In Stephen R Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People he says:
‘The Key is not to prioritise what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities’
It’s a subtle difference and totally recognisable to most people I am thinking. We are all very good at making the very lame excuse, ‘I just don’t have time’ when someone suggests a change to our current lifestyles or doing something that pleases us. It’s strange how we do actually find the time for what we enjoy, when we really get bitten by the bug – talk to any golfer!
When you become convinced of the value of something you tend to make room in your busy schedule for it – like exercise for example. I know I have slots waiting to be filled by running, but can I make a start? Er no! It’s got nothing to do with finding time; I choose to squander it being ineffective, sometimes we just have to put one foot in front of the other and start moving.
In the last week or so I have been totally immersed in freelance writing – earning a living is a priority for most people but it does feel as if things fall apart when I cease to prioritise the creative aspects of life and everything appears rather empty – like looking out onto a desert. Yes, I know a desert has the appearance of being empty and is in fact teeming with life. You can make up the meaning of that for yourself! But I liked the metaphor, give me a break!
We all have different priorities and I am dealing purely with creative ones. If you like to paint, then do it, if you enjoy singing then find time for it, if you need to write, then write. When we deny the things that are central to our inner being then we run into trouble and I am convinced our mental health suffers. You can fill your day with ‘stuff’ to block out the need to be creative but when ‘stuff’ is over you will be left with a hollow sense that an opportunity has been missed yet again.
I am not talking about recklessness, in fact it has absolutely nothing to do with being reckless, it’s about ensuring one’s priorities are scheduled and that may actually require a re-assessment of what we are doing with our lives. It’s very easy to be sucked into time-filling activities. If these are not punctuated with something more fulfilling, then we find even the ‘other things’ lack lustre and we struggle to remain buoyant.
I am struggling with the work I am doing, my artist within keeps whinging and doesn’t want to sit down like an adult and be chained to the computer. I can hear the plaintive cries as I write this, ‘I want to paint, I want some fun!’
So it’s worth listing your top five priorities – maybe you have always imagined writing or painting on a creative retreat, or taking a walking holiday. When you have written your priorities study them. Stephen Covey suggests you delegate aspects to ‘qualified others’ which might free you to concentrate on moving forward with your creativity. Apparently he believes, ‘Effectively delegating to others is perhaps the single most powerful high leverage activity there is.’
So, you need time to complete a short story, a novel, a translation? What if you gave over responsibility for meals, cleaning, laundry, shopping to someone else? What if you booked in at the writing retreat Portugal and enjoyed a week of sunshine and the freedom to think, ponder, write, create, achieve. How terrible would that be I wonder?
It’s something to think about and I certainly will be doing my best today to schedule my priorities. Writing this was one of them and see…it’s complete!