Priorities …… Stay Sharp, Stay Focused

Priorities …… Stay Sharp, Stay Focused

I like to talk and write a lot about time. I think it’s the singular, most important thing that a person has. In a sense, it is what separates who you are from who you were; and who you are from who you will be. As a concept, it determines if you will become anything or everything you have dreamed of. It’s what separates those who are successful from those who aren’t. Having an understanding of what time actually is might be difficult. I don’t claim to understand it in its totality, but one thing I’m sure of is that it’s a resource that has to be used. It’s like money. You use money to get the things you want. You should also use time to ‘get’ the things you want.

The trouble is there are many things we want; and just like not having enough money to get all we want, we also seem to never have enough time. But for those who are result oriented and have dreams and plans for their lives, that decision on what to do with time has to be made.

So what should we do with our time? What should you do with your time? How should you spend your time? How much control do you have over what you do with time or how you spend it? There are two events that we don’t have control over; when we are born and when we die (to a large extent). The time period between those events is ‘our life’ and I say we have full control of it. We wake up each day with about 64,800 seconds ahead of us and we have to decide on what to do with all this time. That’s where prioritizing comes in. We have to do that which we feel is most important to us. In other words, you have to consciously identify what is important to you, and dedicate your time towards achieving it. It may require that you become self-centered, but remember that you came into this world alone. Maybe you are meant to ‘live’ in it alone (most likely not), but you’d surely ‘leave’ it alone. Of course, for those who you are responsible for, be responsible to them.

Next question: how do you identify those things that are important to you? Ask yourself two questions. What is it that you truly want but don’t yet have? What do you do each day to take you closer to having it?

A lot of times, we don’t tell ourselves the truth. Rather, we don’t think deeply about what it is we truly want and ask ourselves hard questions to know if we are living our lives to achieve these things. We are usually satisfied with achieving goals set for us by others. If we are not able to achieve goals we have set for ourselves, we choose to sleep over it so long as we are the only ones who know we have failed in these things. We live our lives just to be socially acceptable. We waste hours doing this daily; we waste days doing this; we waste years; we waste life; and at the end of it all, we have nothing to show for it.

If you asked yourself those questions and could not provide answers, there may be no point reading on. But I’ll suggest that you spend some more of your time getting answers to those questions. We did not come into this world to live and die, else we might as well just end it all now, but it’s important that we have a purpose, so that we don’t become a burden to others.

Personally, one thing determines the things I choose to do with time. It’s the desire to not be ordinary. I don’t want to pass through this world without being remarkable in anyway, without leaving some type strong positive impact on the world around me. Because of this desire, I have answers to the questions asked earlier, and I make sure I spend each day doing things that would help me achieve them. Anything that will not contribute to that, I don’t do, rather, I don’t plan to do. Anyone who will detract me from achieving these things, I don’t see. Life may be a bit ascetic that way, but at the end of the day, it’s all about me; or no?

So, key thing is to truly know and understand what is important to you; your priority. Without knowing this, you’d never spend your time profitably; and you’d never really achieve anything. How then do you identify what your priorities are? This doesn’t have to be a tiresome exercise. There’s a simple scientific approach to it. Our priorities are based on what our needs are. A great scientist, Abraham Maslow, categorized the different types of needs a person may have. He called it Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It’s actually a theory and it’s summed up in the picture below.

Source: Google Images

Source: Google Images

The Wi-Fi part is a new addition because a lot of people spend quite some time on their phones these days! Doing whatever it is they do on it brings them satisfaction.

Anyway, to explain the image, the different needs of a person can be categorized into 5 tiers:

  1. Physiological: breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis, excretion (I don’t understand how it is that some people love and spend a lot of time on food, sleep and social media! to each his own I guess)
  2. Safety: security of body, of employment, of resources, of morality, of the family, of health, of property
  3. Belonging: friendship, family, sexual intimacy
  4. Self-esteem: confidence, achievement, respect of others, respect by others
  5. Self-actualization: morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts

It’s a theory, and a lot of people have tried to refute it, but it makes sense to me. Our needs fall under one of the categories listed, and our lives, or times, are shaped by these needs. If you aspire towards things at the top of the pyramid but have not accomplished others below, life might be a struggle for you. But as we grow (satisfying basic needs) we should aspire towards needs stated on higher levels in the hierarchy. What a man can be, he must be. I’ll let you into why this concept is important shortly.

