How we spend our time is how we spend our life, so let’s make it count, hey? Here’s some advice on how to live by your values.

A duotoned dark purple and beige version of the Apple woman elf emoji, in front of a light blue zig zag shape across the bottom of the image

If you’d rather watch than read, here’s the video version (8min):

Here’s what’s covered:
0:02 What are values?
0:17 What’s the point in knowing what they are?
0:58 How to work them out
1:07 Start with a long list
1:32 Narrow it down to a shorter list (eg. up to 5 values)
1:54 How I narrowed mine down
2:00 My shortlist of 5 values
2:20 Making your values visible
2:32 Holding values lightly
2:51 Value alignment AKA applying them to your life
3:47 Using your calendar to live in alignment with your values
4:10 My personal calendar demo
5:24 Showing my work calendar overlay
5:54 Including estimated period dates to inform planning decisions
6:06 Using colour coding to assess balance at-a-glance
6:33 Questions to ask yourself when looking at your calendar
7:19 Summary / cheat sheet

What are values?

Your values are your deepest desires. Whether you’re aware of them or not, they’re the things you value most: they represent who you ARE, not who you think you SHOULD be.

By taking the time to figure out what you really, truly value, this can act as a compass as you move through life, helping guide your decisions. Should I start a family? Should I move to LA? Should I have a bagel for breakfast? …these might depend on whether you value financial freedom over being a parent, stability over adventure, or deliciousness over health.

Using your values as a frame of reference can help make even the toughest life questions a bit easier.

How to work out what your values are

A good place to start is by doing a quick Google for “values list” (James Clear and Brené Brown both have good ones!), and browsing the results for any words that resonate — at this point you can write down as many as you like. Go wild! 🐆

Try asking questions like: Who do I want to be? What do I like to do? What do I care about in relationships? What do I care about at work or school?

When I recently did this exercise, here are some of the words that stood out for me:

Who do I want to be?
What do I like to do?
What do I care about in relationships?
What do I care about at work?

Another approach is imagining your 100th birthday party: who’s there, and what do you hope they are saying about you? If I’m lucky, mine will sound something like this:

“Jess has always cared about learning new things and sharing what she’s learned with others. She worked hard, but always created space for her partner, family and friends, and understands the need for balance in all things. She also champions self-care, and will have no qualms saying no to an invitation or extra work, if she knows what she actually needs is to rest — and hopes others would always do the same.”

So you’ll have a list of words, but at this point it’s likely all they’ll tell you is that you care about a lot of stuff 😬 Now it’s time to narrow them down. Ideally you only want five, or less! You want to really hone in: what are your top, top priorities? Because if everything is a priority, then nothing is.

Try comparing them side by side, and removing similar words. Like caring or empathy? Coaching or sharing? Movement or energy? If you’re having trouble deciding, flip a coin and see how you feel about your reaction to the result!

After this painstaking process, you should have your five top values.

Here’s what I came up with for mine:

  1. Authenticity
  2. Caring
  3. Learning
  4. Sharing
  5. Movement

Once you have this list, stick it on your fridge or above your desk; somewhere prominent so you can refer to them regularly. Only don’t get them etched in stone. We are changeable creatures, and our values will shift over time. Maybe you’ll realise one of them wasn’t quite right to begin with. Make sure you can easily change these over time. I recommend post-it notes.

You might also like to incorporate these in your personal charter.

A photo of post it notes above a computer screen which read authenticity, caring, learning, sharing and movement
My value post-its above my desk at home

How to live by your values

Here’s the juicy bit: how you spend your time, is how you live inline with your values. If you value your family, but don’t prioritise time with them, you aren’t living by that value.

How we spend our days is how we spend our lives

Life Admin Hacks

This is where your calendar can come in handy. It’s your best tool to make sure that how you’re using your time reflects your values. What do you want more of in life? Art? Gardening? Learning? Sleeping? Schedule it!

This might be in a diary, a calendar on your wall, or digital like Google Calendar. I’m a gCal queen myself, because it’s always with me and I can take advantage of fancy features like a shared car calendar with my partner, recurring events, and showing the phases of the moon 🌝

The next level here is to colour-code your calendar, to give you a visual at-a-glance check of what you’re prioritising:

  • What’s getting more time than it should?
  • What’s not getting enough?
  • Are you living by other people’s priorities, or your own?
  • If you had a magic wand, how would you change your next week?
Screenshot of a week view in Google Calendar showing purple personal events and black work events
The ‘Week’ view in my Google Calendar

If you want to be the kind of person who works out after work, but it’s never scheduled, well… go on, give it a whirl.


In summary:

✅ Know your values
✅ Refer to them regularly
✅ Reflect on them
✅ Plan your time to match