168 hours in a week – which hour takes priority?

I was at a conference recently and the concept of ‘priorities’ came up.  The speaker, Gary Bertwistle, jumped all over the word ‘priorities’ in a flash.  He said you cannot have priorities.  You can only have a priority.  If you have priorities, nothing is a priority which is why nothing ever gets done.

This came up with my wife Sarah and I recently when we were talking about family life, our careers and our fitness plans for 2018.

During the conversation, I asked Sarah ‘Which of these is the most important?  Taking care of the family, looking after your career or taking care of yourself – which one is the priority for you?’

I was putting Sarah to the test here.  As a mother of two, I was fully expecting for her to conclude on the family but was pleasantly surprised to hear her say that ‘she’ is the priority and that in her view I was my own priority.  We are both on the same page with this and here’s why.

The simplest way to put our view into context is to use the example of the safety warning on airlines.  They tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before attending to others.  Without oxygen, you can’t help them, so you have to look after yourself first.  It’s the same at home.

We all need time to ourselves to recharge the batteries, to do what makes us happy so that we can pour energy back into our relationships with our kids and each other and energy into the business/careers.  If we don’t take the time to recharge we are at greater risk of snapping at our partner’s, yelling at the kids, being viewed as a grumpy prick/prickette at work.

If we do take the time, we’re happier.  We’re able to engage with the kids with energy and a smile.  We have the energy to nurture our relationships with our spouse, family members and work colleagues (who can more easily get on our nerves if we’re tired/stressed/not taking care of ourselves).

Here’s an exercise I did that I suggest you do.

Imagine you have your diary in front of you.  Imagine it’s blank, clear, there’s nothing it in.  Now the first thing that goes into it needs to be something that, if done, will have you performing at your best.  The obvious one is health and fitness.  Making time for you to go to the gym, go for a run, yoga classes or to just walk for an hour.

But then again it might be different for you.  It might be a sleep-in.  It might be spending time with friends (without your spouse and kids).  It might be reading a book or listening to music.

For me, I have a running session at 6am on Tuesday, 6am on Thursday and a long run on Sunday.  I need to make time for sport because I love it and bizarre as it sounds, it gives me more energy.  It makes me more focused at work and I’m more relaxed around Sarah and the kids.

I’m convinced I’m 100% right about this, so I’m very interested to hear if you disagree.  If you agree, I’d love to hear what you’ve booked into your diary as a priority just so I can see the (anticipated) diversity in what it is we all do to recharge and reload.

If you have a partner, I encourage you to chat with them first about what you’re thinking of doing and get their support.  You’re doing it to be a better partner, a better person, a happier person so they should be very supportive of this.   We too often make ourselves the lowest priority.  Time to turn that around and make ourselves the top priority (we’re only talking about 2-3 hours a week here).  Do it.  It’s vital.

Matthew Ross

Director and Independent Financial Adviser