what are your non-negotiables

What are your non-negotiables? [PMP #150]

“If you don't prioritise your life, someone else will do it for you.”

This is one of my favourite lines from Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism (here's my book summary).

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Have you ever stopped to think about your priorities? And I don’t just mean your work but in all aspects of “life”.

Another way I like to think of priorities is as “non-negotiables”. These are the things you are 100% firm on. Things you have to do, without fail.

When we prioritise our time, we generally think of things in terms of importance or urgency. Having a list of non-negotiables is like having a set of rules that allows you to override anything important or urgent.Click To Tweet

For example, every week I have to go to at least 3 CrossFit classes. Regardless of how busy I am at work or how much people ask for my time, I will make time for 3 classes minimum without fail. I find it so important for my mental and physical well-being which has a knock-on effect to everything else I do.

Because of this, if I’m planning my next meeting with a client and someone asks if I can meet at 3:30 pm on a Wednesday, it’s an instant ‘no’. Because I have classes at 5:00 pm I know this won’t work so I have to find a more suitable time. If this wasn’t a non-negotiable, I might respond by canceling my class and doing the meeting instead. Because it’s a non-negotiable, it means I protect the things that are important to me.

Another non-negotiable for me is sleep. I’ll be in bed around 9:30-10 pm each night so I can get 7-8 hours of sleep. Obviously, if I have social events on I might have a late night every now and then. But generally speaking, I’m very consistent with my sleep. One of the reasons I track my sleep (using Sleep Watch) is so that I can maintain a healthy sleep routine. So even if I have to take an early or late call every now and then, by tracking my sleep I ensure I’m not getting into an unhealthy routine.

Just as having a few non-negotiables will help you to protect certain areas of your life, having a few things that you don't mind being flexible on will help when it comes to planning your time.

I’ve mentioned before how I try and use Wednesday’s as my “project day” where I work on my own projects and not client work. Rather than making this a non-negotiable, I can be flexible if I need to allocate time to a big client project that I want to move the needle on.

If you haven’t already, it’s worth writing down the things that are non-negotiable in your life. So even if something important or urgent comes up, you can protect the things that matter to you. Thinking in terms of “negotiability” means you can be more disciplined about certain things. For example, if you'd like to start meditating, find a time of the day you'd like to dedicate to this and make it a non-negotiable. That way you can view the new habit as if you don't even have a choice.

Here are some other things that could be non-negotiable:

  • Your morning routine. One of my previous podcast guests, Megan Yelaney, has a really important morning routine that I'd say is non-negotiable.
  • Habits like meditation and journaling. While some people are very strict and consistent, I’m quite flexible on these things.
  • Maintaining a specified diet if you're trying to lose weight or cut out certain food.
  • Spending time with your spouse, family or friends. Maybe you want to have Saturday mornings as quality time to play with your kids.
  • Stopping work at a certain time so you don't work too much.
  • Reading on a regular basis. You might want to make reading non-negotiable at certain times of the day or week.

So, what are your non-negotiables, let me know in the comments below!