December 2, 2010

All-Star Panel: Last Installment

Today is the final panel answer to our question of the month from one of our readers. Thanks to everyone on our All-Star Panel for their thoughtful answers! (You can read the other answers from this month here and here.) Remember to send in your questions at any time to hsimkins@gw.edu!

QUESTION:
It's so easy for me to forget what the most important things in life are. The mundane/entertaining/daily necessities tend to crowd out the investments in key relationships/spiritual necessities/deeper joys & realizations. What are some good ways to habitualize making what's most important, most important when it comes to my daily rituals and how I live my life?

ANSWER from Tiffanie Williams, a very talented LDS Therapist in the Alexandria, Virginia area:

Investing time in the most important things in life is a challenge for all of us. We often lose track of time and priorities in our struggle just to survive each day. We then find ourselves at the end of the day or week wondering how we got there and why we didn't accomplish those things that we really value. There is no perfect solution to this problem but the following are suggestions. Try out a few and find out what works for you.

First, you need to really assess what is most important to you and consider what you are willing to do/sacrifice to achieve it (i.e. get less sleep, curtail social events, decrease TV watching...). Then consider your schedule and decide where you can put the event. Typically, we know what our priorities should be we just don't know how to accomplish them.

Here are a few suggestions (in no particular order):
  • Prioritize the 'top three things' each day and focus on them first. Everything else is extra credit.
  • Cross off some time each week or a period of time each day that is your time to work on your priority list. This becomes 'sacred time' to do the priorities and nothing else gets in the way of this time.
  • Pick one or two things to work on at a time. Don't try to change everything at once. Pick something, make it a part of your routine, and then add the next thing.
  • Break things down into smaller, more manageable pieces (i.e. don't call everyone in your family, pick a different one to call each day).
  • Reinforce your progress rather than your failure.
  • Have someone that you are accountable to (God, partner, friend, parent, and co-worker...) and report progress. Accountability makes us work harder and more consistently.
  • Have a system of measurement (logs, charts, PDA) and a system of reward (i.e. If I exercise 3-5 times a week for a month, I get to buy a new outfit).
  • Combine priorities with other activities (i.e. go for a walk with friend, run errands while listening to scriptures on CD, write thank you notes while riding public transportation).
  • Hire someone to do the less essential things so that you can concentrate on the more important things.
  • Ask for help or trade services with others.
  • Build time into your day by waking up 10 minutes earlier in the morning or going to sleep 10 minutes later at night. A lot can be accomplished in 10 focused minutes.
  • Do a '10 minute cleanup' several times a day. Ask housemates/ family members to help. Several people working together for 10 minutes can accomplish a lot. This then leaves more time to focus on the more important things.
  • Consider time management strategies. Look at the time it takes to do things; assess how much time you waste and what you waste it on.
  • Deal with problems immediately. Procrastination and worry are big 'time wasters'.
  • Consider the difference between thinking and worrying. Worrying is not focused on solving the problem. Worrying is based on fear and anxiety. Thinking is based on problem solving and action.
  • Consider 'good, better and best'. How much time are you putting into good vs. best?
  • Consider the reality of 'times and seasons' and accept that you may not be able to accomplish as much during certain periods of your life.
  • Do something more today than you did last week.
Remember that increased success will come in consistency, evaluation and change. We need to re-evaluate our patterns, routines and activities to see what needs to change and then have the courage and persistence to follow through. One of my favorite sayings states that when our "patterns go too long unchecked they become our prisons." We need to be willing to look at our patterns and make changes.

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