Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Prioritize to Gain Clarity

I read an interesting article the other day titled, “Simplifying your Life” by Manal. Within the article was something that I thought might be of interest to my readers.

The section on “Gain Clarity” … determining what is important … was thought provoking. I performed a couple of the exercises and they were eye opening. If you find this article interesting, try a couple of the exercises.


Gain clarity

This is the first and most important step you can do for yourself: Be clear about what’s important to you. Clarity about your desires and priorities will guide you through simplifying your life and adding more meaning to your experiences. When you know what’s important to you, you’ll let go of the noise and distractions.
Picking a handful of important desires and values will make it easier to say no to everything else. You will focus on the things that matter and reduce the superfluous demands on your time and energy to the minimum.
How do you gain clarity?

The subject of clarity has been extensively covered in the self-growth (development) field. Yet, it’s one of hardest aspects of growth to actually do. It’s been a constant struggle for me. I’ve been experimenting with a combination of two tactics that are helping me tremendously in continuing to stay focused on what’s important—and keeping it simple.

The two ideas are not new. I’ve heard them recommended a few times, among other things. It’s the synergy of both that is effective in maintaining simple focus.

1- Make a list of what’s important to you
List the 3 to 5 most important values or aspects of life that matter to you most.
  • What are you craving in your life right now?
  • Do you want a meaningful connection? Do you want more love?
  • Do you want financial freedom?
  • Do you desire a healthy body?
  • Do you value creativity, peace of mind, autonomy … etc.?
Sit with it and think about it. What would bring you more peace and fulfillment? What would your ideal life look like? Write down what you really want and value. List all the things that come to your mind and heart.

2- Set your 666 priorities
No. This is not an invitation to call out the devil. It’s an exercise in helping you prioritize your needs and desires. Answer the following three questions the best way you can.

Start with the first question and give it your full time and attention. Once you’re completely done, move on to the next one.

Don’t overanalyze; just go with your gut feeling and answer based on how you feel. Answering this question will add a self-imposed sense of urgency—based on your personal values and priorities, not those of others.
  • If you had 6 months to live, what would you do in those 6 months?
  • If you only had 6 weeks to live, what would you do in those weeks?
  • What if you only had 6 days to live, what would you do?
By going through the process you will:
  • Clarify what’s important
  • Prioritize the important without stress or worry
  • Eliminate the unnecessary
Now that you have the answers, start with the shortest-term answer. What would you do if you only had 6 days to live?

A personal example from the author.
I have a lot of things I desire to do. I’ve always started with the biggest things and ignored the smaller ones that nag at the back of my head.

Turns out that the most important thing to me in the shortest term is to simplify my financial life and make it as easy as possible for my family to deal with our affairs after I’m gone. If I only had 6 days, the most important thing for me would be to clean up my financial act.

I’ve complicated things over the years. I have numerous documents, accounts, and transactions known only to me. If I depart this planet today, I’ll leave my family with a financial mess that will take them months, if not a year to untangle. So I’ve been spending the last week getting rid of the unnecessary and streamlining the process. After I strip down everything to the basics, I aim to leave a document with my will that will serve as a step-by-step guide.

My 6-day action is going to take a bit longer. I had to stop a few times for family obligations and unexpected interruptions. But that’s okay. I know where to focus and what to do. More importantly, I didn’t commit to anything new and I eliminated a lot of smaller things that didn’t matter.

Once I’m done with cleaning up my financial records, I’ll have a look at my answers and determine what I’d want to do in the next 6 days. The next thing will be from the 6 weeks list. I’ll pick one item at a time and work with it—no excuses or distractions.

When you’re focused on a single important action with an added sense of urgency, you’ll be able to eliminate the excess without hesitation. And this is the core of simplicity.

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