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Monday, March 13, 2017

How to Discover and Set Your Priorities

In my last article (click here to read), I discussed the issue of shifting priorities in the context of parents' struggles to find time to practice with their children. I related two stories of building a foundation on shifting sand or rock. Here are some questions to help parents uncover and focus their priorities and attention.

Four Questions to Discover and Set Your Priorities

Here are four questions to discover where your treasure is and to set your priorities:

1. Where do you spend your time?

In order to find out where your treasure is, you need only look at where you spend your time. Fill out an activity log or hourly calendar this week with every activity that you do, including work, driving time, sleeping, and watching TV. Do this for one week and you will most likely be amazed at what you discover. Of course, what you choose to do about your discovery will also be interesting. Are there pockets of time that are wasted? Do some activities drain your time? Where could you yield more satisfactory results with your time?

2. What do you want to accomplish?

Do you know what you want to accomplish? Do you have a set of goals or even one thing that you want to see happen this year, this semester, this season, this month, this week, or even today? I usually have a few goals floating around each year. I have them written down. Sometimes I go through periods when I refer to them often or on a daily basis, but I find that once I have written my goals down, I usually remember them. There have been several instances when I wrote a list of goals and forgot about them only to rediscover my list later and realize that I had accomplished everything on the list. I believe that writing down your list of goals is the key to accomplishing them. (Here is an article about my 90-day goal setting approach).

The purpose of having a list of goals or any goal is that you will be more in control of how you spend your time. You will be more aware of when others take you away from your goal path and when and what activities drink up the time you could spend on your goal plan. Think about what you want to accomplish.

I have three scheduling tools, and they each serve specific purposes:
  • iPhone: this digital tool allows me to check my schedule at all times and far into the future, and I can share it with others.
  • Planner: I keep my appointments here with occasional note reminders of important items that have a time specific aspect to them. This tool serves two purposes for me: (1) I get a “global” view of the week to come, and (2) I can quickly see where I have pockets of available time to accomplish things related to my goals.
  • Bullet journal: this is my weekly and daily schedule plan and my working tool. In this tool (Leuchtturm 1917 dotted medium), I design my week and my days to come. I identify my top goals for the week, and I use this tool to capture stray thoughts, notes, reminders, and other useful information. Because I refer to this particular tool often every day, I stay on top of all my priorities and goals for the day and the week. This tool is a great way to keep track of many different things. There is an entire community of avid bullet journal users to draw ideas and inspiration from. For more information about how I use a bullet journal, here are some previous articles and podcast episodes:

3. How will you reach your goal?

Do you have a plan? Having a list of goals is a great step, but developing a plan to reach those goals is an even stronger step. Figure out what steps need to be taken and in what order. I currently use my bullet journal to work through ideas and steps for a project, and I have also used a project notebook to jot down ideas related to my goals, but any notebook, sketchpad, or legal pad would do. I devote a page of the notebook for each project idea I might consider. Then I pull out one project sheet at a time and carry it around with me. I jot additional ideas down on my project sheet, and sometimes I turn them into lists of action items. Here is an article I wrote recently to outline my use of the 90-day square to accomplish my goals and projects over a 90-day period and to provide more balance in the major areas of my life: There Comes a Journey.

4. How Can You Get Started?

Remember the Nike slogan, “Just Do It!” This is the best advice I can ever give to any parent or student. My other favorite unspoken part of the slogan is, “stop whining,” or as I like to tell my university students, “stop why-ning” (Why do I have to play scales? Why do I have to go to this concert? Why? Why? Why?). Yup, stop the "why-ning" and just get started! The time it takes to think of creative excuses is time that you could use for something more productive, like practicing with your child!

I hope that my readers will take some time this week to consider where their hearts truly are and what treasure they seek to find. Are your priorities built on rock or sand?

Until next time,

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----


© 2017 by Paula E. Bird



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