A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about what to do when you feel trapped.
In that post, I talked about the importance of having a plan to move forward.
As I mentioned in my earlier post, I’d been struggling with feeling trapped myself. I knew I had to do something to dig myself out of the hole I was in.
I needed to focus on the direction I wanted my life to go (instead of wallowing on my situation).
I decided to pick the top 5 priorities in my life and laser focus on them.
Here is how focusing on my top 5 priorities has helped me dig myself out of a hole and more importantly move my life forward in a significant way.
Let’s dive in.
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Here are my top 5 priorities.
1. Take care of my cat
2. Do a great job at work
3. Pay off debt
4. Get back into blogging
5. Improve my social life
Let’s break these down.
1. Take care of my cat
My beautiful cat is sick. He’s not just sick, he’s dying.
He was diagnosed with Stage 3 Chronic Kidney Disease in August.
Though I suspected he might have chronic kidney disease, I was heartbroken when I found out he was already at stage 3. There are only 4 stages, in case you were wondering.
The vet said he probably only has a couple of months to live. They said if he was really lucky he might get a year.
My other precious cat (who I wrote about in an earlier post) passed away from the exact same condition not even a year ago.
My heart was broken after he died. I had no intention of getting another cat because I was so devastated yet a stray cat wandered into my life (the first one was a stray as well) and won over my heart.
I don’t know how much time he has left but my priority is to make that time full of love, caring, and cuddles.
Spending quality time with him is a priority and a joy.
2. Do a great job at work
I started a 3-month temp role in October.
As a temp, you need to hit the ground running. There is always a LOT to learn in a very short period of time.
It can be exhausting, draining and challenging but also very rewarding.
It was important for me to do a great job at work and impress my managers so that hopefully my contract was extended.
3. Pay off debt
Last year I got myself into quite a bit of debt. At least by my standards. Not fun.
My credits cards were maxed out. My bank changed the terms of my home loan unexpectedly (yikes).
I was stressed and anxious every month when it came to paying off my credit cards. I felt anxious every time I paid a bill. I started to feel anxious any time I spent money.
Like I said, not fun.
4. Get back into blogging
I needed to get back blogging.
My new temp role was taking up a lot of time and more specifically all of my energy which consequently had me neglecting my blog and my wonderful readers.
I knew I had to make it a priority to get back blogging.
5. Improve my social life
I had let my social life slide.
I catch up with my best friend regularly but I had neglected quite a few of my other friends.
To be honest, money was an issue for quite a while there. I simply didn’t have the money to socialize.
I knew that I needed to focus on reconnecting with friends.
At this point, you may be thinking this is a bit of a weird/lame/odd list.
You know what – that’s perfectly okay if you don’t dig my list.
Because the first thing you need to realize with your priorities list is that’s it’s YOUR list – not anybody else’s.
It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of your list (as long as you are not purposely going out of your way to hurt other people of course).
You need your own personal priority list.
Not a list that your parents want or a list based solely on what will make your family happy (and you consequently miserable.)
This is about taking responsibility for your own life and how your life moves forward.
(As a side note, if you are feeling trapped in your life, taking responsibility for your choices and decisions is an important first step in moving forward).
The numbering of the list is also important. By numbering them, you are prioritizing them.
There is no hard and fast rule about having 5 priorities either. Three priorities might work better for you.
It just turned out that 5 worked best for me.
You might be thinking how can I manage 5 priorities all day, every day? Well, that’s a great question and the answer is simple.
Some days one priority will be the feature, other days two or three and sometimes you might hit all 5 in one day.
How many you hit each day isn’t important.
What is important is that you focus on each priority when you are in it.
In other words, when I am spending time with the cat, I am spending time with the cat – not worrying about work or thinking about paying bills.
A technique that has really helped me is blocking out particular times and focusing on a key priority for that time.
For example, the first part of my morning is devoted to my cat. It starts with head scratches and cuddles in the morning. I give him his medication, feed him, clean litters, top up water bowls and the like.
Then I grab a cup of tea and sit with him in the courtyard. This part of my day is completely dedicated to him and enjoying his company.
You could call it my meditation for the day.
This time both calms and relaxes me and helps gets me in the right mindset for the day ahead.
For the last month, I have added another routine to my morning and my time sitting in the courtyard and it has helped me immensely.
It’s a planner and journal that you write in every morning and night.
The planner focuses on the 6 high performance habits from the book – clarity, energy, necessity, productivity, influence, and courage.
It even has a section for your top 3 priorities for the day. It’s perfect for writing down which of my priorities I will be focusing on that day.
It’s a brilliant planner and I am loving using it.
Is my morning routine the most productive routine I could have – probably not as I could be ‘doing’ much more.
Is my morning routine helping me achieve my top 5 priorities and making me a happier, more peaceful person – absolutely! And that is what matters!
My next block of time is my commute to work.
I look forward to my commute because I use this time to read something motivational, inspiring and uplifting.
I read personal growth books that give me new strategies and ideas for improving my life (and things to write about on this blog, so bonus there as well). 🙂
I recently reread High Performance Habits (which as it turned out was perfect timing because it was right around the same time I purchased the planner).
Reading personal growth books in the morning puts me in a great mood, gives me a positive mindset for the day and keeps my energy levels high.
I get to work feeling pumped and ready to go.
You need to choose your reading wisely. You need to be aware of what you are consuming.
For instance, I read a brilliant finance book and it had a big impact on motivating me to pay off my credit cards. The book inspired me on a daily basis.
