It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.Seneca
The to-do list of life never stops growing. Tasks get ticked off, new tasks take their place… and on it goes.
‘Getting Things Done’ is great, but are you getting the right things done? Whether you’re a productivity queen or not, do you know whether your priorities are well and truly in order?
Getting your personal priorities in order
Let me guess: there’s too much work and everyday stuff taking up your time to even acknowledge your personal priorities. Your personal goals and dreams have slipped down and off the list. That’s if you had any in the first place.
Sometimes the very idea of life goals can create overwhelm and stress, as they add even more tasks to the never ending to-do list.
And why even bother with a ‘someday maybe‘ list as David Allen suggests in his GTD method? Isn’t that just a morgue for dreams? Or a carpet for sweeping our values under?
How will your personal priorities ever see the light of day, let alone make it to the top of the pile?
In Agile project management, things get done according to priorities, ring-fenced by time.
You start with a backlog of tasks; the things which could be done in order to create a product that fulfils a need. The backlog is organised by priority and tasks are worked on within a specific timeframe. Then the product is released – and guess what? It won’t be perfect.
Sacrifices are made for the sake of realising something purposeful and providing value, as quickly as possible.
Tasks that are not crucial to a successful outcome within the timeframe are sacrificed.
You might think that a successful outcome means dealing with everything that happens to be on your plate. The truth is, not everything going on in your life has an equal amount of importance. There is a hierarchy in everything.
Evolution happens that way. Survival of the fittest – or non-survival of the least fit – is how we should look at our priorities.
So, what should the successful outcome of your time on earth look like? And what can be sacrificed in order to make way for it?
There is a simple way to find out.
Your life is ring-fenced by time – shock horror
Knowing that your time is a finite resource, how do you make wise investments with it?
In life-coaching, big picture thinking involves trying to figure out your values and aspirations. This can be a tricky, time consuming pursuit in itself. There is however a powerful shortcut – which is to predict your dying regrets. Death will show you the way.
While you can’t actually predict the future, with a bit of self-hypnosis, you can surface the purposeful ‘to-dos’ and meaningful ways to live nagging away at your subconscious. I.e. the truth of where your priorities lie.
How stupid to forget our mortality.Seneca
The Top Five Regrets of the Dying is a collection of accounts from Bronnie Ware’s time as a palliative nurse. The most common regret of her patients being: “I wish I pursued my dreams and aspirations, and not the life others expected of me”.
Introducing the Deathbed Manifesto method
What could be more tragic than berating yourself in your last moments as you drop off this mortal coil?
Writing your Deathbed Manifesto pledge will put your to-dos into context of your life’s purpose and it will feel more satisfying as you work on them. Prioritising will become easier. You’ll know what’s really worth committing to and what to abandon, or say no to, without feeling bad.
How to write your Deathbed Manifesto pledge
Get into a relaxed state.
- Lie down in a dark room, undisturbed. Put some relaxation music on if it helps.
- Have a piece of paper and pen ready.
- Clear your mind of any preconceived ideas you have.
- Imagine you’re in your last moments on earth. Create the scene however you want – it’s your deathbed! The more you bring this to life (no pun intended) the better.
- What regrets do you have? What do you wish you had done? Write down whatever comes to mind easily. Don’t spend more than 5 minutes on this or you’ll be liable to make things up.
Come back to the present moment.
List the regrets in order of importance (the first one that popped out is probably your most important one, but not always).
The stark realisation of suppressed or forgotten personal priorities could be enough to spur you into action, creating a more meaningful to-do list. Great… go for it!
However, it’s likely that some excuses will come up (or obstacles as I like to politely call them) for not acting on them.
So in a second column, put the reason that might stop you from acting on it – i.e. whatever is in the way.
Q: What’s worse than regretting not having done something?
A: Regretting not even attempting to do it.
And in a third column, write what you will commit to doing, in order to minimise or eliminate the excuse. What alternative or workaround can you come up with to say at least you tried, so that you’ll leave the planet with no regret? What is the first step can you take, even if that’s making a phone call, or doing some research?
The idea is to at least mitigate the regrets you’ll have in your dying moments.
Regret: I wish I’d started my own fashion line.
Obstacle: Bringing up a family.
Alternative: Make/customise some of the kids’ clothes and blog about it.
Regret: I didn’t travel abroad.
Excuse: Nobody to travel with.
Obstacle exterminator: Seek out travel companies for solo travellers.
Regret: I didn’t have enough fun.
Excuse: Working long hours (real excuse: I put work before fun!).
Obstacle exterminator: Commit to organising one fun activity per month with friends.
Regret: I didn’t ask my partner to marry me.
Excuse: Fear of rejection.
Obstacle exterminator: Ask them on 1st April, and if it goes badly, just say it was an April Fool’s Day joke 😄😄😄.
This is YOUR manifesto. It’s your personal guide to investing your time – the most precious thing you have – wisely.
So, however short, it is fully sufficient, and therefore whenever his last day comes, the wise man will not hesitate to meet death with a firm step.Seneca