Making Space for What Matters Most

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What really matters to you?

Chances are, you can readily think of some things you value—living from rest, staying in shape, and and savoring a meal with friends (yum). But how often do you really make space for those things?

Without intentionality, your life will naturally fill with urgent tasks and instant gratification. It’s a normal human behavior. But a lifestyle of hurry and distraction is far from restful or fulfilling.

I speak from experience. When facing burnout and anxiety last year, I realized I could nearly always trace my stress back to not making space for what I cared about most. Armed with this information, I set out to reclaim my priorities and protect their place in my life.

I came up with a simple exercise to identify the less-important activities that were robbing from my priorities. Since then, I have been repeating this exercise monthly, and with new boundaries in place, I have been able to cultivate a lifestyle of rest and fulfillment.

Want to give it a try? Here’s how it works:

1Make a list of non-negotiable priorities.

In this season of your life, what areas do you want to make space for no matter what?

My list looks like this:

  1. Relationship with God
  2. Physical and mental health (sleep, exercise, solitude)
  3. Relationship with family and friends (life-giving community and covenant relationships)
  4. Life-giving and money-making projects (I only want to make time for a project if it brings me life or provides income; otherwise, I am doing it out of obligation)
  5. Giving to others (value for generosity and sowing my energy, time, and attention into others, but not allowing that to routinely displace time with God, my health, my close relationships, or my job)

In my example, I won’t allow working out to replace my time with God. I will not prioritize a friend connect (important as it is) over my mental health. To the best of my abilities, I will not give hobbies priority over my family relationships. And while I have a high value for serving and volunteering, I will not allow it to diminish my efficacy at work.

2Conduct an honest self-audit.

Where are you spending your resources lately? Rank the things in your life that are taking the most of your energy, time, and attention.

In this list, you’ll want to include your priorities from the previous step, as well as resource-hungry areas you did not list before. (For example, I discovered I was giving too much time to a side project with friends during my time off. This meant I often went to bed late, got too little sleep, and shortened my morning time with God.)

If something is on your audit that you did not list as a priority, ask yourself: “Why am I making space for this? Is it necessary in this season, or can I eliminate it?”

3Establish boundaries to protect your priorities.

Start by making a list of actionable steps to reset your priorities to their proper places. You’ll want these steps to be as specific and practical as possible. (In my example from earlier, I decided to limit my side project work to 3–4 pm each day and get it wrapped up by the end of the week.)

Next, you’ll want to establish some lasting boundaries to ensure your priorities do not get displaced in the future. Boundaries are about saying no to some things so you can say yes to the best things. (I set a boundary to go to bed at 10:00 each night, and another boundary to only say yes to related side projects if I could do the majority of the work on a Saturday.)

If possible, make a point to complete all your action steps in the next 24 hours, and save your boundaries in a note you can reference easily moving forward. As you continue to fine-tune and enforce your boundaries, you will find that protecting your priorities becomes the default, rather than the afterthought.

After reading this, I hope you feel empowered to truly make space for what matters most. Put this exercise to the test and let me know how it goes. Blessings to cultivate a lifestyle of rest and fulfillment! You’ve got this. 🙂

Jonathan