Changing Up Your Priorities

violets-susanWe all have our own secret sauce to getting the most out of our day and ways to avoid losing precious time when we are under serious pressure to get important work done.  I can’t count the number of times I have picked up the phone in my office pretending that I was just about to make a call to redirect the “gabber” to someone else’s office.  Whew!  My bookshelf is peppered with time management books that cover everything from project planning to building highly productive teams.  While I have found them to be helpful, none of them looked at ways to achieve productivity at work WHILE leading a happy and fulfilled home life. I will be sharing my own secret formula to “work and life” balance in upcoming blogs.  For now, I’d like to start on this topic by sharing how my own work life priority shift happened.  Thank you for reading on…

Early in my career, I almost never left work without getting everything on my MVP list (most valuable priorities) done.  I rarely missed a meeting and business travel was never a problem.  It took alot of dedication and long work days to build a reputation as someone who could problem solve and really get things done.  Very nice.  Fast forward to getting married and raising two children.  My career outlook changed as I welcomed in a completely new set of priorities.  The transition wasn’t easy. I had to develop a whole new strategy to still deliver on the job, but not at the expense of what I valued the most, my family.

changed prioritiesHere’s how the priority shift happened for me. I was working for a company with manufacturing facilities all over the world.  I was successfully building a global brand for the largest filtration company in the world. The position was high-profile and cut into almost every aspect of the company’s core business areas.  I had to make quarterly trips to Europe, often heading from London Heathrow right into a meeting where I was the starting presenter.  I mean no offense, but despite my red-eye travel, my suit was still more pressed than any of my Euro friends.  Europeans love to wear linen suits.  Need I say more? Anyway, one night I flew back home into LaGuardia and headed to my parents house.  I was truly blessed to have their help in taking care of my son who was only 2 months old.  Maternity leave was a bittersweet 6 weeks.  On this particular evening, my husband got stuck on his job and I agreed to pick my two-year old son up at grandpa’s house with the help of the company car service.  It was 10:00 pm when I got there and as always, my parents were waiting for me at the door with nothing but love and support.  After giving them plenty of hugs and picking up my little one in a rushed manner to get home, my father whispered to me and said, “sweetheart…do you really need to do all this?” His words didn’t register at first but they did sink in on the drive home.  He raised the question I had been asking for some time.  Yes, I did need to work and liked what I did, but I didn’t exactly need to be flying around the world homesick.  I made a promise to myself that night that I would change things.  And, I did.  I started to look at ways to fit work around what was most important to me. Instead of looking to yield the company a high margin on brand, I wanted a high margin on life.  I did a full overhaul on everything I did right from the minute my alarm went off. I inventoried where I was spending all of my time, what was getting done, what I was missing, what time intervals offered flexibility to free up time to do something else.  Did I need to be at work at 8? No, not really.  Then, I wrote down all my priorities (years later these became my guiding principles) and I started to figure out how I could work everything else around them.  I love charts and like to see things visually. Wherever I had pockets of time, I filled in the space with something I loved doing, but in a purposeful way.  Blocks of time became my reading time, my praying time, my sunday family dinner time etc.  I forced fit other things I wanted to do which meant cutting back on other areas.  When my priority list had a set place on my calendar, I put my new approach to managing priorities to work.

The result?  A much happier and healthier me.  Once I started to gain more time by moving things around, cutting out the unnecessary and setting boundaries at work, I  became happier because I no longer had the feeling of “wishing” for the time to do x or y.  Even if I had only 5 minutes for one of my priorities, I still did it. What I found amazing is believing at one time, that there was no time to squeeze in anything else.  But then, the magic question was asked…did I really need to be doing all of that?  Nope, not really.  Once I realized that, my priority shift was well underway and I have cultivated a great way to balance happiness and home, with work.

Hey, thanks for reading.  I hope you come back again and maybe offer a comment or two about your priority shift.  Best

My Happiness Principles

Beautiful Picture of Denali National Park in autumn, Alaska, USA, North America

Beautiful Picture of Denali National Park in autumn, Alaska, USA, North America

I have read many books on the subject of happiness.  They cover a wide range of factors that can either enhance or diminish living a happy life.  So many things contribute to our happiness like our home, job and relationships.  What I have found common to all of them is the development of guiding “happiness” principles.  I have always set personal priorities that have helped me to stay close to the things I know make me happy and avoid the things that drain my mental and physical energy.  Year to year, they have not changed, though some new ones have been added to my commandment list.  Depending on life’s activity, some commandments became more important than others.  For example, if I’ve been putting in long hours at work during one week, then my principle of getting enough rest becomes the focus for the following week.  God, my family and faith have never moved from my most important guiding principles.

These are my personal happiness principles.  You probably have your own.  Write them down.  Our wonderful founding father Benjamin Franklin developed his 13 virtues that helped him lead a happier life.  He went as far as creating a chart to track how well he was living up to them.  I don’t think we need to do as Ben did, but I do think having them visible so that you can check in and look for the things that may be weighing you down or lifting you up is a good thing.

My personal commandments:

  • God First
  • My husband, children and family matter the most
  • Be real, be authentic, Be me
  • Organization is a must
  • Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and the ones you love
  • Work hard; Get Rest
  • Stay within your means
  • Music is key
  • Keep moving, Keep up
  • Learn something new everyday, read read read
  • Pray all the time
  • Stay modern, stay hip, stay fit
  • Reinvent yourself as often as you need to
  • Be generous with your love and patience
  • No complaining
  • Study the greats (great saints, leaders, inventors etc.)