How to Prioritize with One Simple Question

February 1, 2022

Lately, I’ve had this nagging feeling that I have too much on my plate. It’s really hard to admit that for me. For months now I’ve been wondering why I can’t seem to prioritize the things in my life, why it feels so hard. I make lists on lists of my priorities and I forget about them or they get so long that I get overwhelmed by them. 

I used to think that prioritizing meant figuring out how to fit everything in somehow and just ranking its importance and then from there getting it all done by pushing harder, having long hours, and stressing myself out more. However, I’ve realized that prioritizing can also be letting some things go or putting some things on pause until there’s time to prioritize them since I’m not Hermione in Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban (for my HP fans out there) with a time turner. 

I sat on Zoom with my therapist and complained for the millionth time about not having enough time and that the time I do have seems to evaporate and a clear understanding that I very much have created my own stress by biting off more than I could chew and not wanting to admit that maybe I’m not superhuman. And for the thousandth time, I started complaining about the dedication and studying and hours it’s requiring to get my pilot’s license. “I’m spending twelve hours a week on this with no end in sight, but I can’t stop, I just can’t, I have too much invested now.”

“But why not?” She asked me, “Why can’t you stop?”

I had to think for a minute because I wasn’t sure. It just felt like an innate pull that I had to keep going, to keep pushing, to not take anything off my plate until it’s completed. I was the kid that had to do the pages of the coloring book in order…there was no skipping around even if I didn’t particularly like a certain page of the coloring book. A part of me realized it was the competition I had internally with Domi, if he could do something, so could I, but a much bigger part of my inability to even pause my lessons was because I have never started something without stopping. My therapist pushed me a little here to see if that was really the truth…of course, it wasn’t. There was one other time. 

When I was a senior in college I signed up for an aerial acrobatics class because I mean, how cool is that? All the cool dance majors were doing it and it sounded like an incredible opportunity, however, there was one small problem…I didn’t have much in terms of upper body strength. The professor made it clear that if we wanted to succeed in this class we’d have to do strengthening work outside of class. I wanted to, but given the rest of my course load, the shows I was rehearsing for, doing my homework, and wanting to spend time with my friends in my last semesters of college I didn’t make the time. I would go to that class, every Saturday (I know, it was on a Saturday…I mean…ugh…) and I would struggle. It seemed that everyone around me was a natural flying up and down the silks and around the room with ease and there I was in the corner trying to accomplish the simple task of climbing up the silks and I couldn’t physically do it. I was embarrassed, I was overwhelmed, I was tired, and I was failing. In my entire college career, I had never withdrawn from a course past the add/drop period where there wouldn’t be some big “W” on your transcript. This was the first time. I decided it wasn’t worth feeling humiliated every weekend or not getting a good grade in the class. It wasn’t worth me missing out on time with friends and time to dedicate to my other courses. It wasn’t worth my having a pit in my stomach every Friday night before class on Saturday. 

About halfway through the semester, I withdrew from the course. I made my peace with the “W” on my transcript. I felt instantaneously relieved. I didn’t miss the class. I didn’t feel like a failure, I felt like I could relax and breathe again. 

I hit one of these forks in the road again when it came to my flight training. I didn’t want to stop, I had already dedicated so much time…I also know that I am barreling towards the launch of my book, new seasons of my podcast to be released, the running of a non-profit, time for self-care, and wanting to have my version of a social life. I asked my therapist, “but what if I never finish.”

To which she replied, “So what?”

It left me a lot to think about. It was time to hit pause and give myself a break. I told all necessary parties that I was putting my flight training on hold. Much to my surprise, the world didn’t come crashing down around me. No one called me a failure or lazy or not enough. I felt immediately relieved. I gain twelve hours a week with which I can do what I please. I have time to do all the self-care I’ve always wanted to make time for. I have more freedom and time and it feels ridiculously good. I’m also a little sad. I actually miss flying. 

I am also able to clearly prioritize for the first time ever. It became immediately clear how I wanted to divide my time when I let the “noise” fall away. I just had to get clear on what it is that I need in each moment.

There are times when I would suggest pushing through challenges and not giving up on yourself. There are also times when it is paramount to recognize that you’re forcing yourself to do something for no reason other than feeling competitive with your peers or a fear of being seen a lazy or a failure or a multitude of things we can create in our minds. 

Prioritizing isn’t just about giving something a number and checking off tasks in that particular order, it’s also about taking stock of what you can and want to do right now and hitting pause or stop where necessary and play in the places that make sense. 

I love you, I hope you have a wonderful day, and I’m thinking about you. XOXOX, CAMDW

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