Scheduling Your Priorities: 5 questions to Ask NOW!

Do you have a dedicated space on your calendar for everything you need to get done in a day? Is this true, and you still don’t feel like you’re making progress? You’re tackling your to-do list but feel like you’re spinning your wheels. You could be. And there may be good reasons why you feel that way.

Most of us look at our schedules weekly and prioritize its contents without giving much thought to the tasks and meetings we have scheduled. We have it on our calendar, so we attend every meeting because all are equally important. This is a common practice for many of the leaders I coach. But if we get super curious about what makes the meeting, task, or event a priority on our calendar, we can determine its proper place. Doing so helps us to make more strategic decisions about where we need to spend more or less time.

To begin this process, I believe determining what’s most important to us is the key. Stephen Covey’s assertion, “the key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities” is a remarkable statement worth examining. Take a moment to think about what’s on your calendar this week. How many of the things listed align with what you value? Highlight them. Examine the other contents. What other priorities do you have, yet they are not on your calendar? Here is where the tweaking could begin.

When my calendar is daunting without much white space, I look for the “highlighted areas” and ask myself powerful questions to shift my perspective around the contents of my calendar. This helps me to move forward and ensure that my calendar reflects my priorities.

Here are some of the questions I ask routinely:

  1. “What makes this a priority?”This is an opportunity for a values assessment. Don’t rush through answering this question. We should be able to articulate why the event or task is significant to us. It may align with a short-term or long-term objective. It may be the means to building capability for some future project or endeavor.
  2. “How often should this occur realistically?” Assess cadence. Since most things on our calendar are precursors to an objective or goal, determine how often it should occur to position you to achieve the overarching goal or objective. For example, if exercise is a priority for weight loss, how often should you prioritize it on your calendar to achieve your weight loss goals? The number of times you exercise for weight loss may differ from the number of times you assign if your goal is maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
  3. “What is the ideal?” Even more granular than simple cadence is the precise time of day and other variables that may impact how you schedule the prioritized event. Without constraints, what would be the ideal situation surrounding when you would follow through with the priority. Who would be involved, if anyone? Under what conditions could you thrive? This is an opportunity to dream a bit and then create the experience.
  4. “What’s getting in the way now?” We cannot forget the reality. Why isn’t this happening in your life right now? Changes can only be made when we know and understand more clearly what’s happening currently. This opens the realm of possibilities.
  5. “How do I create space for it?” Here is where the magic happens! You’ve done much work so far, and you can move things around to create space for your priorities. Some items on our calendar may not be our priorities directly but those of our boss’ or spouse’s. We can schedule them because our spouse and our jobs are priorities.

You don’t have to be a slave to your calendar. Use your calendar as a power tool to drive you forward in an aligned and balanced way. Ask yourself these questions to routinely assess whether your calendar reflects your priorities and to make changes to ensure alignment.

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