It’s been several weeks since I asked you to determine your priorities. It’s time to pull them out of the drawer you stuffed them in or pull them up on your phone. I’ll wait…
Now that you have them in front of you, give them a quick review. Imagine how good it would feel if each of those priorities was met consistently. Feels pretty good, huh?
Ok, now put them back away, and get out a sheet of paper. Make Four columns on the paper. From left to right label the first three Choice, Benefit, and Cost. Like so (We’ll worry about the 4th column in a bit):
In the first column list of all the choices you either make daily or have made in the past that impact your life on a regular basis, like cooking dinner after work (yes, that’s a choice – you could have a bowl of cereal or a bag of potato chips), joining a committee you don’t want to be on, driving your kids and their friends to all their extracurriculars, going to bed early, staying up late, hitting the snooze, eating a healthy snack, eating a pint of ice cream, etc. This could be to be a long list because you’re going to write down all the choices you can think of, from the mundane ones you take for granted (and may not consider a choice), to the one-off type choices you made as well.
In the second column list the benefit you get from each choice. The benefit is whatever it is, it doesn’t have to look good on paper, and it may seem kinda backward to your priorities, but if you don’t know why you make the choices you do, you won’t be able to make different choices if you decide you need to.
In the third column list the cost to you in terms of stress or pain. Again, this may or may not be a shining example of you at your best, but if you’re not honest about the cost of your decisions, you have very little chance of ever fulfilling your priorities.
Here’s an excerpt of one that I did a while back:
Now, it’s time to analyze the cost vs the benefit. That’s what the 4th column is for. This is where you’re going to record your assessment of whether the cost is worth the reward. You can also note how you can change future outcomes of similar decisions for the better.
Here’s my finished example:
Keep your list handy, because over the next couple of days or even weeks, you’re going to think of things that you need to add to it. So, from now until the next post about priorities, keep that list handy. Add to it. Revise any costs, benefits, or analyses as you need to. (Time will definitely give you some perspective, as will actually thinking about this stuff in a way you probably never have before).
That’s it. This little exercise will set the stage for the next post on lowering your stress by focusing on your priorities.