Apr 212012

A few days ago it occurred to me that I was violating one of the key themes that I so often espouse to others! 

There I sat at my desk thinking I should work on one of my websites. Maybe, I should work on one of the two book projects I am developing. Then again, there were a bevy of emails I needed to respond to.  While I was at it, I should return several telephone messages. My desk was in its usual state of disarray.  My cup of coffee had long since gone cold. Then it hit me.  Actually, someone hit me!  One of my kids ran up to my desk, gave me a hug, suggested I take him on an errand, and all three of my cherubs were hoping to go out to lunch. I started to groan at the thought of losing an entire afternoon of work when a voice in my head shouted, “Priorities! What happened to your priorities?”

I don’t think I am wrong to assume that many of the people reading this article are like me: a “type-A” workaholic.  Of course, being a workaholic has its benefits: a good income, financial security, never experiencing a dull moment, etc.  Then there is the bad news: focusing exclusively on your job (or any other part of your life) leads to tunnel vision.

If you read my article: The Personal Pinnacle of Success”  (http://uncommoncourtesy.com/personal1.htm) you will remember that it is important to balance your priorities between five key areas of life: work, family, community, conduct of life, and personal satisfaction.  Additionally, you need to establish priorities and goals within each of these areas.  Developing tunnel vision in any area limits the amount of time that you have to spend in the other four areas.  It also prevents an abundance of other things.  It prevents you from participating in a wide range of activities that contribute to a satisfying life.  It also prevents you from experiencing the sense of peace that comes when you control your life rather than having others control it for you.  Further, it prevents you from engaging in meaningful relationships with those who are important to you. 

Your tunnel vision tends to become even more exaggerated when the various aspects of each area lack prioritization. My own situation was a fine example of what happens when work is not prioritized.  The same principle applies to the other areas as well.  Consider how overwhelmed you would feel if you tried to spend equal amounts of time volunteering at your local hospital, coaching your child’s little league team, organizing a school fund-raiser, working full time, as well as meeting the other responsibilities that you have to your work, family, and yourself! Most people who spread themselves too thin in community-related activities either drop out of the activities or feel guilty for not doing enough with each of them. Another example would be telling your spouse, “Honey, I’m here for you 24/7 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).”  That simply is not possible!  You need approximately 10 hours each day to sleep and care for yourself.  During the week, you spend at least 9 hours each day working, commuting, and/or running errands.  If you have children, they need, no they demand, a significant amount of your attention each day. You might even have the audacity to allocate a brief amount of time to yourself each day, so that you can read, exercise, meditate, watch television, or surf the Internet. A much more realistic statement you could make to your spouse is that you want to spend time each day focused exclusively on him or her, and dedicate most of your weekend time to your spouse and children.

As you can imagine, all of these thoughts flashed through my mind as I sat at my desk.  I then realized that it was a great day outside.  Heck, it was Saturday! My children needed my immediate attention much more than anything that I had to work on, and I needed a break. I was out of touch with anything that was not sitting on my desk.  What was the perfect solution? Two of my kids jumped in the car with me, we picked up my youngest child from dance class, and we took care of the errand as then had a nice lunch. I even spent time chatting with my husband after he returned home.  When I returned to my desk, I saw what needed to be completed immediately because I could think clearly. I had the break that I needed to see how to prioritize my workload. On that day work definitely needed to wait until after the “family time” that I needed. 

The point to my story is that merely establishing priorities for your life is not enough. You must also have a clear vision of how you are living your life. Ask yourself if what you are doing at this moment is in sync with the balance that you are seeking to achieve in your life? Is any particular responsibility or relationship demanding so much of your time and energy that you ignore other important aspects of your life? You must constantly monitor your actions within each area as well.  Are you feeling overwhelmed, burned-out, or angry about the amount of time that you focus on one of the key areas?  If the answer is “yes,” then consider it to be a symptom that you need to step back, examine your priorities, and shape your life accordingly.

Copyright © 1998 – 2012 Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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© 1998 – 2012 Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

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