We are all so busy. If your husband is a doctor or a medical student like mine is, a lot of the demands of daily life fall on your shoulders due to his demanding schedule. It can be a crazy juggling act trying to manage it all. It can leave you feeling frustrated, burned out, and just flat-out done.
I go through periods of feeling like I’m living in utter chaos to actually having control over my life and my time. And do you know what the key is to my periods of normalcy, of feeling like I have some semblance of control?
Priorities. Making priorities and then living by them is key. It seems like such a simple solution but it yield great rewards! Especially when your life just feels crazy and out of control.
When I actually set priorities and use them to shape my daily life I feel more at peace, more in control, and more fulfilled because I am actually dedicating time in my life to what I care about. Instead of wasting all of my time on meaningless things I spend it doing things that actually matter – and I end up having time leftover for the fun things too. It’s seriously a win-win.
How do you set priorities? Or what if you’ve set priorities in the past but have kind of lost sight of them ? There are tons of different ways to do this. Seriously, just Google it and you will come up with thousands of ways to set priorities.
When I was searching for a way to set my priorities I found two simple formulas that have helped me and can hopefully help you. I took these two formulas and just combined them. It worked great for me. It is fairly simple – only a few steps.
But by NO means am I a pro at this. I have to take a step back and reevaluate my life often to make sure I am on track. I go through this formula over and over again to make sure I’m where I want to be.
Setting priorities and living by them is such a simple but IMPORTANT piece of surviving AND thriving as a doctor’s wife.
1. Analyze How You Currently Spend Your Time
The first step is to analyze how you currently spend your time. Get out a piece of paper and just write down everything that you do during the day – everything you can think of. Even the seemingly monotonous things – just write write write. Then, write down how much time you think you spend in each area. And be honest with yourself!
After you do this you’ll probably be surprised at how much time you actually spend on some things that really shouldn’t take so much time. For example, when I did this I was shocked with how much time I actually spend on social media or on binge watching Netflix. Sad huh?! Not that those things are bad necessarily. It’s good to kick back on the couch and watch Chip and Joanna on Fixer Upper sometimes! And I love that social media helps me stay connected to family and friends, especially since we aren’t living near any family in residency.
But for me it was a problem because it was taking away valuable time that could’ve been spent on other things – on things that were way more important to me. No wonder I had been feeling frustrated and grumpy! I wasn’t focusing on what really mattered to me.
But I didn’t fully understand WHY I was feeling all of this negativity until I actually sat down and assessed how I spend my time. So give it a try! It doesn’t take that long but it can be pretty eye-opening for you.
So now that you’ve done this and, most likely realized that you want to change some things, what comes next?
2. Write Down What Is Most Important To You
The next step is to just write down what in your life is most important to you. It can be anything and you can write down as many things as you want. Family, your marriage, career, your religion, friendships, physical health, finances, extracurricular activities, education etc. Just write a list of these things that MATTER to you.
Once you have these things written down, go down your list and rate these areas of your life. Use a 1-10 scale, with 1 being the most important and 10 being not that important.
Writing this out is so helpful because we feel like we have to do and be EVERYTHING. But if you really take the time to rate what is most important, you can zero in and focus on those things that really matter to you. You can start to get rid of the common belief that you have to be superwoman and do it all. You really don’t have to, and it’s impossible anyway. No one can do and be everything!
3. Measure How Well Your Are Living in Those Areas
After you’ve ranked which areas in your life are most important, now go down your list again and rate yourself on how well you are living in those areas. Use your other list of how you currently spend your time to help you. How happy are you with how you are spending your time in each area? Again, use a 1-10 scale, with 1 being you are very satisfied with how you spend your time in that area of your life and 10 being you aren’t even close to where you want to be.
Now look at your list. You should have a list of things in your life that are most important to you with two numbers next to them – the first number is you rating what area is most important to you. The second number is your rating how well you are actually living in those areas.
Now pay attention to the areas in your life that you ranked as most important – the ones with the 1, 2, or 3 next to them. If there is a gap of 2 or more points between what is important to you and how satisfied you are with the time you spend in those areas, then those are the areas to work on! Those are the areas to make a change. Those are the reasons you are probably feeling frustrated, sad, or out of whack. Because there is a disconnect between what is important to you and what you are actually doing.
It was SO eye opening to me when I actually did this! My marriage is up there on my priorities, of course. It is a 1 for me. But when I went through and actually measured how much TIME I am spending on improving and strengthening my marriage, I quickly realized there was a disconnect there. My marriage to my DrH is so so important to me but I wasn’t spending the time there that I needed to. It was fantastic for me to be able to reevaluate how I spend my time so I could put more time and emphasis there, directed toward my husband.
4. Write Down Your New List of Priorities
After you’ve nailed down the areas in your life you’d like to work on, the places where there is a gap of 2 or more points, you can now write down your NEW list of priorities. And then follow them, paying particular attention to the areas you’ve picked for you to work on. Here is what I personally do. You can choose to organize your priorities like this or in a way that works better for you. There are so many ideas out there! This is just what works for me.
I try to organize my life according to these three areas: Essential, Necessary, Nice-to-Do.
You might be thinking – essential and necessary. Aren’t those two the same thing?? Not in my book. When I talk about essential, I am talking about the things that are essential to my spiritual well being and the spiritual well being of my family. I am a Christian, and so the most important things to me are things that relate to God. The things that go under the “essential” area for me are things that need to be done to ensure that my family and I can return to live with God after this life. These are non-negotiable for me – they are THAT important. These non-negotiable, essential things for me include:
- Attending Church Weekly
- Studying scriptures daily
- Praying Daily
- Loving one Another
- Keeping the commandments and promises I’ve made with God
- Serving other people
The necessary things are the things that need to be done as part of just living on this earth. They are a necessary part of being a person! Simple things like feeding your family and making sure they are taken care of fall under this category. They are not always fun, but they are just a necessary part of life. They are the things that help us be self-reliant and help us serve our families. This is what I put on my list:
- Strengthening marriage and family relationships (like DATING)
- Living frugally
- Feeding my family/Cooking
These are the things that I enjoy doing! The things that add variety and excitement to my life. Without these things it would be so easy to get burned out. But I put them here where they belong – in the “nice-to-do’s”. If they start to move up in my priorities to my “necessary” area, that is when I start to feel disconnected and frustrated. For me, these things are:
- Reading a fun book
- Watching Netflix
- Social Media
- Time with Friends
And that’s how I try to organize things! I try to do the essential things first and foremost – then the necessary – then the nice-to-do’s. And you know what? I still have time to do things I enjoy from my nice-to-do list, almost everyday. But this way I make sure I am doing the things that matter the most to me FIRST. This way I am happier, more at peace, and more able to enjoy my time spent doing things I like to do. I don’t feel guilty about doing things I love. I don’t feel frustrated with myself because I am being true to what I really care about.
*Note – These two ideas that I combined for making priorities came from two sources. The first is from Astrid Baumgardner, a life coach. The second is from Julie B. Beck, a religious leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Astrid Baumgardner, JD, PCC is a professional life coach and lawyer, Coordinator of Career Strategies and Lecturer at the Yale School of Music and the founder and President of Astrid Baumgardner Coaching + Training, which is dedicated to helping musicians, lawyers and creative professionals take charge of their lives and experience authentic success. In addition to her work at YSM and her individual coaching practice, Astrid presents workshops at leading conservatories and law firms on topics including Career Planning, Goal-Setting, Time Management, Dynamic Communication, Conflict Management and Personal Branding and Networking. She is the author of numerous articles on the various aspects of how to achieve and live authentic success.