On top of your to-do list is...

On top of your to-do list is...

Setting priorities

On top of your to-do list is...

I call my present life as ‘the life after the brake.’ The brakes were applied in 2014 in the form of breast cancer. From the time of my diagnosis to the culmination of my treatment, I mulled over my situation. From shock to sadness to acceptance and finally, to the willingness to change myself – I have come a full circle. It was my phase of self discovery.

With the result – I found a new person within me. They say that, to change your life, you need to first change your priorities. That’s exactly what happened with me. I changed my priorities. Actually, no. I set about having priorities first!

 In my previous life (my life before breast cancer), I believed I had my priorities right. I was busy, jumping from one chore to the other and having unending to-do lists. I was leading my life fairly well — or so I thought. But I slowly came to realise that I had a list of things I wanted to do, but never got around doing, because, those were not on my priority list. With each passing day, the list had grown, and my time on the planet had been reduced by another day.

For each of us, priority places itself differently. But, as a rule of thumb, we should just stick to doing the right things that merit attention and not having alternatives. This makes for smart living. Many times, we are overwhelmed with the list of things to do – be it at work or at home. So much so that even kids lead excessively busy lives. That is when we must pause and gather our thoughts together and not let the chores stifle us. That means, we know the difference between what is urgent and what is important. What’s more, it also contributes towards a happy life because we can choose to do what we like to do, rather than what we think we should do.

To each their own

Finding my priority in life didn’t come easy. I had a year-and-a-half during my treatment to think about things in life. My biggest finding was that, if I wanted to do some thing, I could do it – if and only if I made that my priority. I spent a lot of time defining every single task of my daily life – Is it important or not? Can it wait or not? Do I feel that sense of gratification doing that task or not – so on and so forth.

Priority comes from the word ‘prior’ or ‘before something else’. The Merriam-Webster defines priority as something that merits attention before competing alternatives. So, what should be everyone’s priority in life? It is different things for different people – a walk, newspaper time, or even an exotic holiday. But, there are some things in life that should be on everyone’s list to help us lead fulfilling lives – no matter what – like health, relationships, family and contentment. These make up for our well-being. They are of paramount importance and priority lists will most likely involve at least one of the above aspects.

To find this, or a variation of this, will take a lot of self-love. I say self-love because, I could finally find the aspects of my life that were important to me – like the walk I cherish every evening – only when I looked through the prism of self-love. I began to put myself before others. I soon found out that it was okay to hire a cook, get extra help for cleaning or abandon my phone for a while. In effect, I had finally understood the difference between urgent and important.

So, find that time frame that will allow you to ponder and find the one thing that needs to be placed before everything else, because, this simple task will most likely let you breathe easy and bring in a sense of gratification.

Hierarchy & change

Once I had the list of things that mattered the most to me, I thought I was all set to lead that ‘happy and fulfilling life’. Well, quite the contrary, it has been anything but easy. As Mahatma Gandhi once said – “Action expresses priority.” So, when you have a lot of ‘urgent tasks’ on your plate, it is a constant battle to remind yourself  to pick and choose. And, while you do that, you should also remind yourself to delegate and organise them, before taking action. Priorities are what you do, and therefore, it should warrant your most precious possession – your time.

One of the many lessons you will learn in life is that your priority list is highly dynamic. It changes constantly and you have to make those choices based on what you deem important at that point in your life. Every passing day, many changes have to be effected because of changing circumstances. While accepting changes at first may be confusing, you will eventually learn to make peace with it. You will also learn that you must focus on some things long-term and on a few things that are presently in progress. And, at the top of both lists is my priority to be happy. That has changed my life in more ways than I could ever have imagined.

But yes, be warned. Priorities do change. From time to time, from place to place and from age to age. For a kid – it could be his/her Math homework, and for a mother, it could be attending to a crying baby. Knowing that the task at hand is of utmost importance and therefore giving it undivided attention makes for smart

And, the lessons?

Well, personally speaking, the lessons have been many. For one, I know that there is only one thing as priority because – that is what it means, one before the rest! So, what I pick to do should be worth my time. I have also learnt to delegate as much as I can and give myself time to accomplish what I set out to do. And, to make that work, I need tremendous focus and enthusiasm.

In the end, all I can say is that, I have started afresh. I wish I knew some things earlier, but I am glad I have a second chance to correct the wrong. To change my life, I have had to change my priorities, and that has resulted in the process of finding a new dimension of mine.

It is important to set goals and lead our lives as per those ideals because it is the astute way of living. It not only makes for a happy life; but also a fulfilling one. Most of all, don’t wait for any ‘brakes’ in life to remind you of what your priorities should be. Start thinking from today and get your list out.