How to Define and Make Time for Your Priorities in Life

We shared 20 New Year Resolutions to set for a happier 2020. Since I wouldn’t recommend setting all 20 resolutions at once, I wanted to help you define your priorities in life so you can pick a few resolutions that will best serve you and the life you want to live.

Let’s get to it!

1. Define your core values

Why it’s important to define your core values:

“When we get in and we stumble and fall, we need our values to remind us why we went in.”

Brene Brown in Dare to Lead

If you haven’t read this book (10/10 recommend you do), let me rephrase this. Defining your core values is important because when you encounter obstacles, it’s your values that remind you of your purpose and give you a reason to push through. 

How to define your core values:

  1. Print out a list of values. You can either Google “core values list” or (if you haven’t already) you can download this FREE workbook and complete step #2
  2. Read through the list and cross out any values that don’t automatically resonate with you
  3. Group the words that are similar to each other. Then choose the word that most resonates with you in each group
  4. Pick the two you hold most important

My core values are self-fulfillment and gratitude.

Pro tip: You know that you’ve found your two core values because you’ll find that you can live out other values through the two you chose.

For example, time with loved ones is important to me and by living out my core value of gratitude, I am able to spend time with them.

2. Rank these core values

Why it’s important to rank your core values:

“If everything is a priority. Then nothing is.”

I know that narrowing down to two values was tough and both of the values you chose might feel equally important.

To make the following steps easier, it’s best if you decide which one is more important than the other. This will help you when you rank behaviors later.

How to rank these core values:

  1. Pick one of the core values (for this step, it doesn’t matter which one you choose)
  2. Describe the person you would be or the life you’d have if you lived your life according to only that core value
    • For example, if I were to live only according to my core value of personal fulfillment this is what I see:
      • I’d feel happy and driven. But I’d also feel lonely.
  3. Describe the person you would be or the life you’d have if you lived your life according to the other core value
    • For example, if I were to live only according to my core value of gratitude this is what I see:
      • I’d feel happy but also like I was living a passive life if I was just grateful for everything
  4. Compare the two outcomes by asking yourself this question
    • Was one easier to visualize than the other

Pro Tip: Be honest with yourself and try not to judge yourself.

  • For example, I rank personal fulfillment over gratitude. Even though there’s a part of me who feels self-centered and selfish when I say that, I know from experience that I cannot feel gratitude for anything unless I feel fulfilled.

3. Divide your core values into behaviors

Why it’s important to divide your core values into behaviors:

Values are principles whereas these behaviors are the areas in your life that you act on to live out your core values.

How to divide your values into behaviors:

  • Think about the behaviors or categories you need to do to live out your core values. For example, for me:
    • Personal fulfillment is lived out through self-care & personal development
    • Gratitude is lived out by giving my time, energy, & money to Spencer (boyfriend) & Jasper (fur baby), my family, and friends
  • You can refer to this blog post on 20 New Years Resolutions to set for a happier 2020 to get an idea of behaviors.

These behaviors are your priorities in life.

4. Rank these priorities

Why it’s important to rank your priorities in life

There are only 24 hours a day. At least 20 of these hours are spent eating and/or making food, commuting, working and sleeping. That only leaves (at most) 4 hours for you. This isn’t enough time to get everything done. Ranking these categories will help you determine how to spend these remaining hours doing things that will make you feel happy and fulfilled.

How to rank your life priorities

  1. Think of who or where you want to be in 1 year
  2. Write it down
  3. Rank these behaviors in order of which will get you there the quickest

Pro tip: Remember how you already ranked your core values? Use this to your advantage. For example:

In one year, I want to increase my profits so I can reach and help more recent college grads with the transition into adulthood.

  • Personal Fulfillment
    • 1. Self-care
      • If I am not well, I cannot help others
    • 2. Personal development
      • I think it’s important to always be learning and growing. Not only does this make me a better person, but this also helps me help my blog followers
  • Gratitude
    • 3. Time with Spencer
      • I’m grateful for the relationship Spencer and I have and spending time with him makes me happy
    • 4. Time with Jasper
      • He’s my fur baby. I dedicate time every day to train, brush, and play with him
    • 5. Time with family
      • Since my family members are in different states, I need to set aside time to call them at least once a week
    • 6. Time with friends
      • If it came down to spending time with my friends vs calling my family, for the most part, know I’d feel happier after a phone call with my family

5. Record how you spend your time

Why it’s important to audit your time

If you feel unhappy with how you are spending your time, chances are that it’s because you aren’t spending your time according to your true priorities in life.

Spending a week recording how I spent my time helped me realize how much time I spent:

  • At work and commuting to work
    • As a result, I started to be a little bit more forgiving with myself about feeling tired and burnt out
  • Watching TV
    • So I realized that I actually do have time to fit in my priorities in life
    • According to this study, the average American between the ages of 18-34 spends 24.5 hours of their week watching TV. That’s about 3.5 hours a day

How to do this

  1. Before you start a task, write both the time and the task you are doing
  2. When you finish the task, record what time it is
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 throughout the week

Pro tip: There’s no need to get very granular with what task you are doing. You can stick to general things like commuting, getting ready, working, sleeping, and cooking/eating.

priorities in life - before
Here’s an example of how you can record your time with general blocks.

6. Compare how you spend your time to your values and life priorities

Why it’s important to do this

Seeing the difference between how you actually spend your week and how you’d like to spend your time according to your values will help you come up with a new schedule.

Answer the following questions:

  • How does your actual week compare to the core values you listed
    • How does your time spent compare to how you ranked your behaviors
  • Did you fit in all of the behaviors you listed in step 3
  • Are there any behaviors you wish you spent more or less time doing

7. Plan out an ideal week

Why it’s important to do this

Planning out your ideal week according to your values will help you create a schedule that helps you live according to your priorities. It’s okay if this schedule isn’t totally realistic. We’ll go over creating a realistic schedule in the following step.

How to do this

  1. Block out time on your calendar for lifestyle needs
    • This is the time you spend sleeping, at work, commuting to work, getting ready, and cooking/eating meals
  2. Block out time on your calendar according to your values
    • This is the time you spend according to the values and life priorities you listed in the prior steps
    • First block out time for your top ranking life priority then work your way down the rankings
priorities in life - ideal
This is an example of an ideal schedule. The “Free block” in yellow is time dedicated to priorities.

8. Create a realistic schedule

Why it’s important to do this

You might realize that how you were spending your time wasn’t getting you closer to living the life you’d like to be living. Compare how you actually spent your time to your ideal week and come up with a realistic way to live according to your values.

How to do this

If the ideal week you created is realistic for you to do, then go ahead and skip to the next section! If not, don’t worry. Keep a copy of that ideal schedule as a reminder of what you are working toward.

  • Come up with a middle ground
    • Maybe your lifestyle needs take up a significant amount of time and you only have one hour a day for yourself. Create a schedule according to this
  • Slowly work up to your ideal schedule
    • As times goes on, you’ll start to see what serves you and you’ll be able to make more time for your priorities
priorities in life - real schedule
This is an example of a realistic schedule.

[Bonus] Things to remember:

As you grow, so will your priorities in life. Take the time every now and then (1-2 times a year at least) to reflect on your priorities to see if they have shifted or if you are still on track.

Here are a few things to remember:

  • Question your beliefs and habits often
    • You might see what is self-imposed or socially-driven. Then you’ll be able to decide if these beliefs and habits are serving the life you want to live
  • Be honest with yourself
  • Take action in small steps
  • Whenever you say yes to something, you are saying no to everything else

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