Earlier this week, we talked about living your best life — or, perhaps more importantly, the opportunity to find balance in pursuit of your best life. As we mentioned in that post, you find that balance by designing your life with intention: By prioritizing what’s most important to you, and getting rid of what’s not.

One week ago today, we launched our Academic Year 2019-2020 Flagship Daily Planners, which combine beautiful designs, goal-setting worksheets and effective planning pages to support you in designing your life with intention and prioritizing the habits, activities, and people that are most important to you.

Today, we’re going to dive a little bit deeper into how you can prioritize what’s most important in your own life.

These are our five best practices to get you started:

1. Envision Your Ideal Day

If you read our last post, you’ve likely already envisioned what your best life looks like, so this next step should be pretty easy: Consider what your ideal day looks like.

As we’ve said before: Dream big, but consider this in the context of your current life too. If nothing were to change right now except for your daily actions, what would your best day look like? How would you act? What tasks would you complete? When would you spend time with your family and friends? How would you take care of yourself?

Consider both your personal and professional priorities. If you have a job, think about the days that you have to work and the days that you don’t: What does an ideal version of each day look like? Once you’ve gotten clear on these days, ask yourself: What changes do you need to make to your life currently? What habits might you need to incorporate? Which habits should you try to break?

Remember that it’s okay if there’s a lot you want to change. Awareness is the first step, and today we’ll work out how to start taking small steps that get you big results . . . and that get you that much closer to your vision of your best day.

“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” – John Maxwell

2. Remove the Shoulds, Consider Your Musts

Now that you’ve created a list of everything you have to do to change your life, take a step back.

Review your list carefully and consider what you’ve listed that you think you “should” do, and what you’ve listed that you “must” do.

What’s the difference? Well, “should-dos” are often those habits, tasks, and ideas that are given to us by other people — whether actual people in our lives, people we follow on Instagram, or just general societal ideas of what an ideal life should look like. “Should-dos” don’t necessarily align with what you want or need to do to get to the best version of your life, but you feel like you should do them because that’s what you’ve been told.

“Must-dos” on the other hand are the habits, tasks, and ideas that you know you must do to become the best version of yourself in the best version of your life — as decided by you. These are the changes you genuinely want to make, the habits you genuinely want to shift — not because anybody else is telling you that you should, but because you know and want to make those changes for yourself.

The difference between “should-dos” and “must-dos” is obvious in theory, but not always so easy to spot in practice. Give yourself time and space to get clear on what you must do, and feel free to take all of the “shoulds” off of your list.

3. Pick One to Start

This step can be tough when you’re ready and raring to go on your big new goals — but it’s important to be realistic and remember that you can’t make every big change at once.

This is where a lot of people (ourselves included!) get stuck with New Year’s resolutions. When you try to change everything in your life at once, you’ll inevitably get overwhelmed, perhaps feel pretty discouraged, and eventually give up on changing anything because you couldn’t change everything.

We don’t want that to happen to you!

Instead, pick one change or habit to incorporate into your life right now. Start there, knowing that you have your whole list of “must-dos” to come back to once you’ve solidly made this first shift. Set yourself up for success by picking just one thing to prioritize from the start.

4. Get Clear on Next Steps

Once you’ve gotten clear on your first priority, get clear on how you can incorporate it into your life! What are the next steps that will help you start to make this change?

If you want to start journaling every day, your next steps might be: 1) Buy a beautiful notebook, 2) Clear off my desk, 3) Set notebook and pen on my desk every night, 4) Journal for 15 minutes after making my coffee every morning.

The steps don’t have to be hard! All the better if they’re not, right? Most of the time, these big changes in our lives only seem hard and overwhelming because we haven’t thought through the mini steps it takes to make them happen.

Figure out the next steps for your top priority!

5. Write It All Down

This last step is the most important step in planning — whether you’re dreaming big or planning the day-to-day details of your life.

No matter what you’re planning, you can’t keep it all in your head. If you want to make something happen — from starting a new daily journaling habit to remembering your kid’s dentist appointment — you’re going to have to write it down.

We’ve designed our Day Designer planners — including our two newly-launched Academic Year formats — to help you do exactly this. With our signature daily and weekly planning pages (which you can download and try for free!), you can map your priorities, goals, appointments, notes, and more!

This is how you find balance in pursuit of your best life. As you make the changes and shifts necessary to develop new habits, you’ll map those priorities against the actual hours and activities of your everyday life.

Using your Day Designer, you can map out regularly occurring events like birthdays, appointments, classes, practices, and so on. You can also plan for meals, shopping, and other personal errands. You can include time for your professional obligations and any personal time you want to set aside for yourself or your family. And you can also add the next steps for your new habits and priorities!

You become overwhelmed when you don’t know what’s coming up next; when you don’t feel in control in your own life. Writing everything down helps you take ownership of your life; it helps you find balance. You know you won’t forget important details, and you know that each day is aligned to your personal priorities and values.

That’s how your prioritize what’s most important. That is how you balance it all.

On Friday, we’ll share how prioritizing and planning with intention ultimately leads to higher productivity and greater presence — and we’ll give you a free tool to help you do that!

What one new change or habit do you want to incorporate into your life right now? Share with us in the comments below!