Let’s talk priorities. Like with many other words, we all have our definition of priorities. What concerns me, however, is that many of us between the ages of 30 and 50 seem to be confusing the notion of priorities with goals.

In the latest video I did for the now up and running No Excuses series, I mention priorities for just a second, but it’s something I’d like to expand on.

My priorities, as I so abruptly realized recently, have changed. My goals have not. In fact, I’ve realized that my priorities have to change if I have any intention of reaching those goals.

By the time I was 20, I knew that I wanted a family and to make a living writing. By the age of 30, I was doing exactly that, albeit not exactly the way I had planned or imagined it. By the age of 35, I regrouped and sort of cemented that. I had another child, this time on my own because I so decided, and I had a business set up and running with some stability and direction.

What I didn’t immediately know at the time is that I now needed to maintain the goals I had reached and continue to grow them. Yeah, the tough part is keeping what you want once you get it.

Let’s go into listicle mode for a minute again, so I can set out some thoughts I’ve had recently.

1. There comes a time when you have to outsource anything and everything you possibly can.

I’m no spring chicken. I can’t do all-nighters anymore and, frankly, I don’t want to. I’ve paid my dues and it’s time for younger generations to start taking over.

The Kid is 16 now. That’s not a kid anymore. He’s a young man. For the past couple of years, I’ve started insisting that he slowly begin to take on some adult responsibilities. He takes care of his sister, does chores around the house, and has a part-time job. This is perfectly normal parenting and the way it’s been done throughout the ages. We need to stop treating our kids like invalid members of our household and society, at any age. It’s detrimental to their development and, often, to our health and state of mind.

In terms of business, I need to learn to let go. I need to learn that it doesn’t have to be perfect. I need to learn that, more often than not, I need to let my clients make mistakes that I see are coming. Sure, I’ll warn them once and give my professional opinion in my area of expertise. But if they refuse to take the advice they’re paying for, well, that’s not on me.

You’ve paid your dues and earned your permanent place in the adult club. Now let go and enjoy it, let others have their turn.

2. Routine is your friend.

Routine doesn’t necessarily have to mean no fun allowed. In fact, a well-set routine and plans are what will allow you the luxury of spontaneity and fun at a time in your life when you’re juggling a dozen daily responsibilities.

I’ve known this for ages, but not making myself, my rest, my health, and my downtime a priority is what prevented me from having a good, functional routine. Yes, I had routines and terrible ones at that. Routinely, sleep was what I did when I got work, quality time with the kids, and housework done. But sleep is what allows me to do all of those efficiently and well. So I ended up slacking off on both ends.

This is why priorities are priorities. Sleep first. I’m better at getting everything else done after that. It works.

3. You can’t set priorities without goals and you can’t reach goals without priorities.

It’s sort of a chicken and egg deal. You need the egg to hatch a chicken, but you need a chicken to lay the egg. Which brings us to the age-old question of what comes first.

Although no one can give you that answer, I can tell you what leads to your own, personalized answer – you. You come first.

As a society, we view selfishness as a bad thing. And if you’re a parent, it gets worse. Putting yourself and any personal goals ahead of your family and kids? Oh, no you didn’t. Well, guess effing what – I did. And my kids are thrilled, my friends supportive about it.

I now go to bed by midnight, something I haven’t done since I was 14 or pregnant. Except it’s the first time that I go to bed by midnight because I want to and I said so. I may go to bed a little earlier to read or watch a late night show or movie.

I eat when I want to, when my body asks for food. If I have a call scheduled for that time, I let the other participants of the call know that I’ll be 5 or 10 minutes late. The world is not going to end because I’m not on that call for 5 minutes. It’s enough time for a quick snack and I work better on a full stomach. Deal.

Me time makes the time I spend with my kids or co-workers better. I’m no longer too tired to lift my daughter up a hundred times at the park and be next to her on the slide for half an hour in the sun. I’m no longer moody and exasperated when I get on a late night call or have to go to a business dinner after a long day. I plan accordingly. I make sure I’m rested, well-fed, and happy first. Then everyone else seems happy too.

Once you’re good and set, the chicken and egg deal seems to sort itself out on its own.

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