The final consideration in prioritizing your time is integrity. Integrity could be defined as an unwillingness to compromise. Not a rigid inflexibility, but a refusal to compromise on important issues. Flexibility is essential when making priorities, because as discussed earlier, immediate needs and unplanned opportunities often require plans to change. Integrity, though, should always be maintained.
In maintaining integrity, first, keep your word. Schedule your time around those things you have committed to. When life gets busy, it’s easy to justify a choice to flake on standing engagements. Easy as the choice may be in that moment, this can make prioritizing your time even more complicated. Because once you start justifying, it’s hard to stop. This is especially true when living in a culture that almost expects people to cancel; a culture where “yes” means “maybe,” and “maybe” means “no.” Even if your society or industry or peer group does not expect it of you, “let your yes be yes and your no be no.” Do not let a culture of flakiness tarnish your own integrity.
Consciously committing to actually honoring your commitments may require you to view some activities differently. Activities will take on value simply because you’ve committed to them, and not for any other intrinsic reason. For example, if you commit to pick up trash on the beach some morning, it is just as important as a shift at work that you’re committed to. It is not the amount of pay you’ll receive for it, or the need for your particular skill set that makes an activity important. It is simply the fact that you committed to it.
This committed attitude also applies to purely personal decisions. Even if no one else is relying on you, if you make a decision and commitment to do something, do it! Honoring all your commitments will mean that you need to be more selective in what you commit to, so be intentional, not flippant.
Second, maintaining your integrity means being authentic. When deciding what activities to commit to, or even just participate in, don’t do things only because people expect you to. Don’t do things that you don’t even enjoy, just to “fit in.” This does not mean that you should never do things you don’t enjoy. It just means that there must be other reasons for doing them, like spending quality time with those you love, or doing things that are good for your health.
Maintaining a standard of authenticity should result in you committing to fewer activities, and allowing more flexibility with your time. In my own life, a few years ago, I quit watching sports. I hate watching sports. But for years, I did it because I felt compelled to; obligated by society, and a handful of friends. Finally, I gave myself permission to quit. So, I quit and I never looked back! Life is too short to be something you’re not. If you’re doing things simply to impress people, stop. If you think you need to fake an interest just to share something in common with others, stop. What others really need is to know authentic people. So again, do what you love. Be authentic.
When your schedule gets crazy, remember: focus on the immediate, invest in what’s important, and live with integrity. Prioritizing is as easy as three I’s.
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