life—a more satisfying one.

Cleaning out some of the “urgent” stuff and making space for the “important” stuff will allow you to live a life you love, a life that is closer to your dreams.

I have used the following process in the past, and I realized it was time to use it once again. Every time I do it, it feels like spring-cleaning. I love it!

5 Steps to Set Your Priorities Straight and Live a Life You Love

1. Take a break. Think about your life. What is really important to you?

How would you like to live your life?

Would you like to be healthy and vital? Write it down.

Would you like to have more fun with your family and feel the love? Write it down.

Write down the things that are truly important to you, the things that ten years from now will make you proud.

Now is not the time to worry whether what you are writing down is feasible or not. Just write down the things that are important.

And keep in mind that if you write down ten things or more, then you are probably mixing the urgent with the important. The important cannot be more than three to five things.

2. Think about the things you are doing every day. Write them down.

For example, wake up, eat breakfast, go to work…

Highlight the tasks that you do daily that are in line with your priorities.

For example, if you walk to the bus stop, then this step helps your health (which you mentioned in step one as important). Highlight it.

Did that?

The highlighted stuff is the important stuff that you do every day. Everything else is urgent.

3. Cut down on the urgent stuff. Or, else, clear out the clutter.

Some “urgent” activities will just need to go. Maybe you can wait until later after all to check your picture on Facebook.

Some “urgent” activities will need to be delegated. Your assistant, if you have one, could actually pay that bill. Or, you could set up auto-pay with your bank, so that the system does it for you.

Some others will be better organized. You could actually make a batch of lunches every Sunday and Wednesday. This way you only have to go through this process twice, instead of five times a week.

Wonderful! Now there is some space opening up in your life!

4. Run a test week.

Now that your schedule is more open, it’s time to experience the freedom of it. Try your new life for one week. See how it works out.

Maybe you will notice that you should not have delegated some stuff, but some other stuff could actually be deleted from your life.

Try this for a week to see in practice what works for you, and then make appropriate changes.

It might take you a couple of weeks to clear the clutter from your life, testing what activities should go, stay, be delegated, or better organized, but it’s worth it!

5. Put in your life more of the important stuff.

Now that you are firmer in what goes and what stays, it’s time to start putting the important stuff in.

Go back to step one. What is it that you want? Health? Love?

Put in your schedule activities that match your priorities.

You don’t have to go over-the-top with this. For example, if you feel you still don’t have enough time to go to the gym for an hour, then don’t put that in your schedule.

Put in what you think is absolutely feasible, no matter how small or imperfect it seems.

The fact that you think you should be working out for five hours a week does not mean that you have to start doing this on Monday.

A more feasible, sustainable way is to start by doing something that is in the vicinity of where you are but in the direction of where you want to go.

For example, if twenty to thirty minutes of daily exercise is your plan to better health, but you are currently at point zero, then start with five minutes.

Five minutes is close to where you are (zero minutes) and in the direction of your dream (twenty to thirty minutes a day).

Don’t just jump to your dream right away, because sooner or later you might be finding out that you are biting off more than you can chew. And your dream will spit you out.

You will stop exercising. You will stop acting on the important. You will get discouraged. And that’s not what you are aiming for.

Change is a gradual process and that is okay. For example, exercise is something that you might want to be doing for the rest of your life. Whether you get to your dream of thirty minutes a day today, tomorrow, or one year from now, it will make no difference when you are eighty-four and still exercising.

Be patient and enjoy the journey. Be happy that you are moving closer to your dreams. Aligning your daily actions with what is truly important to you means you are becoming true to yourself and exploring more of your potential.

As for myself, I decided to do just my favorite home exercise, daily. It won’t take more than two minutes. Plus, I know that I will probably “forget to stop” when the two minutes are up.

Now it’s your turn. What urgent stuff currently takes your attention and what important stuff is now on its way back to your life?

Photo by SodanieChea

Avatar of Maria Brilaki

About Maria Brilaki

Amazon Best-selling author, Maria Brilaki, is the founder of Fitness Reloaded, where she helps people start every day feeling unstoppable. To get more tools like "The BUT Technique" and become the happiest and most successful person you know, Maria has prepared a Free Instant Happiness Course - just for Tiny Buddha readers. Click here to receive it.

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  • UpbeatBrain

    Nice thinking, Maria. I’m a HUGE fan of home exercise, maybe because I’ve worked at home for 15 years. I do get exercise outside my home, including walking, running and bike riding, but I also do at-home strength training three days a week. I also get up from my desk about every hour to stretch or even toss in a plank for a minute or so. Sometimes, I also switch to using my laptop during the day, and I put it on a counter so that I can stand up while using it. There are lots of ways to add more exercise to any day. All we have to do is think about it. Thanks for the great post!

  • http://jabjab.me/ PSF (Parvez Sheik Fareed)

    Maria-

    Nice one. I like that you suggest to run a test week because when you think of it as a test or an experiment to figure out how it will turn out, you start adapting your mind to being curious and you an embark on discovery route, taking a much more playful approach to doing things as opposed to needing to do things. Something I always have to remind myself again.

  • Buddadud

    Great thinking! Ironically made a similar decision not too long ago and have never been happier. Love it.

  • http://twitter.com/GoalsHappenHere Goals Happen Here

    What a great explanation of how to spend your time on what’s important (it reminds me a lot of Covey’s quadrants). And although this obviously wasn’t the underlying point of the article, I’ve figured out a way to stand while through emails, social media, and doing basic work — I have my laptop on the kitchen counter. It has cut my sitting time down drastically. I know there are standing desks, too, but if you don’t want to make that investment, maybe try using another surface for work.

  • http://twitter.com/FitnessReloaded Maria

    Yes, i have explored my anti-sitting options. My latest love was the Fitdesk, a bike that lets you cycle while you work on your laptop. I could spend 1 hour on that bike and I wouldn’t even realize it!

  • http://twitter.com/FitnessReloaded Maria

    Awesome! Keep it up!

  • http://twitter.com/FitnessReloaded Maria

    Yes, running a “test week” is a good one. We often fall in the trap of thinking that “this is it” about a new plan we just made… If this plan fails, we often think that “we failed” instead of thinking that it was the plan itself that was not a good fit. Knowing that we are running an experiment changes the game altogether.

  • http://twitter.com/FitnessReloaded Maria

    Working from a home office, I have become a huge fan of home exercise as well! I have my yoga mat next to my desk and never fail to use when I feel I need to stretch my back.

  • autumn

    What an articulate illustration with such perspective. I’m constantly struggling with myself to maintain things like going to the gym, eating well, and facing fears of challenge. Your article spun my perception on that in a way I hadn’t seen before. Thank you!

  • http://www.ADDandSoMuchMore.com/ Madelyn Griffith-Haynie

    Great work, Maria!

    FYI – I just linked this article as Related Content to “How to Live a Life that Doesn’t Suck” on ADDandSoMuchMore.com (more positive than it sounds!).

    I hope you’ll take the time to take a look at what I’ve put together on the topic, and I REALLY hope more than a few of my readers will jump over here to read your article as well — it adds a some new thoughts to my own post.

    I’m impressed with what you’ve put together here. Gotta’ LOVE specificity of content. Thanks!

    
~~~~~

    Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CMC, SCAC, MCC
    
- ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder -
(blogs: ADDandSoMuchMore, ADDerWorld & ethosconsultancynz – dot com)
    
”It takes a village to educate a world!”

  • Aya

    this was very needed.
    thankyou thankyou thankyou.