With everything I have going on, my current priorities seem pretty simple.
- Spend time with my family
- Do well in school
- Don’t suck at my job
- Don’t neglect my needs (physical, mental, spiritual)
When I put them at those basic levels, that seems pretty easy.
But then reality hits and there are a million things clamoring for attention.
Textbooks. Church. Meal planning. Grocery shopping. Exercise. Work events. Community events. Date night. One-on-one with each kid. Call mom. Call grandma. Text my siblings back. Clean the house. Sleep. Study. Group projects. Family scripture study. Holidays are coming! Instagram. Program events. Friends. My daughter would love to be in dance lessons. Get the kids outside to play. Hike before it’s too snowy. Make sure kids FaceTime with out-of-state family. Blog sometime. Planning for the future. Family prayer. Doctor appointments.
It took me ten seconds to think of all that and I know there’s more.
Just over a year ago, we had one kid and I worked 20 hours a week. Easy-ish mornings and after a few hours at work, I could hang out at my kid’s amazing daycare for a while so she could play longer on the playground with her friends while I chatted with teachers and parents. Then came another baby, a move to a new state, and a new job working a little more.
My list above didn’t feel too burdensome.
A few months ago I started working full-time and went to significantly less time. We adjusted and are still working through some kinks. Then I was accepted into a graduate program, which started this week, that requires several new adjustments and kinks we don’t even know yet.
That same list feels a lot heavier now. But, those things are still good and a valuable part of life. The trick is to prioritize your time so that you can focus on the things that need to be done, try to have some room for the occasional wants, and not become a big oi’ stress ball.
While I’m not perfect in prioritizing my time, there are some ways I’m tackling it.
Decide what your priorities are for a specific time frame
Think of the time you’re trying to prioritize as a season. How long will this season be? For me, I’m breaking it down to a semester at a time because my class schedule will change at the end and will be a natural time to re-evaluate at that point.
These priorities should be your absolute most important things you want to devote time and attention for. Some priorities will likely fit under the umbrella of a bigger priority, so I choose more broad priorities like “Family Time” instead of “be home for baths” for this step.
When you’re pressed for time, you have to be selective in how you choose to spend your time. The easiest way for me to do that is to ask myself, “Does ___________ align with my priorities?” If not, then I probably won’t do it. If it does, then I ask, “Is this a good use of my limited time right now?” Or at whatever future time it is planned for.
I have a work conference coming up in October that I’ve known about since before I was accepted into my program. It’s going to be in Phoenix and I haven’t been home in over two years. I’d love to see my grandma and have her meet my baby and see my three-year-old who was under one the last time she saw her. We were planning on taking the whole family down and staying a few extra days. Going to this conference totally aligns with multiple priorities of mine. But, the timing now isn’t great. It’s the middle of my first semester, I’m in a new setting that I’m slightly freaking out about, and I have a lot of school work to keep up with. We’re still figuring it out, but it’ll probably be a no in order to save some sanity.
Set some ground rules
Just because something aligns with your priorities, doesn’t mean you should do it. We have to set up some rules for ourselves that help us say no to too much. This helps answer the “Is this the best use of my time right now” question. Depending on the person, you may have one or two of these or you may need more.
For me, there are a lot of really cool organizations to belong to in this area and a lot of great community events that I’d love to attend. But for my time frame right now, I can’t go to most of them. Once I started working full-time, I gave myself a rule that for any non-weekend evening event, if it was more than 20 minutes away then it was a definite no. Sometimes it’s hard because there are a lot of inspiring things going on, but I can’t say yes to everything at the expense of seeing my kids. This rule helps make the decision easier.
I mostly just don’t do anything on weeknights, but when something does come up that I choose to attend, I don’t feel guilty because I don’t go to ALL the things. And a guilt-free me is a happy me.
Don’t be afraid to set some firm boundaries to help you be successful!
“It takes a village” is not only about raising children. We need to be more willing to ask for and accept help. My mother-in-law offered to help me make freezer meals a few weeks ago. I told her I could take care of it and guess what? My whole list got in the way and school started and I have one freezer meal made. So when she offered again I said yes. There are so many people willing to help us and it doesn’t make us weak to accept.
I don’t love when people call me “supermom.” It’s just another way to glorify busy-ness and that’s not who I’m aiming to be. I’m busy right now so I can have more opportunity to slow down in the near future. A mom who can delegate and get help she needs so she can meet her responsibilities and have time with her family–that’s a supermom to me!
Don’t beat yourself up
Sometimes you’ll fall short. You’ll have busy weeks and won’t see your kids as much as you planned. You’ll be ticked at your spouse, wonder why you’re so snappy and realize you haven’t had a date in six months. Or you’ll decide to spend extra time with your kids, only to realize the next day that you forgot a school/work assignment you were supposed to do. It happens, we’ve all been there. Accept now that it won’t be perfect and don’t feel like a failure when it happens.
Re-evaluate as needed
You’ll re-evaluate your priorities at the end of the time frame you chose, but remember that you can do that at any time. Situations change all the time, so rather than trying to force a system designed for specific priorities, come up with a new plan that accounts for new ones.
I don’t think any of this is a genius new method for prioritizing our time, but I do think that we do ourselves a disservice when we don’t consciously think it over and create a plan. A great ship is turned about with a very small helm, right? When we understand our priorities and set ourselves up to honor them, we can accomplish much more.
How do you keep your priorities in focus?