Prioritizing my priorities

Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit of a struggle figuring out my priorities. I want to do everything …. but I only have so much time and energy. And money.

If you’ve been following along, I’ve been getting more and more into burlesque in the past year. It’s a lot of fun. I’ve met a lot of really awesome people. And the more I do it, the more opportunities there are. Which is great! But accepting or pursuing more opportunities means devoting more time – more rehearsals, more costuming, more time on my own working on my act. And more time spent in one area means less time for other things. Hence why I kept saying that I wanted to get back into running but only running a few times per month.

I started to feel like I wasn’t sure what my priorities even were anymore. I was just saying “yes” to whatever came my way. And I was spreading myself thin and felt like I was unable to excel in any one area.

I started reading articles (OK, maybe one article) about how to better determine what my priorities are, to help me better focus my time. I wrote out a list of everything that is in any way important or a priority or gets some portion of my time and energy. I think my list was around 18-20 things. (The goal was to write out 25 things.)

And then I had to pick the 5 most important ones.

It was actually a really helpful exercise. It made me realize that I really was spreading myself too thin. And by focusing my energies on things that aren’t in my top 5, I was distracting myself from what really matters to me. And while I really do enjoy burlesque and dance and performing, the more I do it, the less time I have for other things, like fitness, running, volunteering, focusing on professional development, spending my weekend nights with people other than fellow performers, etc.

They are lots of fun to hang out with backstage though. 

So, what are my top 5 priorities right now? In order of importance:

Relationships (romantic, familial, platonic)

This will always be at the top of my list. It is important to me that the people I love know that I love and value them, and also that we spend time together, developing or fostering relationships.

Eliminating debt 

I’m really ready to not have this hanging over me and having control over my life. I’m trying to figure out if this ranks above career. It would be nice to eliminate this altogether so that I don’t have to figure out where it ranks.

Pursuing a fulfilling career

I really enjoy where my career has gone in the past year. I’ve been thinking a lot about long-term goals, and how to take all of my skills and make the world better in some way. I have ideas. Some of it involves investing my time (and money) in education and professional development. Which further supports “eliminating debt” as a priority.

Being physically strong 

I would love to run another marathon someday. Running long distances in a climate with 4 seasons is really hard when you’re up until 2am because of a performance. I’m also starting to see my focus on strength training showing up on my body in addition to feeling stronger. It’s exciting. I want to keep pushing it.

Being a part of my community

I actually feel like I’m starting to do that through doing burlesque, which is one reason it’s been hard for me to step back from it. But I can still foster community and relationships without getting on stage. And I want my community to be more than just fellow burlesquers (as great as they are). I want to feel like I’m growing roots in my corner of the city, and in that various micro and macro communities that I’m a part of.

 

So, there you go. This exercise has been helpful in helping me determine where I need to focus my time and energy, and what I should take a step back from because it is distracting me. I would love to be able to do everything, but I can’t. No one can.

So, to that end, I decided to take a break from taking burlesque classes and committing to additional performances and opportunities. (I have two performances in April that I’ve already committed to, and those acts and costumes are done, so I just have to show up and perform it.) I was starting to feel uninspired because I felt like it was taking time away from others things, so it was becoming a source of stress, not joy, and the thought of creating new work felt overwhelming and exhausting and like a chore. I can still work on my own stuff when inspiration strikes, and support my friends by attending their performances and the shows they produce, but for now I’m focusing my time and energy on the other things above.

What have you had to take a step back from in order to focus on other things? 

6 thoughts on “Prioritizing my priorities

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  1. My two cents, as someone who has been there and successfully gotten out of it – make eliminating debt your top priority. Once that’s gone, you have so much more flexibility in every other area of your life. Cut unnecessary spending wherever you can. To eliminate my massive debt, Terry and I moved out to the boonies and pretty much became shut-ins. We stopped traveling, stopped going out, stopped buying things we didn’t need, and only spent money on the most basic of necessities. We made a pretty strict budget and stuck to it. We did this for about a year, and it was really hard, but the sacrifice was totally worth it to get back on track financially (in my case, for the first time in my adult life). Now we’re at a point where we’re actually able to save up money, and we’re about 1-2 years away from no longer having to have soul-sucking corporate jobs just to get by.

    Looking back, I spent more than 10 years in chronic debt, and I’m honestly pissed at myself for not taking steps to dig out much sooner. I kept up an expensive (compared to what I could actually afford) standard of living – living in a condo I couldn’t afford in an area I couldn’t afford, spending money I didn’t have to go out, running too many expensive races, buying clothes I didn’t need, etc. – because I thought that was important, and that just prolonged and exacerbated the problem.

    1. We’ve made some progress, and in a couple months a loan with a sizable monthly payment will be gone, which will help a lot. Although I feel the same sense of being pissed at myself that we got here.

      1. That’s a good start! And you should be pissed about it. That was the only way I could really change things (since prior to being pissed I just thought I’d figure something out eventually, and eventually the debt would all just magically go away).

  2. Looks like your priorities are in the right order. It’s a great exercise to take a step back and figure out what is important and what are distractions. Regarding debt, I think that there should be a greater emphasis on the topic of personal finances in high school. I’m pretty sure that most kids think of money as only being useful for the cool things they can buy with it. Then they go to college there are all sorts of companies trying to sign them up for credit cards even though they have little or no income. Then the debt cycle starts as they spend on fun things without having the funds to cover their purchases.

    1. YEP, exactly. I viewed credit cards (particularly store cards) as not really being “real” money for way too long. Even having that mentality for a year, much less all through college and after, can really mess things up for a long time!

      1. Yeah. I’m sure a lot of people have that “not real money” mentality. I’m sure if I paid in cash for everything I’d probably make less purchases since then I could actually see “real” money leaving my wallet!

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