The world we live in, with its constant alerts and notifications, is built to distract. In a few short years, we’ve been conditioned to constantly seek diversion–leaving us less time to work on the more important things.
But let’s get one thing straight:
You can’t rush quality.
You can’t do it with your biggest client, or project.
You can’t do it when communicating with your team.
You can’t do it with the time you spend with your loved ones.
That’s why setting priorities is so, so important.
Nowadays, most people want to have great relationships, but they (literally) can’t keep from looking at their phones for five minutes to have a conversation.
They want to do great work, but they spend day in and day out going from one meeting to the next, answering calls, writing emails–leaving no time to actually, you know…
Do great work.
They create a mental checklist of things they want to do…
Or learn a new skill.
Or play more with the kids.
But after years of too much talk and not enough action, that checklist becomes a bucket list…usually, one that never gets fulfilled.
It’s so easy to simply drift through life. To let other people dictate your priorities.
To know deep down what’s really important, but never take the time to follow through.
Don’t do that.
But how do you break the cycle? How do you lead a more fulfilling life?
It all starts by asking a single question:
What’s most important?
Think deeply before you answer.
Then, act accordingly.
Let your answer guide the way you schedule your time. The way you set your priorities.
The way you use the next few hours.
You should also revisit your answer from time to time, because it will change as you gain experience and wisdom.
But whatever age you are, leading a better life comes down to a single word:
Focus on your values.
Focus on learning what will make you truly happy. And what will make the people you care about truly happy.
Focus on the more important things.
Learn from the past, yes. Plan for the future, certainly.
But focus on the present.
Because you won’t get as much done as you want today.
Not tomorrow, either.
So, figure out what matters most, and focus on that.
You’ve only got one life to live.
Make it count.
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A version of this article originally appeared on Inc.com.