Time Management: Identifying What Matters Most


If you love lists, you’ll love this post.  If you hate them, keep reading anyways because this practice has been so powerful for me and for the clients I’ve worked with.

If I were to ask you, “How do you spend your time?” and then asked you, “How do you WANT to be spending your time?” Would your answers align with each other?

In a previous post, I talked about mindsets to help manage time better. Once you have your mindset right, it’s important to know WHAT to be spending your time on…because there are A LOT of options right?? When you combine a healthy mindset with your core values, you gain more momentum in living a fulfilling life.

So grab a piece of paper and let’s dive in. Life is too sacred to be spending time on things that aren’t uniquely in line with your purpose, passions, and values.

A Practice for Identifying What Matters Most

Make a list with 3 columns: 

1. What things HAVE to get done?  

Think on a scale of 1-10 (10 being someone might literally stop breathing if it doesn’t happen, 1 being ironing your fitted sheets….). This list should contain things that are about a 7 or above on that scale.  That might make you squirm, but let the 1-6’s just hang out for a while.  After creating this column, you should have about 3-5 things. If you have more than that, run it by a friend who can help you see what’s truly HAS to get done, because it’s easy to lose clarity here.

2.What things will allow me to THRIVE?  

This list is the next order of importance, because if you aren’t feeling nourished and filled up in body, mind, and spirit, everything you give and do will lack the fullness of your potential and your light.  You are oh so worth filling up and nurturing. These might include things like “take a shower, tidy the house, read, schedule time with a friend, take a walk, etc.”

3.What “OTHER” things could get done?

This is the l column where your core values get a front row seat. This list includes those 1-6’s in your life, the things that have been on your to-do list for a while, things you’d like to do, etc.  But here’s the catch….after you write the list, circle the ones that are in alignment with your core values and prioritize those over ALL the others. (If you don’t know your core values, take some time to answer the question, “At the end of my life, what will have mattered most?). It’s so important to remember that in order to do the BEST things, the ones you’re uniquely created for and passionate about, you’ll have to let go of some really GOOD things. And that is healthy and ok. If you try to do every “good” thing, you’ll miss out being fully present for the things that you are uniquely called to.

Columnist Tim Kreider wrote, “…I suppose it’s possible I’ll lie on my deathbed regretting that I didn’t work harder and say everything I had to say, but I think what I’ll really wish is that I could have one more beer with Chris, another long talk with Megan, one last good hard laugh with Boyd. Life is too short to be busy.”

Now that you have your “Have to,” “Thrive,” and “Other” list based on your values, you’re ready to take on your day with a little more clarity. Go fill the hours you’ve been given with what lights you up so you can light up your world. And at the end of the day, remember, “You’ve done enough. You have enough. You are enough.”