Prioritizing Your Dreams
HONESTY AHEAD! I like to sing. It’s a hobby of mine, you could say. When I was younger, I took voice lessons. Throughout high school, I sang in a choir. Lately, I’ve been watching America’s Got Talent on TV, and I see all these talented singers auditioning. Which, of course, gets certain songs stuck in my head, and makes me want to sing them all day long. The past few days, I’ve been spending a lot of time just sitting, watching auditions. Today, it really struck me how many words I could have written in my WIP during all that time. So today I want to talk about dreams and hobbies, and how to prioritize them in our lives.
First of all, I want to say that in no way am I saying that each of us cannot have more than one dream, hobby, or interest. I have LOTS of interests. But that is the exact reason I am writing this post. It isn’t about cutting out certain dreams. It’s about prioritizing them.
Stephanie Morill wrote a really great article describing how your writing life is not about balancing everything equally all the time. It isn’t about balance; it’s about seasons. Your dream life is like that too.
There are times when your focus and vision will be locked in on one dream. As you grow and change, that vision might change, and you might chase something completely different. God reveals different passions to us throughout our lives.
There was a time when I thought I’d be a music major. I practiced HOURS a day (sometimes as much as four to five!). I had two different teachers, competed, and studied theory. In two years, I went from a complete and total beginner to working through advanced pieces. My life pretty much revolved around piano. But I have horrible performance anxiety, and I cracked under the pressure. I knew I could never be a music major if I couldn’t even perform. Plus, with all the pressure I put on myself, I had started to lose that love for music that had helped me progress so quickly.
My dreams changed. I still play piano, but I do it because I love it. It is less of a dream and more of a passion now.
I tell this whole story to illustrate that at different points in our life, we want different things. We chase different dreams. However, one thing has been pretty constant my whole life. And that is writing. I have been writing seriously for seven years, and even though there was a time when I wasn’t writing a novel, I was still writing picture books and poetry. I never completely stopped.
I know inside that this is what I was gifted to do. God put a dream in my heart, and it has stayed constant, despite practically every other thing shifting. Throughout high school, I changed my mind at least a dozen times about what I wanted to major in. Some people have their vision fixed on a career, and they chase it from childhood. Everything they do works up to it.
I wasn’t like that. I did lots of different things, experimented, worked, volunteered. Tested the waters, discovered what I loved, changed my mind. That’s okay! There does come a time when you need to decide – and I have, finally. But it wasn’t easy. It has been a very interesting journey, to say the least =)
I know there are others out there who can say the same. You have lots of interests, lots of goals, lots of dreams. How do we juggle them all? How do we find time for each, without neglecting some?
The answer is – you can’t. At least, not always. You cannot give the same amount of dedication and time to each passion and hobby, every day, 365 days a year. It just isn’t possible. You aren’t a robot. You’re only one person, with two hands and one mind and 24 hours in a day.
There will be seasons in your life, when you feel like your time is dominated by one thing. That might be school, or a commitment, or a writing deadline.
You have to evaluate your goals and dreams, and you have to plan. It takes prioritizing.
Here’s some tips on how to do that:
SIT DOWN AND EVALUATE
In order to know where to divide your time, you have to first realize what goals/dreams/tasks need and demand that time. Lay out everything in one list. Write out your goals. It will help to see everything, even if it is something small. It will also help you to realize the ratio of goals to time. Sometimes we don’t realize everything we are trying to accomplish at once. Organizing your goals can help you take control of them and start crossing things off your list!
DECIDE WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU
We must sometimes choose one goal over another. Like I said, we want to do everything all at once, but sometimes we just can’t. You don’t have to only focus on ONE thing at a time, necessarily, but you need to decide what you want most. What are you willing to sacrifice to get it? If you are in college, studying is your #1 priority, but it doesn’t have to be your only one. You can still write while in school. Nevertheless, you have to realize that sometimes you might have to sacrifice writing time in order to spend an extra hour studying for that really important exam.
This should be first and last, and everywhere in between, but I mention it third because it is imperative at this stage. Once you realize what YOU want, take time you ask God what HE wants. Where is He leading you? It is easy to drown out His voice when we are pursuing our own dreams. God is the dream-giver, and He can use our gifts for amazing things, but we first have to give over our gifts to Him, and allow Him to be in control. Trust me, as someone who likes planning and control, that is hard for me. It is really hard to not know. But it is also amazing to see God literally shaping and directing our lives, right before our eyes.
