Balancing Priorities and Demands: Are You Too Busy?

Paying attention to what's important to you and others.

Posted Jan 05, 2017

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Balancing priorities and demands is an interpersonal skill in DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy). Priorities are what you want, what’s important to you. Demands come from other people, what they want you to do. The idea is to have a balance that helps you live your life effectively. 

Take a look at how you spend your days. Do you spend most of your time with what is important to you or what others want you to do? Though it might seem wonderful to spend all your time on what you want to do, being out of balance in that way probably means that you are not paying attention to the people in your life and perhaps to goals that you need to accomplish to have the life you want to live. Having too many demands may mean that there is no time for you and you may become resentful of giving to others.

If we are paying attention to our lives, we’ll recognize those defining moments. The challenge for so many of us is that we are so deep into daily distractions and ‘being busy, busy’ that we miss out on those moments and opportunities that – if jumped on – would get our careers and personal lives to a whole new level of wow.  –Robin S. Sharma

Maybe you overwhelm yourself with all that that you want to do. You may have an unending list of projects—way beyond what is reasonable. Maybe you are overwhelmed with demands from others. Or maybe you have too few demands from others and very few priorities. Extremes tend to make you unhappy and you may miss those moments that could make a difference in your life.

Not being busy enough  is just as out of balance as being too busy. Each person’s balance may be different, but not being busy enough can mean you are avoiding or neglecting areas of your life. Maybe you are detached from your life and other people. 

To get your priorities back in balance if you are overly busy, consider your beliefs.Stop believing that being overly busy is the way to get everything done that you want to accomplish and to have a fulfilled life. When you are focused on accomplishment, marking the goal off your list, the journey becomes a burden. Doing what you love is about joy, loving each day and contentment. Busyness is about frustration, frenzy, and urgency. Being overly busy can destroy or minimize the gift of doing what you love. Consider doing a pros and cons list of being overly busy and having many priorities. Push yourself to list the pros and cons in more than a superficial way.

Be mindful of your words. Your words reflect your beliefs. Do you have a secret sense of pride when you say, “I’m so busy”? Maybe those words actually reflect an out of control life rather than a life filled with what is important to you.

If you are not busy enough and aren’t sure of your priorities, consider what your values are. Then take a look at how what priorities reflect your values.  What is important to you? What do you want to leave as your legacy to the world? What are your priorities now and in the long-term? Your priorities guide you in making decisions. You don’t have unlimited time. How you spend each day becomes your life.

If you look at your day as being like a pizza, who and where do you want to give the pieces? Are you putting your time into what is really important to you? 

If a request doesn’t fit your priorities, consider it carefully before saying yes. If your life is full with priorities the default answer would be no, not right now and only excellent reasons change that. If you’re a person who has too few priorities then your default answer might best be “yes.”