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Why you need to make, and keep, a strong list of non-negotiables

What things in your life do you consider non-negotiables?

It’s that time of year where we reflect on what happened during the year and consider what we want next year to look like. As you go through your year-end review and planning, here are a couple of questions you should ask:

  1. What are your priorities–right now? The non-negotiables?
  2. What activities do you consider vital to your well-being?

These are valuable questions to consider. While you may sort of know the anser I bet you have rarely, if ever, given much intentional thought to the answers. 

One friend shared she posts a simple, sticky note of her priorities in a kitchen cupboard that gets opened every day. It’s a quick daily reminder of her non-negotiables of faith, family, friends, money, and business. 

What a simple, quick, and tangible way to remember your priorities and non-negotiables. 

Here’s my not-so-succinct list:

  • Faith: Daily time reading my Bible and spending time with God.
  • Family & Friends: Being available and spending quality time with them.
  • Exercise: Daily. Get moving to reduce stress and improve my physical and mental well-being.
  • Creativity: Nurturing my creative side.

This is a list that I need visible as it is easy to get lost in the day-to-day of living. My planner, a tool I use every day, is a great place to list this and review often.

Here’s the question I have to ask myself, often, Do any of these non-negotiables actually make it onto my schedule?

Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. Certainly not as often as I’d like, which is why I need a system to remind myself often.

If you read my list of non-negotiables and then watch how I actually spend my days, you may not always see alignment. So much of my priority list has unfortunately become my wishlist. That doesn’t sound so non-negotiable, does it?

Too often turns into wishing that I had the time and space to get to the things that are a priority to me, the activities that leave my tank ‘full.’ 

From experience, I can tell you when we ignore the non-negotiables on our list, it will eventually take a toll, mentally, physically, and emotionally.

So, How Do We Keep Our Non-negotiables… Non-negotiable?

If I’m being honest, I’m still working on this, too. Sometimes I struggle to keep my ‘must-haves’ on my calendar. Work calls, family calls, and interruptions happen. 

However, I know that when I intentionally invest my time into my non-negotiables and priorities, my life will be better and more fulfilling. I am less stressed and more balanced.

As I was processing this for my own life, I came up with a few ideas that might be helpful to you:

#1: Give yourself a break.

You’re going to have ‘those days’. You know, the ones that just don’t go your way. And that’s okay. Start small. Pick one item from your list, get started, then keep going!

#2: Let go of the expectations of others.

We glorify busy. We fill our schedule with work, housework, chores, exercise, kids’ school and activities, pets, errands, and more. I’m spinning just a little, thinking about all of it!

When (or maybe that’s IF!) we slow down and have some free time, we immediately fill it up with something else. Why? Because we do not want to look lazy. We compare our situation with someone else’s and feel wrong or guilty about not being as busy as they are (or appear to be!). 

Keep in mind that is their choice, life, and responsibility; their busyness is their business! But how do you want your life to look? 

#3: Schedule it.

Get it on your calendar, block out that time, and honor that commitment to you. You are not being selfish. Scheduling helps us remain grounded, keeps us from overwhelm, and be fully present with family and friends.

I’m giving both you and me permission to put one non-negotiable on the calendar for next week. What will yours be? An easy one for me to schedule is cozying up with a hot cup of tea, a favorite magazine, and most likely a piece of chocolate or two.

#4: Reevaluate often. 

Over time, your list will evolve. What you need today might be different in 6 months. And that is okay!

Take the time to think about these questions every few months and do a self-evaluation.

  • Are you keeping your personal commitments?
  • Have your needs changed, your priorities shifted? 

If you made a list right here right now, what would be on it?

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