“The life you have left is a gift. Cherish it. Enjoy it now, to the fullest. Do what matters, now.”
― Leo Babauta
What matters to you in the New Year?
What stands out as the most important thing to accomplish, focus on or plan for?
I’m not one for resolutions. For me, resolutions come after I’ve experienced something and have learned a great lesson from that experience. I resolve myself to be more streamlined toward a better outcome should this particular situation rear up again. My resolution shows up in acknowledging my mistakes or missteps, in resolving myself to the new reality of what worked and didn’t work and most of all I resolve myself to the changed me that I have become because of those experiences or lessons.
For me, when the New Year comes around I like to set priorities, intentions and disciplines. I recently attended a sermon being given by a very wise pastor, someone I have become a fan of. He pointed out that although it may sound counterproductive in today’s world to put ourselves into a box or to set limits upon ourselves, that is exactly what we should consider doing. I know this isn’t what you truly want to hear but stay with me because this just might reach deep inside of you and inspire you.
As I was researching and soul searching to write this post a book appeared to me through reading another person’s blog post. I resonated so deeply with just the title of the book that I had to get a copy for myself. The book is called hand wash cold, care instructions for an ordinary life by Karen Maezen Miller. On page 122 of this very down to earth book came the point to my post for you. It combines thoughts from the incredible sermon and this incredible book:
Each of us is given one life as a great gift. The image that came to my mind as I was listening to this sermon was one of a garden and then these were the words I read, “Life is a garden, and when you do not yet see that your life is a garden you may not see your life clearly at all. You are the garden and the gardener, you reap what you sow.”
We each have whatever limits our mind sets for us as to how to manage this great gift of life however, it is up to each of us to tend to, develop and take deep care of the piece that was doled out to us within this great gift of life. “You may think to yourself that your portion of this garden is too much work to tend to; then take it step by step. You may think to yourself that you might make a mistake; then know that gardens are forgiving and will grow back.” You may think to yourself that it is too much discipline to carry; than know that if not this discipline there are many more gardens to tend.
“You make everything true by bringing it to life, so be careful what you bring. Anger kills, bitterness poisons, greed spoils, fear stunts, and inattention withers.” By neglecting our garden, by taking on more than the land can hold or yield, by not putting your full intention and discipline and priority to this gift of your garden, you can’t possibly do great things in your garden or be the great gardener you were meant to be. To be true to our miraculous abilities and gifts we must truly work in the garden or the gift of our life with priority, intention and discipline.
So I ask again, what matters to you in this New Year? What are your priorities? How do you set intentions within your garden of life so that you can accomplish what was destined for you to accomplish?
I believe that we get lost sometimes in what becomes a priority and what becomes important. Yes, what you set up as your priority becomes important however, what we make important doesn’t necessarily mean it should become or is a priority. Sometimes what we make important or for that matter urgent is really procrastination or avoidance of what we really should be making a priority or our intention or our discipline.
“We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause.”
― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles
The dictionary defines importance as the quality or state of being important; of value or significance. The dictionary defines priority as something that is more important than other things and that needs to be done first; superiority in rank, position or privilege; a preferential rating.
The things we make important can carry a heavy feeling of urgency. The things we make a priority can carry a heavy feeling of self-discipline, intention and courage.
According to the website www.differencebetween.net, “Urgent tasks have an immediate deadline although not necessarily a task that will have a significant impact on your life. Often things become urgent or an urgent situation is created when a person always knows that something had to be accomplished but kept deferring it.”
“Important tasks need not have a deadline looming over the person. The task is important because it has an impact on the person’s life. For example planning your education or career since your days in school is not something that you need to execute right now but will help you chart your life’s direction. Urgency of tasks is based on deadlines. Deciding which task is important is relative to each person’s thoughts and circumstances. Urgency of tasks is decided based on external pressures. Importance of tasks is decided on introspective thinking.”
“There are times when tasks can be urgent and important. For example keeping up with yearly doctor visits and deeper level check-ups can have a significant impact on you and your family. In keeping up with these important yearly tasks of keeping yourself healthy you can avoid the urgent need to see a doctor should something suddenly go awry because you put off your doctor visits and check-ups.”
