Prioritizing Your Life is a Continual Process!By: Dr. Susan C. Rempel
This week it occurred to me that I was violating one of the key themes that I so often espouse to my clients!
There I sat at my desk trying to decide whether I should work on the web site or finish an article for the newsletter. Maybe, I should review a 140 page forensic report concerning one of my clients. Then again, I just had to start working on the 90-minute lecture that I was giving to several hundred parents next Saturday. While I was at it, I should return several telephone messages. My desk was in its usual state of disarray. My cup of coffee had long since gone cold.
Then it hit me. Actually, someone hit me! My toddler ran up to my desk and grabbed my hand. He pulled hard and made a sound that translates into "Mom, letís go outside."
At that moment a little voice in my head shouted, "Priorities! What happened to your priorities?" I donít think I am wrong to assume that many of the people reading this article are like me: a "type-A" workaholic. Of course, being a workaholic has its benefits: a good income, financial security, never experiencing a dull moment, etc. Then there is the bad news: focusing exclusively on your job (or any other part of your life) leads to tunnel vision.
If you read my article: The Personal Pinnacle of Success" (www.uncommoncourtesy.com/newsletterarticle.htm) you will remember that it is important to balance your priorities between five key areas of life: work, family, community, conduct of life, and personal satisfaction. Additionally, you need to establish priorities and goals within each of these areas. Developing tunnel vision in any area limits the amount of time that you have to spend in the other four areas. It also prevents an abundance of other things. It prevents you from participating in a wide range of activities that contribute to a satisfying life. It also prevents you from experiencing the sense of peace that comes when you control your life rather than having others control it for you. Further, it prevents you from engaging in meaningful relationships with those who are important to you.
Your tunnel vision tends to become even more exaggerated when the various aspects of each area lack prioritization. My own situation was a fine example of what happens when work is not prioritized. The same principle applies to the other areas as well. Consider how overwhelmed you would feel if you tried to spend equal amounts of time volunteering at your local hospital, coaching your childís little league team, organizing a school fund-raiser, as well as meeting the responsibilities that you have to your work, family, and yourself! Most people who spread themselves too thin in community-related activities either drop out of the activities or feel guilty for not doing enough with each of them. Another example would be telling your spouse, "Honey, Iím here for you 24/7 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)." That simply is not possible! You need approximately 10 hours each day to sleep and care for yourself. During the week, you spend at least 9 hours each day working, commuting, and/or running errands. If you have children, they demand your attention each day. You might even have the audacity to allocate a brief amount of time to yourself each day, so that you can read, exercise, meditate, watch television, or surf the Internet. A much more realistic statement you could make to your spouse is that you want to spend time each day focused exclusively on him or her, and dedicate most of your weekend time to your spouse and children.
As you can imagine, all of these thoughts flashed through my mind as my child tugged at my hand. I then realized that it was a great day outside. Heck, it was Saturday! My son needed my immediate attention much more than anything that I had to work on, and I needed a break. I was out of touch with anything that was not sitting on my desk. What was the perfect solution? I whipped up a quick picnic lunch, took my son to the park, watched him play with other children, and chatted with other parents about the great park for toddlers that was being built in our community. When I returned to my desk, I prioritized what needed to be done immediately, what could wait until after the "family time" that I have with my husband and son every evening, and what could be done the next day.
The point to my story is that merely establishing priorities for your life is not enough. You must also have a clear vision of how you are living your life. Ask yourself if what you are doing at this moment is in sync with the balance that you are seeking to achieve in your life? Is any particular responsibility or relationship demanding so much of your time and energy that you ignore other important aspects of your life? You must constantly monitor your actions within each area as well. Are you feeling overwhelmed, burned-out, or angry about the amount of time that you focus on one of the key areas? If the answer is "yes," then consider it to be a symptom that you need to step back, examine your priorities, and shape your life accordingly.
© Copyright 1998 Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D.
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