busyness, productivity, time management, advice for new graduates

Live Out Your Priorities

Citing our fast-paced lifestyles, we often pay a premium for convenience.

Home delivery subscriptions now exist for everything from groceries and meal kits to clothes and razors. Mobile ordering and payment apps are ubiquitous. We have Amazon Echos, Keurigs, and Roombas.

Yet we’re still busy. Saving time just allows us to pack more into our crowded schedules. Where there’s a void, we promptly fill it—perpetuating the vicious cycle of busyness.

Be Strategic
If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us don’t need to be as busy as we are.

When I buy into the rat race mentality, I go to bed feeling unaccomplished. I wake up rushed and distracted. There’s always more to do—more that could’ve been done.

Addressing this “tyranny of the urgent,” Charles Hummel writes: “Your pattern of spending time is a picture of your present lifestyle with its needs, values, and desires.”

In other words, your schedule reflects your true priorities. Which relationships, activities, and causes do you value most? Don’t let these be afterthoughts, squeezed in when you “find some time.” Cement them into your routine, for they make life worth living. As Laura Vanderkam proclaims, “You don’t build the life you want by saving time. You build the life you want, and then time saves itself.”

Be Intentional
Too often we’re busy building a life others want for us.

Consider the premed students who chose their majors due to parental expectations. Think of the artists who deferred their dreams in favor of socially accepted careers.

Yes, financial concerns are real. We cannot follow our dreams in a vacuum. Still our best work flows from our passions. There’s a profound difference in doing something you want to versus have to.

Unfortunately, we spend too much time on our “self-imposed have tos.” We go places we don’t want to go to do things we don’t like with people we don’t care about. Those are days we’ll never get back.

We make career and life decisions society says we should, even when we don’t want to. Those are years we’ll never get back. Be intentional. Say no to the noise, so you can say yes to your priorities.

Be Present
It’s hard to discern signal from noise while running 100 miles an hour. Just as we schedule our priorities, we need to build downtime into our routines.

Judeo-Christian traditions observe what’s known as the Sabbath: one day a week devoted to rest. It’s a deliberate interruption to our 24/7 culture—a time to reflect and recharge, enjoy the fruit of our labor, and deepen our relationships. Whatever your spiritual background, you can apply its practical wisdom:

  1. Pause regularly. Step back to see whether you’re pursuing your priorities or just “productivity.”
  2. Rest intentionally. Clear delineation between work and rest will give you renewed focus in both.
  3. Reflect thankfully. Reject the insecurity of busyness by counting your reasons to be grateful.

May we not lead unexamined lives, swept along by social norms. Instead, let us live out our priorities—being strategic in our commitments, intentional in our decisions, and present in every moment.

This is the seventh post in our series: Advice for New Graduates.