I know what I want to do with life. I know what it would take for me to get these things done, but I find myself veering off course sometimes; almost losing my focus. It could be because I take on too much at once or I allow external influences to distract me. It’s important to manage your attractions and avoid distractions. The company I keep plays a big role in my ability to stay focused, and for me that’s where Maslow comes in. You really don’t have to indulge everyone. Learn how to say no. Learn how to avoid spending unnecessary time with people who are not on the same level of need as you. Seek to be with people who have similar desires as you. Sometimes it’s better to be alone resting or reflecting than being with people who you can’t learn from or can’t add value to. Identify what your needs are. Identify what their needs are. If you don’t fall in the same category then you are mixing with the wrong people.

PriorityWhat we spend time on most is what our priority is. Once you know what your needs are, you’d be able to prioritize your time easily. You’d be able to stay focused on the important things. You should be able to draw up a plan each day, a schedule, to list the things you need to do that day to take you closer to your dreams. Your daily plan must be tied to achieving goals based on your needs. Be true to yourself to know what category you fall into and create a plan based on that truth.  It’s hard for me to understand how some live without having a plan for what to do daily?

Another question you should ask yourself is ‘do I get bored?’ If the answer is yes, it could mean one of two things: you don’t have any true ambition; and/or, you are lazy (?).Those with real ambition know that 24 hours just isn’t enough to attend to all the things lined up to do that day. They actually never get bored. I don’t like hearing people say they are bored. There’s just so much to do! There may not be enough time for everything, but there is ‘a time’ for everything. And it’s important that you are doing the right thing with the time you have at different stages in life.

Life is in phases; each phase prepares you for the next. If you don’t prepare for the next phase, you’d pay for it, heavily. The school phase (getting a formal or semi-formal education) prepares you for the work phase. When you are at the work phase, you have to prepare for a retirement life or a life where you are not able to perform optimally like you can now. What you choose to spend your time doing in school goes a long way to determine the quality of your life after school. True, some didn’t complete a university education and they are now one of the most successful people in the world, but think about it, they didn’t spend their time waiting for school to be over before they followed their passion. No point debating whether a university education is important or not, but, if you choose to be in school, make the time spent there count; make it worthwhile. Get the best grades you possibly can and forge out a great personality. If you are not the ‘entrepreneur’ type and you choose to be in school, it means you plan to take up employment afterwards (or do nothing with life?). So if you are in school and you don’t get great grades, how is it that you hope to get a great job? If you are in school and you don’t do what it takes to come out successful, how do you hope to be successful in the work phase? Same thing goes for the work phase, and there are different requirements for this phase, but if you don’t dedicate time to planning for when you are not physically strong, or mentally sound like you are now, how do you hope to enjoy a quality life afterwards?

Are you investing in great relationships with your family (or looking to start one)? Because, then, it’s these relationships that’ll form the highlights of your days. Do you have a plan for financial sustenance for your twilight years? Or how really do you plan to live? There are many ways to go about this. Start your business. Invest in stock. Work with a fund manager (who hopefully won’t steal your money). Save? etc.

The point to all I have mentioned is that you need to consciously and constantly prioritize what you choose to do with your time so that life doesn’t ‘happen’ to you. There really is a time for everything and there never is a time to do nothing. Know what your priorities are. Make sure your priorities are tied to an end goal. Know what your end goals are. Have a plan and make sure that all you do takes you a step closer to realizing your plan, daily.

When you wake from sleep (and you should sleep only to be rested and not because you enjoy it), think about what you want to achieve in-line with your goals. If you have a plan, get up and work it. If you don’t have a plan, don’t leave your chamber till you create one. The world needs thinkers and doers. If you choose to remain a consumer, please stay in your room.

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