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
― Stephen R. Covey
When a person sets his/her priorities it is equivalent to celebrating limits. Limits are helpful in creating priorities because it puts into a neat little package time, people, resources and focus. It prevents overwhelm and helps to achieve goals whether the goals be lifelong or short term. The priorities we choose to label urgent AND important are also a great step toward time management and organization.
To start your New Year off on good footing it might help to create your priority list for each month or each week or each day. Here are some helpful suggestions:
Four Square: I’ve never actually played this game but I love the concept of it for setting priorities. Divide a piece of paper into 4 squares. Label the top left square “Important and Urgent”, the top right square “Important but not urgent”, the bottom left square “Not Important but urgent” and the bottom right square “Not Important/Not Urgent”. The top 2 squares are all those tasks that are crises like deadlines, right now work that will yield punishing outcomes if not completed. The top two squares are often reserved for people such as family, volunteering and leadership activities. There will always be something that comes up unexpectedly and falls into square one or two so always be flexible enough to allow for that however square one will be more manageable if you are disciplined enough to always stay on top of what is in that square through time management and intention. The bottom 2 squares are more of the procrastination stuff like chatting, email, meetings, surfing the net, in other words all the things we allow to drag us away from what is really a priority.
The Mountain: Each night, or each new week or each new month before you close out your day sit somewhere quiet and write out all the really significant tasks that need to get done. Maybe your list will have 20 items on it. Only the 3 most significant tasks count here. The biggest, toughest, most challenging mountains to move are the most significant because it will not only impact your life but the lives of those around you. The next day look at your 3 top tasks and start with number one. Work on that number 1 until it is as complete as possible. Then move on to number 2 and so on. Once the top most significant tasks have been completed or started enough that it requires further small steps to complete then you can move on to more of those details within each task.
Getting to know YOU: Do you know when you are at your peak performance during each day? For me I know for sure that my peak concentration and self-discipline times are from 8am until around 1pm. By the time the early afternoon rolls around I am reminded that I haven’t eaten, taken a drink of water or looked up from my tasks and I feel my mind start to fall away. I make sure that my priority list of tasks each day gets done during my peak performance times. I like the feeling and satisfaction of knowing that the tough stuff is behind me early enough in my day that now there is room for miscellaneous things to happen like day dreaming, reading, and checking email.
The Payoff: Any forward movement in fulfilling your priority list of tasks is a reason to take time to celebrate every little achievement. This is up to you how you choose to reward yourself for a job well done. Having someone like a close friend, sibling or life coach in your corner to hold you accountable to your priority lists and celebrate each accomplishment with you is also a tremendous incentive to tackle your to-do’s.
I’m a bit unconventional when it comes to this New Year in how I set my priorities. I decided to set my top priorities as more of a mantra that will help guide me in the everyday tasks that need my grateful care, purposeful intention and willing discipline. I don’t mind sharing it with you:
To love and be loved, to always speak and show gratitude, kindness and integrity.
This mantra for me means saying no if a task doesn’t meet my personal expectations for what I set as my priority that day. In other words knowing my limits and disciplining myself to always strive to be and give my best, staying organized and balanced and always doing what needs to be done with enthusiasm and courage. Don’t misunderstand, I will trip up, I will abandon my disciplines from time to time but my mantra will always be right in front of me cheering me on.
“Time is our most valuable nonrenewable resource, and if we want to treat it with respect, we need to set priorities.”
― Albert-László Barabási, Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do
Call to Action
According to the social security website, www.ssa.gov the average life span of a male today is 84.3 years. If you take 24 hours/day times 356 days a year times 84.3 years that equals 738,468 hours of life. That doesn’t seem like very much time does it?
What are you doing with your hours or as I like calling them, your life minutes?
What are your priorities that lead to action that lead to intention that lead to discipline that lead to integrity that lead to what people will say about you when all is said and done?
Who do you want to be this New Year with intention and discipline and courage?