Making Time Management Manageable: the Power of the Three Non-Negotiables

by Meris Shuwarger BSN, RN, CEN, TCRN January 17, 2022 Updated: September 30, 2022 4 min read

Do you get overwhelmed looking at the never-ending tasks on your to-do list? When you look at your to-do list, do you become paralyzed by indecision? Check out how Meris recommends using our Nursing School Planner to learn how to prioritize your tasks from day to day.

Full Transcript

Hi. I'm Meris with Level Up RN. And in this video, I want to share with you a little bit about something you'll see on these weekdays here called non-negotiables. And this is a habit that I created for myself when I was in nursing school, where I would have a list of things to do that was so overwhelming to me. Because I had the school things. I had my assignments, my tests, and my papers, and my clinicals, and labs, and all of those things. But I also had all of the things that I needed to do for work and all of the things that I needed to do for home.

And if you're like me, you might be used to putting all of those things onto one to-do list, where you just have an endless list of things that are all muddled and mingled together. So all you can see is, "Oh my God. I have 25 things I need to do." If I look at a list with 25 things, my brain shuts down. I look at that list, and I become paralyzed by indecision. I have executive dysfunction because as someone with ADHD, my brain does not work the way a neurotypical person's does. However, I feel that this is a pretty common and universal experience. When I see a whole bunch of stuff to do, sometimes I can just get overwhelmed and not know where to start.

So I started coming up with what I call my three non-negotiables. You've heard me say it before, but some balls are glass, and some balls are rubber. So when you inevitably drop the ball, it's important to know which is which. Meaning, some balls are rubber. If I drop the ball, it will bounce back, and I can recover from it, but some balls are glass, and if I drop the ball, it will shatter onto the floor into a million pieces, and I cannot recover. An example here. If I don't go to the doctor, yeah, that's going to be embarrassing, and I will have wasted their time and mine. But I can call and reschedule. I can call and cancel. I can call and say, "I'm so sorry. Something came up. I can't come in." However, if I don't show up to simulation, I will fail this class. And that is very important to understand, that my number one non-negotiable task that day is go to sim. because my success in that class depends on going to sim. So it's got to be done.

But it's not always these life or death things that need to go on this list. Sometimes it's like, "If I don't do my kids' laundry, they're not going to have clothes to wear for the rest of the week." So I've got to get that done on Tuesday or else my kids are going to be going to school in their pajamas. So that's non-negotiable to me. You might also see that here, on the days that I work, I have a non-negotiable task, which is putting my kids to bed.

This is something that I experience in my personal life. I really do work from 6:00 to 6:00. And when I get home, it's actually closer to 7:00 most of the time, so I have not seen my children all day long. So one of my non-negotiables is to be there to put them to bed. I want to be the person that puts them in their pajamas and brushes their teeth and reads them a story that night because I missed out on seeing them all day long. So for me, that's a non-negotiable task on those days. What matters to you should be your non-negotiables. It's not up to me to tell you what you should put as your non-negotiables. It's up to you to decide. And that's what's so great about this system, is that sometimes your non-negotiable could be calling someone, keeping in touch, picking a paper topic, putting the kids to bed, drinking water. All of those things can be your non-negotiable task. And sometimes it can be these huge things like, "I have to go to sim." "I have to go to work."

Right? Those things are big, big things I need to do, so I'm going to make them my non-negotiable task. But the way I do this are, "What three things do I need to accomplish today in order to call this day a success?" When I put my head down on the pillow at night, it is overwhelmingly likely that I will not have completed that list of 25 or more things that I need to do in all aspects of my life. It's just not realistic. However, can I manage to do three things? Almost always, the answer is going to be yes. So by literally giving you the space to prioritize your many, many things to do, we have given you the tools to start learning how to tease out what is the most important thing on that list. I hope this is helpful to you. If you start using these non-negotiables, I would love to hear how it works for you. And if you found a really cool way to use it that works better for you, please, please tag us at Level Up RN. I want to hear so badly. I'm really excited to get these planners into your hands and see how you make them your own and use them in your own unique ways. Thanks so much for listening. And happy studying.


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