You may have heard the saying “Do what makes you happy,” and while you should do what you love, not every activity in life is going to be one you enjoy doing. With that, you may be wondering how to decide exactly what to do and when to do it. To be successful in making the most out of every activity you do you should learn to manage your priorities.
Managing your priorities is an important skill that you can and should use throughout your whole life. To start, think of everything you need, or want to do, you can write them in a list if that helps, especially if you are overwhelmed with the amount. The next thing to do would be to sort those tasks into categories, the first category would be ‘what you need to do’, the second is ‘what you like to do,’ and the third is ‘what you are obligated to do.’ The ‘what you need to do’ category would include things like school, work, personal hygiene, and also taking time to yourself for mental health breaks, these are daily tasks that need to be completed and things that you have a schedule for. ‘What you like to do’ would include hanging out with friends, and any hobbies you have, these are leisure activities that should be done when there is time, but they can also be put off if you are low on time. The ‘what you are obligated to do’ category would include family events or things you signed up for, with this category though you may like these activities as well, you cannot put them off as you agreed to do them.
Once everything is in a category then it is time to prioritize within the category. So, it may be obvious that the needs and obligations come before the likes, but if there is more than one need you will have to figure out which to do first. You do not need to be completely precise in your list, but a loose schedule can really help you to get everything done. Things to put at the top of your list would be things that are time-sensitive, like a homework assignment. If there are multiple assignments that have similar due dates do the easier ones and get them out of the way, so that if you stress yourself out with a harder one you won’t have to worry about not having saved time for the other assignment.
After that, I would suggest doing things you have put off, like the dishes, because if you continue to prioritize and schedule then you won’t have things that have been put off for much longer as they will always be getting done. If you need the motivation to make it through the things you need to do, you can mix in things you like to do so you won’t feel as overworked. With that, some things you can time like you’ll clean your room as much as you can in 30 minutes, but other things should be focused on until they are done, like homework. For example, if you have a reading assignment do that, then watch an episode of tv, then shower, if your reading assignment is large and you can’t do it all in one sitting then take small breaks, read for 30 minutes then use your phone for 10 minutes and get right back to reading.
Another thing to consider when you are deciding what is your priority would be what you can lose out on. If you paid to be on a summer softball team, but you never show up to practice then you are losing out on what you paid for (you are also ignoring an obligation). To avoid situations like that, join clubs where your obligations are also things you like, if you are in a book club you are obligated to read the book, but if you like reading then that is a great thing to prioritize. Another thing to consider is some things can not be rescheduled. Your friends spontaneously decide to go to dinner and they invite you, if you are ahead and have time to spare it is an easy decision, but if you are working on an assignment that is due tomorrow you should think it over and decide what to prioritize.
Some decisions are hard, and you may not know what to prioritize, but trust your gut. You are allowed to use rain checks, your friends will still hang out with you if you miss an event every once in a while. With that, you should also remember to prioritize your connections with your friends, so you don’t always have to say no, even if that means putting something off for a little longer than you should. Do things that make you feel good, but also do things to better yourself, education and improvement should be a priority of everyone. Also, just because you are thinking ahead and prioritizing doesn’t mean to stress about the future. Prioritize the now, don’t stress about where you want to be in a year, if you are doing everything in your power now you will get there.