Five Things: How to Set Priorities When Everything Seems Like One

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by Rebecca Barnes, Publisher, Prince William Living

There’s a theory I subscribe to that we can only have up to five things at one time. At least that’s how it has worked for me. Whenever I have tried to shoot for more, something else has always suffered. And so I’ve decided to focus just on these priorities. Here’s how choosing priorities works.

“Self” Must Be Your First Priority

You are more than just important. You are the center of your own world and crucial in the worlds of the people who love you. Therefore, you, the whole person, must be first on your list of priorities. You have to invest in yourself. I call that investment the “Me Bucket.”

The Me Bucket is complicated. It not only includes physical health, but spiritual, emotional, financial and more. It takes time to learn how the Me Bucket works. But that’s part of the investment – learning about yourself and what you need to live and prosper.

Whenever I’ve tried to have six or seven things at once, I stole from myself. I emptied my Me Bucket. And as a result, my relationships suffered. My health suffered. And when that happens, everything else suffers, too – including other priorities.

Like most people, I’m guilty of stealing from this bucket because it’s the easiest to steal from. Yet it’s the most important of all the five. So when you are setting priorities, start with filling your Me Bucket.

Identifying the Four Other Top Priorities

So what are the other top things we should be focusing on? What should our priorities be, after we’ve filled the Me Bucket and know how to maintain it?

It depends. And it changes.

When your kids are young, for example, maybe they are the next bucket you need to keep full. Children demand a lot of time, energy and other resources, especially when they are little and running amok in the house. Keeping the furniture upright, the dog out of harm’s way and the refrigerator full should probably take precedence over things like weeding the garden.

But what happens when the kids get older and you have more time for weeding? After celebrating your first solo-trip to the bathroom without worrying about what’s happening in the living room, things change. The kids might still be in the top five list, but maybe you can sneak in some additional time planting flowers or planning vacations. Or sleeping. Because sometimes a little extra sleep just feels good.

Breast Cancer Is Changing My Priorities

I have always evaluated my goals on a regular basis. It’s just something I do. But after I was diagnosed with breast cancer last month, I took a hard look at what I could cut down on to make more room for dealing with this. What can I do to make sure my Me Bucket stays full, especially now that I will need an overflow of resources?

This is not an easy task for me. I’m someone who likes to do a lot of things all the time. Knowing I have to slow down means adjusting my brain first and foremost. I have to remind myself that I come first and I must resist the temptation to exhaust myself. I have to remind myself to say no when people ask me to do things that compromise my schedule, my goals, my Me Bucket. I have to plan my days carefully.

Fortunately, I have tremendous support from family, friends and the community. And I know in my heart that if I can use this experience to help others, this journey – no matter how difficult – is one worth traveling.

You might have seen me on social media, urging friends and strangers to have timely mammograms. So far, more than 100 women have scheduled theirs as a result. They are putting something back into their Me Bucket. I feel good knowing I’ve helped them do that by reminding them how important health is.

Your Homework

I’m inviting you now to fill that Me Bucket until it’s overflowing. Start with your own health. Make those doctors appointments. Get that testing done. This message is for men, too. It might not be a mammogram you need, but I’m guessing there’s at least one thing you’ve put off because something else seems to keep getting in the way. Don’t let it. This is too important.

Once you have started filling your Me Bucket, if you feel inclined, share this story. On social media, join the hashtag campaign #SaveLefty. Encourage each other to take care of self in every way necessary so we may better care for others around us. This is the way we make the world a better place. This is how we all win.



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