Acknowledge which goals you are most passionate about. For a gymnast wanting to compete in the Olympics, she is going to train and work towards that goal. Does that mean she can’t have any other interests in her life? No. But it does mean she is going to spend her time wisely, in a way that allows her to work towards her dream – becoming an Olympian. Decide what you are working towards. If you have lots of interests like I do, try and decide what you want most. I’ll be honest, and show you a very spontaneous listing of mine. It is the summer right now, so my goals are very different than they will be in the fall, when school will rocket to #1 on the list:
Finish first draft of WIP
Finish sending all final queries for WHAT LIES ABOVE
Finish (certain listed) TBR books
These are straight off a list I made towards the beginning of the summer of things I wanted to accomplish before classes started again. You will notice they are ALL writing/book related. Does this mean that my every day is spent doing nothing but writing and reading? No.
All these things are writing-related because they are long-term goals. If you looked at my daily goals on a day I don’t work, they would look something like this:
Write 1500+ words in WIP
Read 3 chapters of (current read)
Film new video
Write/schedule blog post
Share today’s post on Twitter & FB
30+ min piano
Register for conference
Decide on day for guest post
Put dates in new calendar
Send email invites for July guest posts
This is actually taken from a list I had made earlier this week. I didn’t accomplish every one of these tasks that day, and this isn’t all-inclusive. I have daily house chores and errands I sometimes need to run which pop up. Like I said, they are all pretty much writing-related right now, since I utilize summers for bookish stuff. I’m trying to cram the most into these three months as I can ;)
The difference between long-term goals and short-term ones is that long-term goals will require planning over weeks, months, and sometimes years. Daily goals are smaller. You can take care of them in a matter of minutes or hours. Sometimes, a daily goal might be part of a long-term goal. For example, “write 1500+ words is WIP” is a step towards finishing the whole book. But the 1500 words is not a long term goal. Finishing the whole manuscript is.
The reason why I stress the difference between these two types of goals is because daily goals will often look different than long-term ones. Let’s get back to me singing for a moment. Is it okay for my daily activity to be choir practice? Yes. I like to sing. It’s a passion. Being in a choir is something I enjoy. But is “become a singer” on my long-term goal list? No. I don’t want to be a singer as a career. It isn’t something I am working towards.
This is important because it will help me prioritize whether I should spend an hour watching singing videos or spend that hour writing. It is absolutely okay to spend time doing things you love and enjoy. In fact, you need to have some days which are “you-days”. It’s okay to relax and go hiking, watch a movie, or spend time with friends/family. You can’t go 100 miles an hour, every day, all year long. You’ll burn out.
However, you also need to remember that, after those relaxing hours/days are over, it’s time to hustle again. We can’t stay in a constant state of relaxation, because we’ll never get anything accomplished that way.
Once you’ve established (1) your dreams and (2) long-term vs. short-term goals, the next thing to do is the set them to deadlines. Look at your list and establish when you want them accomplished by. Some are up in the air. For example, if your goal is to secure an agent, you don’t know when that will happen. It isn’t something you can track with a date or deadline. Other things, though, like “finish WIP first draft” are attainable goals. You can establish a daily word count and finish by a certain deadline. Remember, your daily goals will have a deadline of “today” or “tomorrow”. Long-term goals will have deadlines like “July 5th” or “before fall semester”.
After all this, your head is probably spinning. I’ve told you to prioritize in one breath, and then in the next said it’s okay to have interests which you do purely because you like doing them. Confused?
Let me try to sum it up in one sentence – Recognize what this season of your life is for, decide how to accomplish your set goals, and realize that you need to enjoy your life too.
We can’t do everything.
We’re only human.
What is it you want most? What is it God is calling you too right now?
Please realize that I am not talking down to you. I don’t share all this because I am an incredible time-manager and my life is perfect. I don’t accomplish everything I want and meet every deadline. In fact, I haven’t spent nearly the time I should this summer (or past year, actually) writing. I have made progress, but if I had been as driven as I know I can be, I would already be done with my WIP. I lose focus too, guys! Don’t feel bad if you have in the past. It’s never too late to change and start seizing the day!
I am determined to start seizing mine. Every hour is a gift, and I realize that I’ve wasted a lot of them in the past. I tend to blog about and share the happy milestones, but there are difficult, discouraging times as well. Times when I feel guilty for letting precious free time slip away. That’s behind me. Let’s be accountable together!
If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment below and share your thoughts! How do you manage your time and prioritize your dreams? Do you feel like you aren’t accomplishing anything, or like you are doing lots of busy work with no results? I’d love to hear about it. You aren’t alone =)
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