So, I had a VERY different post planned for this week -- something inspiring, something goal-oriented -- to inspire you as you're making resolutions for the new year....but we all know God works in mysterious & beautiful ways. And because of that, he had a different story for me to tell today.
The past two weeks or so have been somewhat tumultuous in my heart. I had BIG dreams and even BIGGER plans for Cultivate Grace in 2017. But God flipped them upside down in the new year with just one word - PRIORITY.
What is your Priority?
It's a simple word, really. One that we usually toss around in off-hand ways: "That's just not a priority for me right now." Or we say, "Today, I'm going to prioritize my to-do list and finally get some things done."
But there's another way to use this word: to simplify our everyday decisions. Let me show you what I mean.
Here are a few easy ways you can set priorities that will make your daily life a lot easier.
Start with the big picture.
At the end of the year, my husband and I sat down to talk about our goals for the new year.
We discussed our plans for building a home within the next three years (!!), reading our Bible together, and taking on the Whole30 (any tips or recipes?).
As we were talking, it came crashing over me like a wave on the shore: this whole year, I have had my priorities ALL. Mixed. Up.
It's hard to say, but for the past few months, I have been putting my blog before everything else. Without even realizing, I had given blogging a higher priority than my husband, our marriage, even my own health. The realization brought me to tears, because there was so much that I couldn't take back.
I had to take a moment for a heart-check. And that's where I want you to start, too.
What is your big picture right now? If you can, sit down with your spouse, like I did, and take a few minutes to talk through these questions. If you can't, just grab a journal or the closest piece of paper and start writing:
- How are you?
- How are you, really?
- What have you spent most of your time doing the past year?
- How would you like to be spending your time this year?
- Name the one part of your life that brings you the most joy.
- What area of your life would you most like to improve?
Hooray!! You did it! Trust me, that was the hardest part. Being open and honest about your life and what's on your heart, even just on paper, can feel really vulnerable. Now you're ready for step two.
Define what matters most.
After answering these questions for myself, I learned a few things really quickly. First, I was really overwhelmed by the pressure of building a blog & business so quickly. Second, I had spent nearly all of my time on it last year. Third, there were many, many areas of my life that were important to me besides blogging!
My intentions for my blog had been good - I desperately wanted to contribute more to our financial future (like building our new house). But, in so many ways, I was missing out on what matters most...
What is most important to you? If you're having a hard time picking just one thing, go back to your answer to question 5 from earlier. That's probably your answer here too. It was for me!
If you're wondering, my faith is what brings me the most joy. Truly! Even though I'm happily married and I really love my family, my greatest joy is my relationship with God. I love what I am learning from the Bible, keeping a prayer journal, and reading devotionals that help me grow in my walk with Christ.
But all too often, we neglect what really matters most to us because of a looming to-do list in front of us, or because of the ticking clock shouting that we're late for yet another commitment.
I'll be the first to admit that I've fallen behind on my Bible reading plan (I still haven't finished a plan in a year!) because I was so tired from full day and just wanted to go to sleep.
Instead of feeling guilty, though, let's start by naming exactly what it is that matters most.
Give yourself grace right now, and fill in the blank:
What matters most to me is... ________________________
Yes! That's perfect. Believe it or not, you're already well on your way to setting priorities that will simplify your everyday decisions.
Set priorities that simplify.
Once I realized I had my own priorities all wrong, I knew I needed to start doing things differently. But, honestly, at first I was crushed. I knew this meant taking a step back from my BIG plans for 2017, and that was so hard.
As I was working through my PowerSheets, an intentional goal-setting planner from Lara Casey (Love this gal! She's so inspiring.), I discovered that my priorities had been right in front of me this whole entire time.
Where will you focus this year? Look back through your notes from earlier, and circle or highlight what stands out to you, especially what matters most. But also look for those areas you had a hard time choosing between for your "what matters most." For example, what matters most to me is my walk with Christ. But I really did have a hard time choosing between that and my marriage.
Be sure to also think about where you would like to make improvements this year. I made notes about getting healthier this year, so that definitely gets highlighted! These are going to become your priorities, and here's how.
Now, rank the items you circled and highlighted in order of importance, from greatest to least. Take your top 3-4 and list them in BIG, BOLD letters at the bottom of your page, like this:
2) MY HEALTH
3) MY MARRIAGE
4) MY BLOG
You may not believe me when I say this, but it really is that simple. I sat stunned when I did this exercise for myself. Your priorities really have been right there in front of you all along.
Maybe they look something different than mine. That's perfectly okay! Your priorities should reflect the season of life you're in right now.
How to use your Priorities to Simplify everything
This is so exciting, because I've already seen this process working in my own life. As hard as it was to admit things needed to change, I am so glad God stepped in and turned things upside down so I could finally learn the beauty of PRIORITIES. Here's how they can help simplify your life too.
Start by writing down your new priorities and post them in a place you'll see often. We put our goals for 2017 on the fridge!
Your priorities become a filter that you run each daily decision through.
For instance, when you wake up tomorrow morning, pause for two seconds before grabbing your phone to check Facebook or email. Think of your priority list - what is the number one thing? What matters most?
Chances are, your number one priority isn't Facebook or email. Me either!! That's why I start my day with prayer, bible study, and journaling.
How do you plan your days? Let your priority list be your guide! Should you focus on work first, or go for a jog before sitting down at your desk?
Every week, I like to share a quick action step that is designed to help you simplify various aspects of your life or business. This week, you're going to set priorities that will actually make your life easier!
Your Simplicity Challenge this week is to spend 15 minutes working through the questions and steps above. Post your priorities in a place you'll see them often, and turn to them when you're overwhelmed by your to-do list or commitments. Let your priorities be a filter for your daily decisions that will simplify each one.
If you feel so led, I would love for you to share in the comments what priorities you discover.