No time? Listen to it instead
With all the information today, it’s challenging to make decisions. There are countless inspirational accounts on Instagram, numerous books about how to get that perfect life, and well, friends never stop giving advice, do they? After a lot of years of chasing a perfect life, I’ve realised it’s a lie. There’s no perfect life. Yet, there is a life that is perfect for you at a given point in time. All you need to do is know your priorities.
There’s a difference though. A lot of people have always told me to prioritise things. They’ll ask you to prioritise your mental health over a hangout. They’ll ask you to prioritise health over a job. Yet, even after following a lot of advice word-for-word, there looms some dissatisfaction and the fear of missing out lingers more often than not.
That’s where a simple hack comes in – the long list of priorities.
I started doing this back in 12th grade, but I never took it too seriously until the end of college. The idea is simple: have a list of priorities in a note on your phone, and make sure you can rearrange them almost instantly.
Here’s how you can make yours:
Step 1: Figure out what matters to you as it comes to your head. These are your base priorities – things that you think of first in that order.
Step 2: Remove everything that feels too stretched out, or that wasn’t an immediate thought. Anything you need to think about is not a priority but a “should”. It’s an imposition which comes from society, yourself or any other source of unrealistic expectations.
Step 3: Once you’re ready with your list, evaluate it. Look at the last three months of your life. Reorder it based on what you’ve done. The most important thing here is honesty. If you haven’t worked out a single day or committed to eating healthy, and you’ve still listed Health above Comfort, for example, interchange them immediately.
Step 4: Narrow down. Once again, look back, and look at the current month. Remove things again based on whether you ever thought about it or planned to do them in that month.
The goal isn’t creating a small list; the goal is to create an honest one.
To illustrate, here’s how my list of priorities looks currently.
- Family - Myself - Friendships - Health - Writing - Money - Career - Learning - Travel
These are not exhaustive labels, but these are how I try to categorise my life as of now.
There are no rules to how you do this beyond the main steps. There was a time when a specific person’s name entered this list too. It was right between Family and Myself. So, that meant, for every decision, the family came first, the person came second, and then it was my turn. It wasn’t the smartest idea, in hindsight.
I’ve recently done the entire exercise myself. I reordered it to switch Health and Money around. I’ve also moved Writing above Money recently after realising I value it more and often, it takes precedence over anything which could’ve made me money.
Nothing much, to be honest. This list is your only source of truth for making decisions.
Each time you face a decision, and you can’t immediately decide, you open this note on your phone. Then, you check where the decision lies as well as what’s stopping you. Once that is done, you pick whatever’s above the other.
For example, let’s assume your list looks like mine where Health is two steps above Money. Now, if I come across an excellent freelancing opportunity, this is what I’ll do: I’ll look at the list, and look at how stretched my schedule already is, and turn it down immediately.
If for some reason, the opportunity feels so lucrative that I just can’t give it up, I’ll reorder my list there and then.
Each decision after that becomes directly based on the new list. It’s a constant loop to make sure you’re not lying to yourself about what’s important.
It visualises what matters to you, and also helps you make decisions based on what matters to you.
We face countless decisions every day, and it’s too difficult to decide what’s important. It’s handy to keep an ever-iterating list of our priorities on our phones to make that decision-making instant. The trick is to make it honestly. It should be aligned with the things we value today not what we think we value today. Honesty is how we inch towards that perfect life, every day.