“If you don’t prioritize your life someone else will.”
We have all had things in our lives that have or are currently influencing our behavior. Whether it’s a person, a substance, or an activity, it’s shaping how you spend your two most precious and limited assets, your time and attention. A couple of obvious examples could be a micro-managing boss or an over-bearing partner. Their influence, can change how we act, think and feel. Then there’s the power of things like Social media, Netflix or the news that immediately start rewiring our brains and changing our moods. Even seemingly positive influences could cause us to engage in activities that are not in line with what we really want from our lives or how we would truly want to allocate our time. Spending too much time at the office (she’s a hard worker) or in the gym (he really keeps in good shape) at the expense of other activities may only be a way to fill a gap somewhere else. Far too many people are blissfully unaware of how the world around them is manipulating how they prioritize their time and attention. It requires that we stop for a while and focus our attention on what we are doing and consciously acknowledge what is happen. In practice it means stop scrolling, stop binge watching, stop filling every waking moment with some external stimulation. Must you have the TV on in the background, does the stereo always have to play while you’re driving? Do you panic if you misplace your phone? Why? What are we afraid of?
I have the opportunity to engage in conversations with people every day about personal matters that go well beyond finance. What I have come to find is that very few people can clearly state what they want in their lives and even fewer have actionable items to achieve them. Even those individuals that seemingly have their material life in order, a good family, good career, solid finances, struggle to articulating a vision for the most important aspects of their personal lives.
Not having a clear vision of what we want from our short time here can lead to wandering. Unfulfilled career aspirations, unhappy relationships or maybe just a general sense that there should be something more. It also opens the door for those other “things” like people or activities to influence our time and attention. Our brains’ react to our environment, its programed that way, we get busy with our “to do” lists. We may measure the quality of our time by how many things we checked off our list or how many new tasks were added. You know, when someone asks you how your day was and you say, “It was a crazy day” or “Sorry I didn’t get back to you, things have been crazy.” Over the years I have noticed that the people that I view as successful NEVER respond in that manor. The pattern of our lives can only follow the patterns of our thoughts and that always shows up in the patterns of our speech. Believe me, I know things do get crazy at times but when that becomes a constant knee jerk response its usually a clear indication that we are functioning unconsciously. We are spending too much time on autopilot and only reacting to what is right in front of us.
Having that vision helps create a greater sense of purpose in our actions and bring focus to our thoughts. As a result we become more efficient with our time. We become less willing to sacrifice our precious time and attention for the things that take us way from or don’t support that vision. Things like useless scrolling, needless texting and time-sucking binge watching are far less interesting. We may even discover or rediscover motivations we thought we had lost. Having a vision for your life is a way to create an improved version of YOU. And you become less vulnerable to the distractions of someone else’s priorities. No matter how much wealth you accumulate you can’t “buy time” so give your TIME ALLOCATION its due consideration. After all it is your most precious asset.