One side effect of vague priorities is that our time actually gets diverted away from what we value into what is most demanding. The squeaky wheels in our lives are great at drowning out the quieter voices of priorities, things like self-care, quality conversations, uni-tasking, and meditation. So how can you find out where your time and attention are going? Look at your money and your calendar. Because where you spend your money and time is what you prioritize in your life.
Start with the money trail. Ignore the “4 walls” bills (any and all expenses relating to shelter and food), and focus on your truly disposable income. Are you spending $20 a week on coffee? Do you go to Target to buy detergent and end up spending $200? (Yeah, Target is one of my weaknesses too). This is not an exercise in guilt: it is an exercise in honesty. Don’t waste any of your valuable time beating yourself up! Instead, acknowledge where your money goes and examine whether that reflects your values. This doesn’t have to be a painstaking process of recording receipts either: most credit card statements will categorize your spending for you. Or if you use an online tool like Mint.com you can get lots of pretty graphs showing where your money goes.
Next, look at your calendar. Try keeping a little notebook for a few days just detailing what you’re doing each hour of the day. How much TV do you watch? How much time do you spend reading books? How much time do you spend in silence: no media, no kids, no social interactions? How much time do you spend driving? How many hours do you actually spend at work each week? Include lunch and commute time! How much sleep are you getting every night? Obviously some of these categories will be larger than others: we are designed to spend one third of our time on earth sleeping, after all! If you spend 8 hours sleeping and 10 hours at work (conservative estimate), then how do you spend the remaining 6 hours? If you’re a stay at home mom, count your time actively interacting with the kids and the house as your work.
Do a little journaling about where your time and money are going. Identify areas that you’d like to change and areas you are proud of. This is a tough exercise, but the results are invaluable.