Priorities, priorities

what are your priorities?

“Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you’re keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls…are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.”
James Patterson, Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas

As this quote so eloquently suggests, if you focus on work to the detriment of other aspects of your life – such as your close relationships or your health – you can do permanent damage.  We can pick up the rubber ball (work) any time if we drop it, but the other balls are fragile and need more care and attention.  Essentially, they are more important and this should be reflected in the priority we accord them.

Perhaps because it’s what we generally spend most time doing, work often gets top billing in our lives. Of course there will be times when we have to give work our full attention, but prioritising it over the long term will damage other aspects of our lives.

If you’re overwhelmed by work and life you may be wondering how you can possibly do everything. You can’t. This is where priorities come in.

So that you can concentrate on the precious glass balls, you will need to identify your most important work priorities so you can get these done. I know this is easier said than done, but you really can’t do everything – and the sky won’t fall in if you don’t.

Similarly, identify your key non-work priorities. The first step is to decide which parts of your life are currently most important to you – this will vary over time.  For example you may urgently need to get fitter, or you may have neglected a close relationship that now needs nurturing.  This analysis will show you which balls need the most attention. You can now focus on specific goals and identify the actions you need to take to achieve them.

Goal-setting isn’t just relevant to our work lives – it can be just as useful in our personal lives.  

The One Thing, by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, is a brilliant source of inspiration for achieving goals.  The ideas are bold but basically simple (not easy…).   At the core of the book is this question: “What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”  

By organising the key areas of our life around this question, Keller and Papasan argue, you will be “lining up your dominoes”: setting your future goal and drilling down to the one important thing you can do right now to set you on the path to achieve that “someday” goal. 

Don’t think I’m suggesting planning your life down to the last detail – perish the thought!  We need spontaneity in our lives.  

But speaking for myself, if I’m left to my own devices I have a tendency to drift.  Keller and Papasan’s ideas offer an antidote to this: a course-correcting mechanism to help me avoid dropping one of those precious glass balls.  


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