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Develop a Life Priority List and Write More

June 13, 2023

Note From Rochelle

Today’s tip is an excerpt from my book, Level Up. In this tip, I talk about how to develop a life priority list. It will make deciding what to do on a daily basis much easier.

Happy writing,

Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach

Develop a Life Priority List

Develop a Life Priority List

By Rochelle Melander

Never say ‘no’ to adventures. Always say ‘yes,’ otherwise you’ll lead a very dull life.

– Ian Fleming

Most of us know what we’re never up for. Here’s part of my list: riding roller coasters, cuddling cats (I’m sadly allergic), and creating spreadsheets.

But despite having a clear idea of what we don’t want to do, many of us don’t make time for the activities we’re passionate about—like writing. We do what we must do to make a living. Then we take care of the tasks necessary to make a life. With the energy we have left over, we fulfill our wants. But often we’re too tired to remember to connect to the activities that bring us joy or lead us closer to living our vision of the ideal life.

In my book Write-A-Thon, I talk about how using a life priority list can help us say yes to what matters. A life priority list or “absolute yes” list are the five activities that we are so passionate about we will always say yes to them. The tool comes from coach Cheryl Richardson’s book Take Time for Your Life. This kind of list makes responding to invites much easier—if it doesn’t fit the list, it gets an immediate, “no.” Here’s an excerpt:

For years, I have made use of a life priority list—a list that names the five people and activities I will always make a priority. My list is: Self, Writing, Family, Friends, and my Coaching business. Any invitation that fits within this list frequently gets a yes. Any activity not on the list needs to prove its worth before I can say yes.

In this quest, you’ll create your own life priority list.

The Quest

I recommend that people do quests like these in libraries, parks, or coffee shops. When you’re in your home or work environment, it’s hard to think about anything besides what you can see and hear.

What do you value?

Ask yourself: What people, events, work, and recreational activities are most important to me? Make a list.

Choose Five

If you end up with a list of ten or fifteen items, then it’s time to choose five. And yes—although some people suggest you could have up to ten things on your list, don’t! Respect your own boundaries and limit yourself to five. Here’s how:

+Review. What items on the list are aligned to your big goals—like writing a book? Does anything come up repeatedly? That might be a sign that it’s important to you.

+Combine. Are any of the items on your list activities or interests that could be combined? Maybe you have plays, concerts, and movies on your list. This could be combined under Arts Events.

+Challenge. If you want to write or make art and you have more than five items on your list, ask:

  • Would I say yes to this instead of writing or making art?
  • Would I say yes to this if I had to do it for free?
  • Would I say yes to this if I wasn’t worried about pleasing others?
  • Would I say yes to this if I had to pay to do it?
  • Would I say yes to this if I had a year to live?
  • Do I need this to be an “absolute yes” or could I make it a “maybe?” Remove the maybes!


Whew! You did it! Now that you have just five items, add a few sentences to describe what each item means for you. It’s helpful to be specific here. Say what type of “volunteering” or “family” activities you’ll say yes to. For example, while my community is important to me, and volunteering is one way I support the community, I try to help in ways that allow me to use my strengths.


The absolute yes list means nothing until you act on it. Take that absolute yes list on the road. And by on the road, I mean take it to your calendar, your desktop, and anywhere else you do work. Next time someone invites you to do something, check the list. And don’t say yes unless the activity fits with one of your priorities and does not conflict with your primary goals.

Pro Tip: If you use the list for a few weeks or months and it doesn’t feel like it’s working, it might not be. Major life events or simply changes in seasons can shift the items on our list. Review the quest again and revise your list.

For the Win

The absolute yes list works because it takes the angst out of making decisions in the moment. We’ve pre-decided what’s important to us so that when someone asks us to do something, we can consult our list. Happy choosing, writers!

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