There are only so many hours in the day. Are you making them count?
Between the demands of work, family, and friends, it can be easy to lose yourself in the depths of your to-do list and emerge at the end of the day — or even the work week — realizing that you haven’t spent any time doing things that actually matter to *you*. You’ve lost your own priorities in the priorities of others.
The first step in shifting that dynamic is to take some time to understand what your current priorities are and then identify how you might want them to change.
To start, take a look at the last month in your planner, daily task pad, or notebook where you write down your to-do list and get a sense for how and where you have invested your energy. Try to identify where you have spent the most time. Ask yourself:
- How do I feel about what I have achieved recently?
- What is my stress level like?
- What has felt balanced? What didn’t?
- Were there tasks that I made a priority that maybe didn’t need to be?
- How susceptible to outside input/pressure are my priorities?
Another great way to get started is by using the Ink+Volt Priority Pad. This notepad helps you categorize all your responsibilities into four different categories, so you can see whether you’re devoting your time to truly meaningful work or spending most of it on fire drills and last-minute favors.
Creating a list like this can be helpful in identifying where the imbalance in your life lies. Is it that your boss calls you after work hours multiple times a week with “urgent” requests? Is it that you’re spending an unreasonable amount of time watching Netflix instead of working on something that’s really meaningful to you? Or is it that you’re prioritizing your friends’ needs and demands over your own?
Once you’ve identified the things that you may be prioritizing a little too high, you can move on to the important work: Re-prioritizing your life to ensure that you are making time for things that are important, meaningful, and bring you joy.
Today, we’re sharing five habits that you should make priorities for a happier, healthier, more mindful life.
1. Practicing gratitude
If 2020 has you feeling anxious and stressed, prioritizing a gratitude practice is the cure.
Practicing gratitude has been scientifically proven to make you happier. The simple act of writing down the things, people, and events that you’re thankful for can ease anxiety, lead to more restful sleep, lower your blood pressure and strengthen your immune system, and help you feel less lonely and isolated.
If you’re just starting out, try carving out just 10 to 15 minutes at the end of the day to sit down with a notebook and make a list of everything that you are grateful for from the day. The work you accomplished, the smell of your morning coffee, the kind text from a friend — all of it. Prioritizing these 10 minutes of gratitude journaling can truly transform your perspective.
If you want to deepen your practice, we have more prompts here and here. The Ink+Volt Gratitude Journal is also a great place to start — it’s filled with 60 blank entries for your daily gratitude journaling plus 10 weekly challenges to help you focus your practice.
2. Planning your week in advance
The key to success is a good plan.
When you prioritize setting aside time to plan your week in advance, you are prioritizing making real progress on the goals that matter most to you.
Whether you’re sitting down on Sunday afternoon or Monday morning with your cup of coffee, start by looking at your week holistically. What are your non-negotiables? The deadlines, obligations, and important dates you can’t miss. Then ask yourself: What would it look like if this week went perfectly? Next it’s time to get down to brass tacks: What tasks or projects do you need to complete? And which days will be ideal to get that work done?
Now, prioritizing your plan doesn’t mean that it’s immutable. Flexibility is key, and though it might not seem like it at first, having a plan in place can give you the confidence you need to make adjustments on the fly. If a last-minute request comes up at work, you can quickly and easily glance at your week’s plan and identify where you can make up the lost time and which priorities you can rearrange.
3. Creating regular reflection periods
You can’t adjust your course if you don’t have a good sense for where you’ve been.
Prioritizing setting aside time on a regular basis — maybe every month, or even every week — to reflect on your wins, stumbles, and progress is crucial to your success. Not only does it give you the opportunity to celebrate your wins, but it also allows you to identify lessons you’ve learned or any changes you may need to make going forward to make sure you’re making progress on the things that matter most. That’s why it’s a beloved section in our best-selling goal planners.
When you sit down to reflect, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What have I accomplished?
- What can I celebrate?
- What goals did I fall short on?
- What have I learned?
- What will I change going forward?
The Ink+Volt Reflection Pad is a great and simple way to prioritize self check-ins on a regular basis. Featuring 18 different check-ins, this pad guides you through a reflection period on everything from time management and focus to your nutrition and happiness.
4. Taking care of your body, mind, and spirit
You can’t be successful if you aren’t operating at your best, which is why making taking care of yourself a top priority is so important.
Pay attention to your body, mind, and spirit each day with a quick self-assessment. How are you feeling? What do you need? (Be sure you answer those questions without judgement — there is no right or wrong answer, there’s just *the* answer in the present moment.)
As Banksy famously said, “If you are tired, learn to rest, not to quit.”
Ensuring that you are getting enough rest, moving your body, and nourishing yourself with healthy food and enough water are going to help you perform your best every single day.
5. Nurturing a creative outlet
Tapping into your creativity isn’t just for full-time artists. Studies have shown that devoting time to a creative pursuit — no matter whether it’s writing, dancing, coloring, or something else — can have really impactful benefits like lowering anxiety and cultivating a positive mindset.
Prioritizing your creativity doesn’t have to mean you’re going to start your own Etsy shop; instead, it’s more about giving your mind the space and freedom to play and have fun. Whether that means redecorating your house, freewriting in a journal for 20 minutes, or doodling in your notebook, however you spend your creative time is completely up to you. The only thing that matters is that you are enjoying it.
Block off 30 minutes on your calendar at least once a week, and treat it just like you would any other meeting. Devote yourself entirely to the work at hand, and don’t allow any outside distractions.