If you don’t prioritise your life, someone else will

This is another post influenced by a podcast I listened to recently, so I can’t take the credit for much of the content here. However, the core message was so profound, I had to share it.

Greg McKeown is an author and podcaster. His book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less is one of the best books I’ve ever read and the core message of focusing on one task at a time and not trying to keep a number of plates spinning, whilst incredibly simple, was a real lightbulb moment for me. His podcast (The Greg McKeown Podcast) is a great listen. The episodes rarely run to more than 30 minutes (a huge plus point for me) and in them, McKeown aims to help us achieve great things without burning out.

The latest episode ( 176. Eliminate the Nonessentials (Replay) – Greg McKeown ) is a recap of one of his most popular episodes: Eliminate the Nonessentials. It contains the line which forms the title of the blog today:

If you don’t prioritise your life, someone else will…

This is backed up by a great little question in the form of an acronym from McKeown: WIN (What’s Important Now?).

The idea being that at any given point in time, we should identify the one thing we really want to do in that moment and pursue it. McKeown argues that if we don’t do that, there are plenty of other factors and people in our lives who may influence what we do, even if that alternative is not as important to us.

What I like about this is it can apply to all our everyday lives. That one important task could be something really productive or it could be something as simple as kicking back and watching TV or reading a book. The core principle is that it is within our power to do what is important to us and not let others dictate our lives to a great extent.

Of course, as I always tell my daughter, life is all about balance and compromise. If we were to do this every hour of every day, relationships would quickly suffer, so there’s clearly some skill and judgement needed to determine when it is appropriate to take control and when to fulfil our duties as a parent / spouse / son / daughter / friend. Though I believe that balance is certainly achievable and there is scope for improvement for most of us. How often in your life do you feel frustrated due to spending time on things you don’t particularly want to do? How often do you go to bed at night thinking you could have had a better day? How often do you wish you had more hours to do the things you truly want to do? This is a great way to fight back.  Determine your priorities (remember the WIN acronym). Focus on just one (the one that is most important at that given point in time). Ensure those closest to you are aware of how necessary it is for you to complete that task now. Then get to work on it. This simple approach, with just a little discipline, can reap huge rewards.

One other thing which McKeown suggest we do is to start a “said no to” list. His thinking being that if we’re going to get better at focusing on prioritising our own lives, we must get better at saying “no” to things. This certainly isn’t easy, but why do so many of us feel obliged to say “yes” to so much? If a friend or family member asks us to do something which we’re not fully onboard with, why is it so difficult to say “no”? This is something that is still a problem for me though I’m getting much better at it. If done in the correct manner, i.e. civilly and politely, there really shouldn’t be an issue in saying “no”, especially as those we’re saying it to, if they’re important enough people in our lives, should know us well enough to fully understand. Give it a try the next time you’re invited to do something you don’t particularly want to – it really is liberating once you’ve done it a few times. McKeown believes that keeping a list of all the times you do this is empowering and demonstrates just how easy it is once you’ve done it a few times.

So, to wrap up, if you feel that you don’t have the time to do everything you want to, if you feel that you’re frequently wasting time on meaningless tasks, if you go to bed at night thinking that you could have had a better day, give all this a shot. It’s simple stuff and it might just work for you…

As always, thanks for reading and take care.

Best wishes.


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