I’m not the biggest fan of memes that tell me how to live but this week I saw one that hit home. There I was, scrolling Facebook instead of being productive (though I could argue that, as someone whose job involves both social media and being up on the news, scrolling through social media is productive) and I saw one of those cut-and-paste-into-a-picture memes that usually says something like “Be the change you wish to see!” and drives me crazy.

But this one said: “Instead of saying ‘I don’t have time’ try saying ‘it’s not a priority,’ and see how that feels. Often, that’s a perfectly adequate explanation. I have time to iron my sheets, I just don’t want to. But other things are harder. Try it: ‘I’m not going to edit your résumé, sweetie, because it’s not a priority.’ ‘I don’t go to the doctor because my health is not a priority.’ If these phrases don’t sit well, that’s the point. Changing our language reminds us that time is a choice. If we don’t like how we’re spending an hour, we can choose differently.”

And I thought it was brilliant.

See, my life is in a state of flux right now and I’m finding myself wasting more time than I should, not because I have a lot of free time – I actually should have less than ever – but because I don’t know what to do first, so I panic and watch videos of hamsters eating burritos. And this advice changed the way I did at things. I started making my to-do lists in order of priority – including the little time wasters. So, the list might look a little something like this (though this one is extremely truncated)

  1. Create 4 blog posts – 2 on hiring/recruiting and 2 on career advice
  2. Contact Bob about signed forms for Syrian refugee project
  3. Go for a run
  4. Make myself barf rainbows with Snapchat

It amuses me. But it mainly puts important things front and centre, and makes me face the fact that the amount of time I spend on social media is excessive – even for someone for whom it’s part of the job.

Changing our language here can affect how we approach everything from life to work and give our career priorities proper perspective. We probably have time to do all kinds of things that we just don’t want to do – I know I do.

Try it yourself and see how it works. You should be making to do lists anyway, since it’s one of those things successful people do according to articles about things successful people do, which are all over the internet (so they must be true). You might as well get creative with them. And while you might wind up barfing rainbows, you’re equally as likely, I think, to realize that there are better ways to spend your time – and remove that one from the list.

Incidentally, I located the article the Facebook post was referencing. It’s by Laura Vanderkam, who is coincidentally the author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, and it’s has more useful advice in it, particularly for people who claim to be super busy but who actually aren’t, which is most of the Western population, I think. You should read it here.