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It wasn’t that long ago that I would wake up every day feeling a bit overwhelmed by the all the tasks that needed to be done, or at least that I thought needed to be done. I wasn’t even immune to it during the weekends. I would wake up Saturday and Sundays wondering how I could accomplish work in between “down” time with my family. Every day I would start tackling items on my to-do list, never really sure what was most important to accomplish, and what was ultimately a distraction. Also, as I mentioned last week, when moving from one task to the next, I often felt paralyzed by the decision of what I should do next. I would end up stalling the decision by checking my email or social media, and when I would make a decision it was often a task that was “low hanging fruit”, I.e. It was an easy, mindless task that allowed me to avoid the bigger, more important tasks. At the end of every day I was tired, frustrated by what I didn’t accomplish, and distracted by other unfinished tasks. I was paying a heavy price for the ways in which I was approaching my schedule. Not only that, but my family was paying a price as well since I was often distracted by what felt like important, unfinished work.

It took some valuable conversations with trusted friends, and helpful online resources, to begin making significant adjustments to my approach. One step that I took to get a handle on my life and daily schedule was to step back and begin considering what was really important to me. Seems obvious I know, but I didn’t always have a strong sense of if/how my activities aligned with my core values.

My wife and I collaborated together to compile a list of values that we desired to inhabit, both individually and as a family.

  • Be lifelong learners
  • Intentional Living
  • Investing in others
  • Community
  • Commitment/Discipline
  • Meaningful work
  • Diversity

I also compiled a list of “professional” values that would guide my work.

  • Risk (Courage)
  • Innovation
  • Generosity
  • Collaboration
  • Integrity
  • Communication (Listening)
  • Relationship (Community)
  • Remarkability (Excellence)

There is certainly some overlap between the two, as there should be, and with some additional effort I could probably combine them into a single list. But those two lists are where I stand right now.

Building on the two lists of values, I developed a list of seven activities (in no particular order) that if accomplished each day would define a successful day for me. 

  • Spiritual growth
  • Time with my wife
  • Time with my children
  • Create
  • Write
  • Read
  • Exercise

Yep, I like my lists, and these are three that I regularly revisit to help guide my schedule and activities. When I schedule out my days and weeks, I try to make sure that all of my specific activities fit within the seven general activities listed above. Sure, there are mundane tasks that simply have to be done, and don’t explicitly fit within the general activities. But I try to make sure that even my mundane tasks contribute to allowing me to do the general tasks, in turn living out my values.

Explicitly writing down my core values, and creating a list of general activities that aligned with those values, has been very helpful to me in working more efficiently and productively, and quite frankly with a greater sense of vision and purpose. As a result I am able to come to the end of each day with a greater sense of peace that I am “on point” with the life and work to which I’m called.

How about you? Have you identified your core values in life, and how do you make sure you are daily living out those values?