How You Slice It

What are your priorities? Are you living them?

There’s a group called that hands out postcards depicting a pie chart of the United States’ budget. The Pentagon’s slice is well over half the pie, with each of the other categories (education, health, environment, justice, housing, etc.) occupying just a tiny wedge. My older daughter picked up this postcard from a sidewalk protester and asked us about the chart. Next thing you know my husband had us all (including our preschooler) drawing our own pies and dividing them up as we saw fit. “Imagine it’s your piggy bank,” he said. “How would you want to spend it?” What ensued was a lively discussion of values and priorities and trade-offs. It was a good lesson for us all.

How does your own resource allocation align with your priorities? Imagine your personal financial pie chart, reflecting your actual spending. Do you know what percentage you spend on housing, healthcare, savings, lattes? Sketch out the major slices. Does it reflect your values and priorities? If not, what would your ideal allocation (one that is aligned with your values and reflects your priorities) look like?

I grant you that this exercise is an oversimplification. Some things simply cost more and will therefore occupy a larger slice of the pie than others. But if your spending is way out of whack with your stated values and priorities, you need to begin to make adjustments or you will find yourself squandering resources and underfunding things that are important to you.

Now imagine another pie chart — TIME. Your pie represents a block of time — a day or a week. Draw slices representing your six to ten major time commitments. Ask yourself: does it reflect your values and priorities? Is it sustainable? are there any major time-wasters? What is over-weighted, underrepresented or missing? Is there a Pentagon in your budget that is taking more than its share?

Finally, sketch out your ideal time allocation, aligned with your values and priorities. It should be sustainable and include all your major necessities as well as your aspirations. How does it look, and how does it differ from your actual?

What can you do to make your actual pie look more like your ideal? What will you do this week to ensure that you are living your priorities? Please share your ideas here.