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Pick Your Priorities

Wearing too many “hats” in your daily life? Here’s how to get a handle on how you spend your time.

Chef, nurse, bookkeeper, tutor, events coordinator, chauffeur … the endless list of roles assumed on a typical day can be daunting. And this list doesn’t even cover the many other unofficial titles you may be granted at work.

The need to shift gears frequently during the course of the day can be stressful, but reorganizing your priorities can help you determine how best to streamline responsibilities. Unfortunately, this isn’t as straightforward a process as cleaning out the garage on a Saturday afternoon, but the reality is that the same “keep, toss, or donate” logic can be applied with good results. Here’s how.

Make a personal mission statement. The first challenge in redefining how you want to spend your time is determining who you want to be, and a personal mission statement can help you articulate what that should look like. Start with a simple statement like this and fill in the blanks:

“I will [ACTION] for [AUDIENCE] by [SKILLS] to [DESIRED RESULT].”

Several different things that come to mind at this stage, so write them all down and the reflect on what they have in common. See if you can boil it down to 1-2 sentences to really capture succinctly what is most important to you. Put your mission statement in a place where you’ll see it daily, like your cell phone or bathroom mirror.

Take inventory of your responsibilities. Next think about the current demands on your time and make a list of the many roles you assume every day. Jot down their associated tasks, too.

Keep what matters most. Take a closer look at your list and circle the tasks that bring you joy or contribute to your personal mission. Even if it’s not a role you find particularly enjoyable, you may find greater satisfaction in that role if you can see how it can contribute to your mission.

Donate whenever possible. What’s left? When you’re decluttering a space, you always find items with clear value, but they don’t fit into your environment. Use the same logic to identify the things that must be done that don’t necessarily fit into your mission and put a star next to them. Just like the things you set aside to take to Goodwill, you can now see more clearly exactly where you need seek help from someone else to accomplish.

Some measure of creativity may be required to find a solution, but this can be as simple as delegating family obligations, like enlisting the kids to clean the kitchen, cutting down on responsibilities through a carpool, or hiring resources to help you manage your time better, such as a meal delivery or lawn care service.

Toss the rest. It’s easy to want to throw in the towel and give up certain responsibilities when feeling overwhelmed, but by taking a rigorous inventory of your roles and comparing it to what is most important to you, this is a step you take with confidence. Make a promise to yourself to stop doing those tasks as soon as possible and cross them off your list. It’s also a good idea to plan ahead by practicing ways you can politely decline new opportunities and responsibilities that don’t fit in with your plans. Of course, when in doubt, it helps to remember that the word “No” is a complete sentence, too.

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