Essentialism 101: Step 2: Priorities!

Hi there! A couple of weeks ago, I introduced Essentialism 101, or my fundamental formula for the best and most sustainable method for dealing with the excess in our lives. Last post, I went into Step 1: Stop Digging! in more detail. Let’s discuss the next and probably most important part: Step 2: Priorities!

When I first started to essentialize my life and try to live life with intention, I had a very strong driver for change. I had an illness that wouldn't let me continue life on the same path. Having a reason was crucial to keep me focused and doing the work. It takes a lot of work to stop and look at your life. It's hard to make lasting changes. It can also be hard to go through your stuff. It takes time... emotions surface, emptiness reveals itself.

When I work with clients, I like to start the discussion with Why. Why do you want to change/grow/declutter? Where are you now and where do you want to be? What's truly important to you? These priorities can change over time but they are invaluable as you design your life. They provide motivation, help you examine which work is worth doing, and give a framework for both easier decision making and living with integrity, as you make sure something represents you now and isn’t just temporary or for someone else.

Decluttering or tidying alone is not enough to change your life and space. The clutter and noise will just come back. It’s important to have a framework, a list of priorities, for how to spend your time, money and space.

Sitting down and listing priorities is crucial to living an essential life. With this clarity comes more confidence that you are doing what you should be doing and are moving toward something important to you. While we probably have more priorities at a given time, I find it’s necessary to track only the top 5. Honoring this list requires that we can easily remember them all in order, and that becomes difficult once there are more than a handful.

+ Ask yourself: What is essential to me? What can’t I live without? What do I always want to say "yes" to?

+ What would I like to grow or nurture? What are my goals? Where do I want to put my energy? (If areas just need to be maintained, I move them a little lower on my list especially if I already have habits in place to do so.)

+ What do I absolutely love? What makes me excited to get up in the morning? This list should be personal, not based on expectations, other people, or what looks good.

+ Is it possible to put myself first? I try to make my first priority something about taking care of myself. I don't see this as selfish, I see it as adult. If I don’t prioritize myself, it is harder to support others.

+ Is this important now? I try to remember that this list isn’t static. While the order and limit is important, it can evolve over time. (I redo this exercise every four months as part of a Trimester Review.)

These questions might produce a lot of ideas, maybe lists, diagrams, clouds or bubbles ;). We are figuring out the Essentials so we can eliminate the rest. Select the top five and rank them. Write them down! Post them somewhere conspicuous. (I look at mine daily when I go through my to-do list in Asana as a part of my morning routine. I love starting the day focused on what’s truly important to me!)

I’ll share my current priorities later. Living mindfully around this list has become essential to me. It makes for easier decision-making, goal-planning and aligns my values and my lifestyle.

+ What about you? Do you already do something similar?

Up next, we start to sort and figure out what’s already working!