It’s important to point out that I don’t check social media in the morning.
I don’t want to start my day with other people’s problems, outrage or social lives.
If you are going through a bit of a rough patch, particularly if you are comparing your life to other people’s, it’s a good idea to severely limit your time on social media.
Once I’m at work, I’m lasered focused on priority 2 – do a great job at work.
I don’t send personal emails, check my phone (except on my lunch break) or let myself get distracted.
I make it all about the work. Whenever I find myself drifting off into other thoughts, I remember my priority – do a great job at work and I get myself focused back on work.
I’ll be honest with you, this wasn’t the case from day one. At first, temping was all about the money.
I wasn’t happy about having to go back to working for someone else. For a while there (before I started my priority list) I was downright depressed about it. My business had failed to make enough money and I was felt like a huge failure.
Then I realized I had to start bringing joy to my work.
It was my responsibility to accept my situation and find the joy in my work.
I was lucky in the fact that the manager I work with is fantastic. After working for some terrible managers, that was a joy right there, let me tell you!
You need to bring joy to your top 5 priorities.
Once work is done, it’s more motivational reading on the commute home. Again this is something that I look forward to and enjoy.
When I get home, I’m ready for whatever comes next.
Evenings are for whatever I want them to be. They can be based around my priorities or simply relaxing and taking some time out. This is the time where I might catch up with friends, get some blogging done, or cuddle up on the couch with my cat and watch television.
I end the night writing in my planner, reflecting on the day.
There are three mindsets that have helped me focus on my top 5 priorities.
Being in the moment is important. It’s how you get the most out of each priority.
One thing I have been working on a lot is having more self-discipline and self-mastery over my thoughts.
I don’t let my mind just wander all over the place anymore, picking up trash thoughts.
Last year I was dealing with a personal problem that caused me a lot of upset and emotional upheaval. My mind would often drift to the problem and I would be distracted, sad and upset.
I started obsessing about it.
I knew I had to do something to turn things around.
Once I started focusing on my top 5 priorities, I stopped obsessing over the problem.
The problem was still there but it wasn’t part of my top 5 priorities so I stopped fixating on it.
I’ll be honest, this wasn’t an instant process, I had to work on it. It was worth the work though as letting the issue go has had a huge positive impact on my happiness.
Whatever priority you are currently working on, be present, be in the moment and don’t be distracted by things that are not a priority.
It’s hard to focus on your important priorities if you are complaining about how much your life sucks.
If you are constantly complaining, that is where your focus ends up.
If you focus on all the things wrong with your life, you’ll have less energy to focus on the things you need to do to change your life.
Instead be grateful for what you have NOW (while working to improve your situation).
Remember how I mentioned I had to find the joy in work again. A big part of finding the joy is being grateful.
When I was struggling, I bought a gratitude journal. The journal required that I write down 3 things to be grateful for every day.
At first, I felt I was going to have a hard time finding 3 things to be grateful for every single day. I was feeling so miserable and anxious. But once I started it got easier.
Once I focused on my 5 priorities and integrated gratefulness into those priorities it was easy and even fun.
Once you get yourself in a grateful mindset, it’s easy to find things to be grateful for. It’s the opposite of a vicious circle – it’s a happiness circle instead. Actions, thoughts, and priorities link together and circle around to make you feel happier.
Probably a better heading here might be staying committed to staying motivated.
I keep myself motivated and committed by the quality of the information I consume.
It’s important to point out that it’s not just about reading how to improve your life, it’s about taking action on what you learn.
I don’t take on every single bit of advice I read in a self-help or self-improvement book, I take on specific strategies, ideas, and advice relevant to my situation and turn them into action.
I choose wisely and then follow through. Big emphasis on the follow-through part!
Here are the big ticket items I have achieved by focusing on my top 5 priorities.
- I have gotten my cat through an important procedure at the vet (plus a lot of other health issues)
- I had my work contract extended because they are impressed with my performance (Yeah!)
- I have paid off over $6k in credit card debt and am well on the way to paying off my mortgage for good (Woo hoo!)
- I have started blogging again and have set up a realistic schedule so that I can post every week and email my readers weekly while also working full-time.
- I have started seeing friends and family more often.
I can’t even tell you how great paying off my credit card debt felt, particularly after being in such a bad place
financially, not that long ago.
When I first started working, I could have easily gone on a shopping spree (because lord knows I needed a lot of things) but I focused on my priority – pay off debt – and that focus made a difference.
So here is my big question for you (and I know you saw this one coming) 🙂
What are your top 5 priorities?
Do you even know what your priorities are?
Do you feel like your priorities are all over the place and you are trying to juggle too many important things at once?
Do you feel easily distracted and frustrated that you are not seeing any progress in your life?
If you know your priorities, do you have them written down?
If not, you need to write them down right NOW.
Number them while you are at it but don’t get too precious with this part as you will be working on all of them at some stage anyway.
Writing your priorities down is important. I have mine written in my journal at home as well as in my work notebook.
I also write them down every day in my High Performance Planner which is a great reminder of what I need to focus on that particular day. Using the evening part of my planner, also means that I am reflecting on my progress, choices, and thoughts every day.
It means I don’t get to the end of a week or month and wonder where the hell the time went and what did I achieve?
If you aren’t sure what your top priorities are, it’s time to start brainstorming and make a decision on what is important to you right now.
If you are struggling in life, you need your top 5 priorities more than ever.
So what are your top five?
Now is the time to focus on your top priorities. Focus on what is important in your life right now and commit to making the most of each priority.
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