Personal development

How I think about my priorities for a significantly less stressful life

A few months ago I’ve taken up the practice of identifying the key priorities of my life. I’ve found it very helpful. It has really assisted me in developing a crystal clear vision of what is important in my life and how I can manifest those important things practically on a regular basis.

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I am massively influenced by a famous and very successful blogger named Michael Hyatt. Although he mainly blogs about personal development and professional life, I’ve learnt tremendously valuable life skills from him. He has quite transformed my life in unimaginable ways.

As a bonus, he does happen to actually be a conscious Orthodox Christian. However he seems to be quite influenced by more a protestant way of thinking than Orthodoxy, which is a shame. So after reading this article of his, I identified my 6 top priorities in life:

  1. My spiritual life
  2. Self
  3. Family
  4. Career
  5. Sunday School
  6. Everything else

I have written this out on a note on a program called evernote which I view frequently (more on the spiritual beauty of evernote later).

(1) My spiritual life

My first priority is – as it should be for all genuine Orthodox Christians – my spiritual life. Without a strong relationship with God, success in anything else in life is useless. You are left hanged out to dry and have an insatiable emptiness in your heart. Practically, my spiritual life entails a few things.

Firstly, my daily prayer. I pray after I wake up at 7 am and I pray before I go to bed for a particular amount of time. I never skip prayer and neither should you. I only shorten my night prayer when I come home late from places and when I go to liturgy in the morning, yet it is still at least 15 mins. I also strive to say short prayers especially the psalms throughout the day when I’m walking, at any free moment, whilst in the bathroom, before eating and studying.

After morning prayer, I read the bible for 20 mins. During my meals, my lunch and sometimes dinner time, I read at least 15 mins in total of spiritual literature. I have spiritual articles saved on evernote from earlier.

Every Sunday, I go to the liturgy from the very beginning. I rarely miss the sunday liturgy. I also typically go on Saturdays. The idea of going to two masses a week is an ideal model I’ve seen advertised from a few sources for people who are not monastics or clergy.

The Sunday liturgy is certainly the minimum. It’s sad how people nowadays can be so disorganized in their priorities in life and make petty excuses for not attending the pinnacle and holiest time of Orthodox worship.

Every 6 weeks I have confession, attend youth meeting every Friday night and I also faithfully fast with the church.

(2) Self

Priority number 2 is self. Now this one might be controversial and may seem highly self-centered, however I learnt this rationale from Michael. It basically stems from the whole belief system that if your own physical, mental and emotional needs aren’t met, then you are not really of much use to anyone.

Practically this manifests itself in such things as me making healthy eating choices. I stay away from soft drink and fast foods as much as I can. This as much as for the sake of asceticism and simple eating as for my physical health.

Additionally, every weekday from 9 to 9:30 am, I read secular writings to fill me mentally and intellectually. I benefit exceedingly from doing this, reading only very highly quality articles such as from Michael Hyatt and Lifehack.

They teach me indispensable life skills and to manage my life and time in a very intelligent, efficient and effective manner. I consider them essential for a flourishing holy life and I highly recommend others to read them as well.

In terms of physical mobility, I don’t really do much exercise. After 1 hr of computer use, I typically get up, do a few stretches and take a refreshing and vigorous 10 min walk around my block. This is my own version of the Pomodoro technique (google it).

(3) Family

The third priority is my family. Mother Theresa said such a lovely thing, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” If you don’t struggle to serve your family and love them with an immense saintly love and stimulate them towards salvation, how in the world can you lead other people to the kingdom of God?

This manifests itself such that on my google calendar, I have coffee scheduled with my sister every Tuesday from 1 to 2:30 pm. I substantially enjoy this time with my sister. I can confidently say we have never had such beautiful, Christ-centered bonding time as we do in these coffee sessions. I greatly encourage you schedule something similar with your sibling if you have the time.

Additionally, I strive to have lunch or dinner with my family whenever the chance arises. Occasionally we go to restaurants. I never say no to such times of loving fellowship. 2 – 3 nights a week, we have at least a 20 min family spiritual time, where we discuss spiritual stories such as lives of the saints or wonderful building secular quotes.

(4) Career

After family is career. I am currently doing further studies to become a data analyst. In google calendar this is reflected as the event “work” from 10 am – 6 pm weekdays apart from my 1 hr lunch break.

I am very passionate about excelling in my career. Nehemiah was the cup-bearer of the king and Joseph was the 2nd most powerful man in Egypt. God manifests His blessings at times through our secular success. I also tutor maths twice a week.

(5) Sunday School

Service to my sunday school kids is more important to me than serving ‘everyone else’, who fall into the bottom category. The rationale is kind of like the Mother Theresa thinking. If I am faithful in what is least, God will set me to be ruler over more things (Mat. 25:21).

Practically, I go to Sunday school class as a teacher every single week and I (strive) to make weekly phone calls to some of the children. There’s also regular visitations. Whenever it’s my turn to do the lesson, I always leave it till Saturday because during the week I am occupied doing other valuable spiritual things.

(6) Everything else

This involves fellowship with the other youth; attending extra church events such as special youth meetings at other churches or at my own; communal trips to the monastery or convent; helping people who don’t fall into the higher up priorities; working on my blog in my spare time; teaching Coptic hymns to primary school kids on Friday nights and many other things.

Conclusion

My system isn’t perfect, but it’s certainly installed in my mind a very simplified and useful way of thinking about the most important things in my life. It also really guides me to be much more conscious in aligning my activities during the week with the things most valuable to me, and to weed out everything else.

“If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” (Mother Theresa)

I highly recommend you write up your priorities in life. Please note everyone has different circumstances so your priorities will probably be different to mine. Here are three essential tips to follow…

  • Make each priority very concisely worded
  • Have no more than 7
  • Look at them frequently – at least once a week

All of these is because you can remember them easily and also the latter so you can have constant visibility, or else you’ll just forget about them. For now maybe you can write out your priorities on a piece of paper or wherever is suitable.

Discussion:  Is life balance a struggle for you? How do you manage your priorities?

2 thoughts on “How I think about my priorities for a significantly less stressful life

    1. Amen tant. God is great. We need to just be faithful and everything will come to us at the right time. Maybe not now, but eventually it will come. GBU tant.

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