Life is not one thing. It is many things that make up life. Predominately, life is your relationships; they are the planets around which the rest of life should orbit. So how do you set your priorities correctly?
I am going to ask you to participate in figuring out your priorities and the proper means to set them. If you’ll do this with me, then perhaps I can help you understand your priorities better.
First, make a list, in order, of everything that is important to you. Start with what you feel like is your greatest priority and list them in order of importance. Your list may look something like this:
- Job / Career
Got your list? Good. Now, let me make some statements about your list that hopefully will get you to rethink your priorities.
YOUR PRIORITY LIST IS WRONG
- The main problem with your list is that only one thing can ever be #1 in your life. This is not wise. No matter what you put at the top of your list, you are now obligated to stop doing the others in favor of whatever is #1.
- If you focus on whatever is #2, then you are saying that #1 is now less important. This produces confusion in your mind. After all, if #1 is more important than #2, then why didn’t you stay at #1? Some of you may know where I am headed with this by now. Good.
- A priority list is impractical. There will be times when your children need to come first in your life and times when your spouse needs to be first. Obviously, for me, there will be times when God needs to be first. But having a list doesn’t do justice to the priorities in your life.
MAKE TWO PRIORITY LISTS
Now, I’d like you to throw away that first list and we’re going to make two new ones. Title one list “Essential” and the other list “Urgent.”
Place everything that you are unwilling to live without on the Essential List. Things like spouse, children, God, work, and so forth would go on this list. Place everything that you’d like to do or have on the Urgent List if you had the chance to do or have them. There is no particular order. It is either Essential or Urgent — nor order.
Priorities aren’t about what is more important and what is less important. The truth is everything on your Essential List is important. They are things you aren’t willing to live without. But at some point, each item on that list will take precedent over the other.
Things are essential if you can name when and where you focus on it already. You always find time to do what is most important to you. In other words, you schedule time for it. If you never schedule any time for your family, then your family isn’t that important to you. If you never schedule time to go to work, then your job isn’t that important to you.
Everything on my Essential List is scheduled into my life. Things on my Urgent List I get around to do when things on my Essential List aren’t a priority or scheduled.
GOD SHOULDN’T BE ON EITHER LIST
For me, as a devoted Christian, God isn’t on my Essential List. That may sound strange, but the truth is everything that is on my Essential and Urgent lists revolve around God. Everything that I do, I bring God into. Work, family, marriage, recreation, counseling, and so forth, I include God into all of it. I don’t actually put God above my wife. But God is always present when I focus on her and give her my attention. My wife doesn’t feel second to God, for when I spend time with her, I make her the most important thing in my world at that moment. God is present in how I spend that time with her, however.
It is true that on my Essential List is spending time with God. That is different than just putting “God” on the list. But when I pray or read my Bible, I bring God into it just as I bring God into my marriage and into the time I spend with my children.
And that is the key, whatever you are doing right now needs to be the most important thing that you are doing. When I spend time with my children, I try to make them feel that at that moment they are the most important thing in my life. It’s not an issue of what is more important. I make each area the most important thing in my life when I am focused on it — and God is always part of that.
Nothing is short-changed this way. My wife doesn’t feel second to my children, and my children don’t feel second to my wife. My ministry doesn’t feel second to my family and my family doesn’t feel second to the ministry.
PRIORITIES ARE ALWAYS SCHEDULED
Schedule everything that is on your Essential List into your daily life. Then, when it is time to give it your undivided attention, do so. Everything else is set aside for what you have scheduled. It becomes the most important thing in your life. If you don’t schedule time for it, then it is not a priority. Priorities get scheduled into your life because they are essential.
You may be wondering how much “time” to give to each of your priorities. When it comes to the Essential List, the allotted time comes naturally. Since they are so important to me, the time I give to each is based on what I want to give them. Items on my Urgent list are scheduled around my Essential items and only if there is nothing on my Essential List that should be scheduled for that time.
Priorities in life aren’t complicated if you treat each item as the most important thing in your life when it requires your attention. But if you don’t schedule time for it, then how can you say it is essential?
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