Friday, January 2, 2009

Setting Priorities

The beginning of a New Year presents me with a calendar free from entries. It is the perfect opportunity to put my new positive resolution into practice. My mind is filled with all that I want to accomplish. This is a good thing, but it can also spell trouble if I don't work hard to prioritize.

There are so many avenues I can travel. My work is the first topic to tackle, I think. Deciding what my writing goals will be for the year brings to mind so many story ideas, lists of agents and editors to query, research to pursue about certain topics, organizational thoughts about the set-up of my study, my files, my computer, how to hit my financial targets to help our budget, etc., etc., etc.

Family and friends are leading concerns as well; making sure the important people in my life are not ignored while I'm busy working away. I want more personal contact, not just quick e-mails to stay in touch. I want to write letters, make social phone calls regularly, entertain friends, and schedule more family get-togethers and outings. There are also lesson plans to prepare for the English class I teach my two oldest grandsons.

Still settling into a home adds desire to decorate and organize our new abode and becomes part of the path of priorities. There are paint chips to be sorted through, closets to arrange properly, and, even in the midst of winter, I'm thinking about the flowers I want to plant.

Taking trips is never far from my mind. Plans to introduce my grandsons to new places, to have getaway weekends with my husband, to explore new and exotic locales, and visit familiar ones. Naturally, in tough times, travel seems unlikely, but it doesn't stop me from wanting to find a way to make it happen.

So, obviously, coming up with ways to stay busy in 2009 is not my problem. All I've mentioned are noble pursuits and important to me. They all seem to fit my "stay positive" theme, too, so how do I put it all in perspective without stressing myself to the max?

This dilemma seems to be one our entire society struggles with today. Multi-tasking is a word heard frequently, and one I abhor (and really don't think our brains are capable of handling anyway). I refuse to be goaded into believing that, in order to accomplish the things I have outlined, I must be in a constant state of movement, dealing with three tasks simultaneously, sleep-deprived, and unable to enjoy my life.

I think the solution to prioritizing is not to let every task, dream or obligation become a jumble of stress-related guilts. The trick (if I can use that word) to having it all is to arrange the hours I'm given one day at a time. Before the routine of the morning takes over, I take a few quiet moments to think about what I can accomplish before I know I must sleep and renew. Making a written list prompts me to keep on target, and I never put more on it than I can finish without stressing. I make sure to leave time for a walk, a quiet read, or time with loved ones. Knowing that I can effectively execute quite a bit in one day, while enjoying what I'm doing is the key. Realistic time blocks for each task, added up, show me how much time I really do have.

For all you naysayers reading this who are saying, "Oh right - can't be done!" Well, I say, "try it. What have you got to lose?" I just know that, when I have a daily plan, I end my day relaxed, and satisfied that I've completed the items on my list. Now, I don't claim this is a foolproof strategy. There will be interruptions to your daily list that require attention. But my previous experience, when I would scurry from one thing to another in random fashion, had me ending my day with laments about what I didn't get done, exhausted and not even sure why. So, on my "think positive" road, there's only one way to go.

Got to go now and make my list for today.

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