If you completed the time diary last week, you have a chance to revisit that completed work this week and think about your… PRIORITIES AND NEEDS.
One of the important things that we need to assess related to our leisure time (and generally, the way we spend our time) is how what we’re doing fits with our values. Often when people feel frustrated with their leisure or feeling it needs a makeover, it is because the way they spend their time does not fit with the things they value or feel are priorities. Lots of things get in the way of us marrying our values or priorities with our actions. Sometimes we get caught up in day-to-day life and external pressures or demands (which know not of our priorities nor care to ensure we focus on them). We say, “yes” to this or that without taking time to assess whether it fits with what we feel our priorities are. We may value quality time with family, but weekdays and weekends seem to go by without that quality time happening. We may value physical activity, but spend evenings curled up with a book, watching television, making lunches for school, or cleaning the house.
So what can you do if you feel that there is a mismatch between what you’re doing and what you’d like to be doing.
Step One – Clarifying Priorities
It is important to be clear on your priorities and the order in which they come. I’m certainly not the first to write about this, but I write about with the leisure context in mind. Priorities related to our personal life should reflect our values. As I mentioned in last Monday’s post, before you can make changes to your leisure, it needs to be something you value. So, first and foremost, you need to value leisure and what it brings to you and your life. Second, sorting out your values related to leisure is important. For example, if you value family, your leisure priorities may focus on family leisure pursuits. If you value physical activity, your leisure may involve walking the dog, gardening, running, or playing sports.
How you value leisure in relation to the rest of your life is also important. Your general life priorities could include: work, education, your partner, your children, your friends, particular leisure or sport pursuits (e.g., training for a marathon, yoga), spiritual growth, eating healthy, living a physically active lifestyle.
Ordering the priorities can help you determine how much time you want to devote to specific priorities. Priorities are also dynamic – they change over time. It may be helpful to consider and order your priorities using a pyramid (pictured below). Your top priorities are the ones you’ll spend the most time involved in (the bottom of the pyramid). Your lowest priorities will not get as much of your time (top of the pyramid). You could complete the Pyramid for life in general, but also for your leisure pursuits.
Think about what your leisure-related priorities are. Socializing with friends? Being physically active? Reading? Working on a artistic masterpiece? Taking time to just relax? Often our leisure priorities are influenced by what else is going on in our lives. If work is particularly stressful, for example, taking time to relax may be the most important priority in your leisure. It can be helpful to consider your personal needs when trying to prioritize your leisure time.
Step Two – Consider What Needs You Meet or Could Meet Through Leisure
We all have a variety of needs that we seek to have met each day. Sometimes we meet our needs through work or through our relationships with others. Sometimes we can meet those same needs or other needs through leisure. For example, you can meet your need for social connection through work or time with family, but you can also satisfy that need through participating in a bowling league or joining a running club.
To explore what needs you are currently satisfying through your current leisure activities and what needs you could satisfy through leisure engagement, download and complete the Leisure Needs Exercise.
Step Three – Bringing it all together: Linking Needs with Your Priorities
Once you understand what needs you have, which ones you’re satisfying with your current activities (leisure or otherwise), and which ones are left unmet, you may want to work at prioritizing leisure time or pursuits that meet the needs you have. If one of your needs is for solitude, for example, consider making this your top leisure priority and devote most of the leisure time you have available to activities that help you meet this need. In some cases, you may be able to meet a couple of your needs through the same activity. For example, the need to compete and the need for social connection may be satisfied through participation on a sport team. If you have a need to express yourself and be creative, photography or writing a blog may meet those needs. Once you are aware of your needs, you have the ability to be intentional in choosing the activities that meet one or more of them.
When there is limited leisure time in your life, setting priorities for what you do with that time is critical. Focusing on meeting your needs is an excellent way to help your leisure to be meaningful and satisfying for you. In addition, meeting your needs through leisure and making this a priority may also help you in other areas of your life. For example, taking time to release stress after work may help you better face the work day and cope with stress you may experience in that environment.
And as circumstances change in your life, be sure to re-evaluate your overall priorities, your needs, and your leisure priorities.