Self Reflection on Your Priorities

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2020 is almost over and for many of us, this means we can finally close a chapter on a very hectic year. Working from home has challenged our priorities when it comes to the work/life family balance. In these last few weeks of the year, my challenge for you (and for myself) is to set aside time for solitude and reflection. I invite you to try using the method below that I developed myself several months ago, and has helped me to sort my priorities.

Step 0: Preparing for reflection

Prepare by setting aside some time (maybe an hour or two) in your schedule for reflection. Try to find a time and place where you won’t be interrupted by co-workers, family, or even your own thoughts. If you have a long list of things to do, or a project that is nagging at you in the back of your mind, finish those things first before attempting to begin your self-reflection. It’s easy for unfinished, small tasks to affect the sorting of your larger priorities.

Turn off your phone and silence other digital distractions.

Get comfortable. Brew some coffee (or tea) and maybe turn on some music. Whatever helps to take your mind off of the current daily schedule.

Spend 20-30 minutes in solitude and allow yourself to think through whatever comes to mind.

Once you’re ready to begin the exercise, grab a pencil and some paper.

Step 1: List your life items

This part of the exercise is intended to get all of your thoughts (life items) on paper. Give yourself no less than 30 minutes for this step.

Write down any/all of your responsibilities, interests, future goals, relationships, people you know/want to know better, hobbies, favorite forms of entertainment (TV shows, music, books), etc. Include systems you currently use, or would like to use, at work. List your financial responsibilities, or savings goals.

You can also list categorical items (i.e. work, school, family) and specific items (your family members, certain taskers/to-do’s, assignments).

Sit with your list for a few minutes once you’re done, then add anything else that comes to mind.

Step 2: Categorize your life items

Now that you have your thoughts, priorities, goals, etc. on paper, it’s time to categorize some of them. Find a unifying theme or title you can ascribe to each item. If you discover that you have a few items remaining outside of your categories, that’s ok. The purpose of this part of the exercise is to identify the core priorities in your life. You might be surprised to see which category contains the most items – or even the categories themselves.

Step 3: Sort your life items

Grab a new, blank piece of paper. Write three headings titled: Must Do, Should Do, and Could Do. Sort your categories and/or items from Step 1 & 2 under each of the headings.

  • Must Do’s are life items that need immediate, daily attention. If these things & people don’t get attention, there will be negative repercussions (i.e. your family, certain responsibilities at work, maybe your faith).
  • Should Do’s are life items that deserve attention if time permits. These may be optional responsibilities like going above/beyond the bare minimum at work – or extra time spent with family.
  • Could Do’s are life items that don’t fall into either category above.
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If you’re honest with yourself in this last part of the exercise, you might find the results challenging to accept. I found that many of the things I was filling my day with were things I could do – and many of the things I should/must dowere being neglected. In order to incorporate true change as a response to reflection, we must be willing to accept a growth mindset.

Final Thoughts

After running through this exercise, spend some time answering the following questions:

Am I content with the way things are sorted across the must/should/could do categories? If not, what steps am I willing to take in order to implement change?

Who can I use as an outside perspective resource to help me think through my life items?

What are some other ways I can spend time in reflecting on 2020, and looking ahead to 2021? (Hint, head over to Capt McKeown’s blog post!)

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