Years ago in my search for advice and insights about setting priorities, I ran into this saying: “your calendar = your priorities”.
At the time, this was kind of a shocking statement to me. How could my calendar exactly be my priorities? My calendar was full of work meetings, kid pickups/drop-offs, the occasional parent-teacher meeting. But mostly work meetings.
Surely that’s what calendars are meant to be for, right? I mean, it’s not like I didn’t make family a priority, or my health, and entertaining friends, making a happy home! But the starkness of that statement haunted me.
Could it hold some of that elusive advice on setting priorities that I was searching for?
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Priorities, Focus, and Time.
What I came to understand through this initially shocking statement Is that our calendar shows us very plainly where we’re putting our time. And our focus is whatever we’re putting our time into. Time is finite, and thus the need to prioritize in the first place. So the calendar is a way to starkly see what we are focusing on, and thus what we’re acting out as our priorities in our day-to-day.
This reflection helped me to realize that my priorities should really show up explicitly on my calendar. If my calendar only shows meetings or events that have nothing to do with what I claim my priorities to be, then I’m not actually living my priorities.
My priority on family means that family should be counted on my calendar – I should have date nights on the calendar, I should have family time on there, I should have connection time with my kids on there.
My priority on health and exercise also should be on the calendar – do I have my workouts scheduled and mapped on my calendar? Do I have meal preparation scheduled so I can shop for healthy food, prepare healthy meals, and sit down and eat? I should. And doing so would make me think through my priorities and make sure my actions and time and focus reflect my actual priorities.
It gets to be a more natural habit as you go.
Over time (doing this now for many many years), I’ve found that I’m more natural at holding time for my priorities. Saturday mornings are family time with a leisurely breakfast. Nothing interrupts that. Friday nights after work are email shut-off time, and family dinner (usually fondue!).
You’ll find that once you capture your priorities on your calendar, over time they will just become part of your life and you won’t need to be so explicit about it. But the first step is totally to get explicit with them, put these things on your calendar. If you’re not scheduling these things, it is 100% likely that somebody or something else is going to fill that spot for you.
Try this to get your calendar to match your priorities.
So I encourage you to try this ( you can do this in 15 minutes ):
Pull up your calendar now. If you were to look at your calendar like you were your own life coach, what would you see?
Write down exactly what categories of priorities you see (work, health, family, friends, learning, traveling, …) Don’t write down what you want to see, write down what you’re actually seeing right now, before you make any changes.
Once you see what is there (and what isn’t) – decide which missing priority you want to add first. Start mapping some activities onto your calendar that ensure you focus on the priority you chose to start with.
Maybe that priority is family time. This could map to leaving work at a certain hour — put your commute on your calendar. Maybe your initial priority is health and exercise — put your gym time (and driving to/back) on your calendar. And so on.
And keep going.
After 2-3 weeks of having these priorities on your calendar, and actually spending time on them, you’ll see that it feels much more natural – they will have become a natural part of your daily life/time/focus. You’ll be ready to add another priority to your calendar. In this way, you will begin to fashion your ideal day/week/life.
I find it much more enjoyable to set priorities and plan my calendar if it also looks beautiful — if you’re the same way, and would like an amazingly beautiful calendar to keep you inspired towards your goals and priorities, check out this Inspirational Planner Bundle (aff. link) from Michelle at Elegance and Enchantment — she’s a graphic designer with an awesome bundle of beautiful calendar printables, motivational phone/tablet/desktop wallpapers, cleaning checklists, and goal planners. These will be sure to get you on the path to brilliant prioritization!