Your life will be determined by your priorities or your pressures.
The famous Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, once said, “Hurry is not ‘of the devil,’ it is the devil.” I’m not sure that he was theologically correct, but he sure was right psychologically speaking.
If you’re living an overly busy, hurried, and hectic life, you may be wasting your life. That’s not to say that your schedule isn’t filled with good and important things. But you may be letting all those “good” things crowd out better things.
What about you? Are you living your life by default, letting your pressures control your life? Or are you living your life on purpose, using your priorities to create your life?
Those questions came to mind when I was speaking in Europe recently. One of my program attendees said he recently visited his grandmother in Germany. The whole time he was there, she never sat down. She was constantly cleaning, cooking, and organizing. She had no time to relax. When he asked his grandmother why she kept up such a frantic pace, she said, “Life is short. There’s no time to waste.”
By contrast, another attendee told me about vacationing in Spain. He said he so enjoyed watching a crew transplant a tree, a task that took them three days to complete. He said the crew would dig for a little while, take a breather, sip a little wine, go back to work, and repeat the cycle. When he asked them about the leisurely way in which they approached their work, they said, “Life is short. You’ve got to slow down and enjoy every moment of it.”
Both examples may be extremes, but the one thing we all agree on is “life is short.” So you’d better be living your life by your priorities rather than your pressures.
How do you know which one is strongest in your life? Tim Connor, a gifted speaker and prolific writer, says if your primary personal relationship has suffered because of your business and busyness, then your pressures are taking precedence over your priorities.
Tim asks the following questions. If you answer “yes” to too many of these questions, it’s time to get your priorities in order and live accordingly.
1. Are you spending less time together as a couple than you did a year ago?
2. When you go out to dinner on a weeknight with your partner, do you “have to have” your pager or cell phone with you?
3. When you are running errands on a Saturday, do you check your business voice mail?
4. Are you spending less time with your children than in the past?
5. When you go on vacation, do you stay in touch with your office?
6. Would you interrupt or cancel some important personal time for a business issue of any kind?
7. Do you lack time for yourself, time to read, relax, play, travel, or engage in a hobby?
8. Do you feel like your life is out of balance?
9. Are you feeling increased stress lately?
10. Do you sometimes feel like “chucking” the whole thing and moving to Vermont, Fiji, or wherever?
They’re great questions, and I’m sure a lot of you will be rather humbled by your answers. You’ll probably feel a need to get your life and your career a little more back on track. If that describes you, let me suggest a few things you can do.
FOCUS ON BEING EFFECTIVE. It’s the best place to start. Effectiveness is all about priorities or doing the right things. It’s life management. By contrast, efficiency is all about process or doing things right. That’s time management, and time management is also important. It’s just not the place to start. I’ll write about time management in next week’s “Tuesday Tip.”
Effectiveness requires that you SET YOUR PRIORITIES. You might even want to list everything you do and everything you think is important in life. Then rank those items in order of importance — to you. Forget the Joneses. Just decide what’s important to you. And keep trimming your list until you only have those things on the list that really matter. You can’t do everything, so you’ve got to decide what things are most important to you.
Then LEARN TO SAY “NO.” You must say “no” to the bad things in life if you want the good things, and you must learn to say “no” to some good things if you want the better things in life. If you can’t say “no” or don’t say “no” to some of the demands and pressures that come your way, you don’t have any priorities.
“No” is a great word. In fact, it was probably the first word you learned to speak. Use it. It’s your life, your time, and your resources. If you keep saying “yes” out of guilt, fear, or a sense of obligation, if you don’t put limits on the use of your life, time, and resources, they will disappear. As one smart coach said, “You don’t have to swing at everything they throw at you.”
You may have to say “no” to some human vampires in your life. They’re the ones who suck the life out of you. They may be the constant whiners, complainers, and gripers who bring you down, or they may be the lazy ones who feign helplessness to get you to do their work for them. They may be coworkers or family members, and you may or may not be able to avoid them altogether. But you may decide to say “no” by limiting the time you spend with them.
I know it’s not easy to say “no.” Our culture pushes us in the opposite direction. However, if your priorities are clear, if you know what you want to say “yes” to, you’ll have the strength to say “no” when you need to.
Finally, EMBRACE QUALITY TIME. Take some time for you and you alone. You might decide to set aside fifteen minutes a day that is just for you. You send the kids to the neighbors, or close your office door, turn off the phone, and just relax, breathe, think, or dream.
That’s not a “waste” of time. In fact it’s counter productive to always be doing something. When you try to fill your time with excess activity, you will feel tense, hurried, harassed or fretful, and that’s not how it feels when you’re focused primarily on your priorities.
When you embrace quality time, you schedule time for the special things and special people in your life. And when those special times come, you focus only on them without distraction. You don’t let anything else get in the way.
You’re a smart person. So don’t let your pressures get in the way of your priorities. You’re worth more than that.
Action: List the ten things that are most important to you. Your list might include such priorities as physical health, family relationships, financial security, spiritual growth, whatever is important to you. Then list the 10 areas in life where you spend the most time. Write down an estimate of how much time you spend on each area each week. For example, you may list such areas as job – 40 hours, sleep – 56 hours, commuting to work – 5 hours, golf – 4 hours, and church – 1 hour. Compare your list of priorities and your list of time consumers. There should be some compatibility between what you say is most important and where you spend the most time. The more compatibility you have, the more you live by your priorities rather than your pressures.