Monday, August 17, 2009

What's driving, priorities or life?

I'm not particularly old but I have lately been in a position where more and more people are asking my advice. At least, I have found this one piece of advice seems very relevant for my generation. That advice is very simple, let your priorities run your life and do not let life run your priorities. I won't make this a conversation about what are the appropriate life priorities but am willing to have that conversation with anyone who wants to know my opinion...but instead, I want to talk about keeping your priorities first and let them run your life.

How does that work? I think so much of my generation hasn't set priorities and often thinks this is something "old" people do. But flying by the seat of your pants leads to one thing, life dictating your priorities. Some examples I have seen are people claim they can't do what they want (pay off debt, go on vacation, stay at home with their child, work less hours, have family dinners, eat healthy, exercise, etc etc) because they don't have the time or money. More often than not though its a decision they make to not make the sacrifices necessary to do what they say they want to do. Yes, you may have to eat beans and rice for dinner more often to pay off debt for go on vacation. Yes, you may have to move to a smaller house than you'd like to stay at home with a child or have a less stressful job. Yes, you may have to sacrifice career advancement or even get a job that pays less to spend more time with your family. And yes, you might have to sacrifice watching TV (even DVRed TV) to get more exercise! :-)

From my limited life experience I have found that when I can follow this advice above (and I fail consistently and am far from perfect) my life goes particularly well. My children are happier, my wife is happier, my focus is better, and the results of my work are even better. When I don't follow it, there is more stress at home, more fights between my wife, less happy children, less fulfilling and rewarding times at work, and overall I fail at life.

So, how do you get started? Make a list of your priorities in life. Check them daily as to what you, in reality, made your priorities. Try your best to correct it in your current life without drastic changes. If you find something just isn't working like you can't work less for fear of getting fired and you need that drastic change...make a 2-5 year plan to change the course of your life. I am not suggesting you just quit and hope that everything will work out. But a multi year plan could include downsizing your house, paying off debt, and changing to a job that fits within your priorities. If its to get out of debt or you can't save for a vacation, check out Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University to learn how to get out of debt and live your life without debt.

And because everyone needs a plan mapped out.. :-)

Step 1: Set your priorities
e.g. God, Family, Friends, Health and Exercise, Work, Play

Step 2: Keep a log of where your time is spent and where your focus is during your "downtimes"
e.g. 60 hours of work, ate family with dinner 2 out of 7 times this week, spent 2 nights in a recreational sports league, watched 8 hours of TV

Step 3: Analyze how to reorganize your time and investments in order to meet your priorities.
e.g. 2 less nights in sports league would allow for 2 more nights at home.

Step 4: Look for hard to solve problems and decide how to approach them.
e.g. Does work each week have to be 60 hours? Can you spend less time away at work, work your email instead of watching TV, or do you need a new job?

Repeat :-)

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