This time last week, I was taking a much needed break. I cleared my schedule so I could spend time on the things that really matter to me, cleaned up my workspace, and promised myself that I would prioritize. In other words, I had all the right intentions, but by the end of the week, I was still burnt out. Why? Because of that one word: prioritize.
My experience in the coaching industry has shown me that the word prioritize gets thrown around all the time. We prioritize our work, ourselves, our family, our mental health. We make a list of priorities–the things we really care about–and promise to stick to them. But nine times out of ten, we are unable to stick to that list. And that isn’t because we go back on our promises or because prioritizing is bad. It’s because we prioritize too many things at once–so many things, that the end result isn’t balance, but burnout.
I’ve been dealing with this exact scenario for months now. Every few weeks, I get overwhelmed and decide it’s finally time to prioritize. I set out to do just that, and it goes something like this: I sit down at my desk, make a list of everything I want to do, and then slap the label “priority” on every single one of those things. I tell myself that if I call something a priority, I’ll magically find a way to make time for it. But this isn’t realistic and instead leaves me feeling even more pressure to get an unreasonable amount of things done. Sound familiar?
The truth is that simply deeming something a priority isn’t enough to actually make it one. The process must be intentional and it’s important that, when prioritizing, you pick no more than three things to focus on at any given time. Sure, there will be other tasks and projects to devote time to, but not everything has to be a priority.
So, how do you prioritize when there are a million things on your plate?
What does it mean to prioritize? And how do you do it?
Prioritizing doesn’t just mean slapping the label on every item on your to-do list. Rather, it’s an intentional process that requires reflection, consideration, and constant re-evaluation.
The first step in this process is to decide what a priority is to you. For some, a priority is something they would drop everything for, like family, an important job, or a passion. For others, a priority is a specific project or goal.
Once you’ve defined what it means to prioritize, it’s time to create a comprehensive list of all the responsibilities, projects, and important aspects of your life. This will be a long list–I know it was for me–but it’s not meant to be overwhelming. Instead, this list is a starting point, a way to zoom out before you zoom in on the things that matter most.
The next step is to choose. If you had to choose three things to dedicate all your time to, what would they be? This might feel like a big question, but keep in mind that there will always be other things in the background. All you’re doing is choosing what you care most about. For example, my priorities right now are my business, my writing, and my family. Each day, I wake up and focus on those three things. However, I’m still a student. I still spend time on homework and my thesis. I also make time for songwriting and reading. Just because I’ve chosen three priorities doesn’t mean I don’t do anything else. All it means is that those are the three things I work on first.
Now, it’s time to commit. It’s not enough to just choose your priorities. You must also schedule time for them and implement those priorities into your daily life. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be well on your way to a more productive and fulfilling life that doesn’t lead to burnout.
With Love, Cats, and Coffee 💖,
The Present Active Writer