I distinctly remember interviewing for a foster care case manager position, which ended up being my first job out of college. I was given a list of several different job responsibilities and was asked to prioritize them. It felt like a trick question. Things such as attending a court hearing or an essential meeting that happened only twice per year. Getting kids to and from family visits or maintaining records and notes on every little thing that was said or done. How was I supposed to rank them when they all seemed essential?
Turns out it wasn’t a trick question. They all had to get done, but sometimes you had to choose one over another. I ultimately learned there were right and wrong ways to prioritize my ever-changing, chaotic case management schedule. Sometimes things that appeared extremely important had to give way to things that were technically more important. It’s challenging when the important things we have to do don’t match up with the hours in the day.
That’s when we must deliberately prioritize.
What are you top priorities? Family? God? Your kids? I’d be willing to wager a guess that those are the first things that popped into your mind. Maybe what you declare to be your priorities actually are your priorities, but let’s pause for a minute. Consider how you spend your free time.
Is your free time mostly spent with your family or with God? After all, that’s what most of us say we prioritize.
Or is your free time more honestly spent staring at your phone, checking for the umpteenth time how many “likes” or “retweets” you’ve received since you last looked (ten minutes ago). Maybe it’s spent watching TV or scrolling Amazon. What we choose to do with our time reflects our top priorities.
(Maybe you’re saying “Free time? What is that?” In which case, I assume you are probably overworked or else you have small children or a family situation that demands your time. Sometimes these situations last just for a season and you find respite on the other side. But if a lack of free time is a constant in your life, no matter the circumstances, I would encourage you to re-evaluate your priorities. Rest is not an option, it’s a necessity. But I digress.)
Last month we planted a garden in our backyard. We tilled and planted hastily, trying to get it done before the rain. We didn’t plan and prioritize properly for the undertaking that it was, and now? Now it looks like part of the lawn.
Initially I would have called our garden a priority but honestly, grass has taken it over. Recently the kids and I were able to weed a good part of it, at least around the plants, but it still feels like a lost cause. We planned and planted a garden, but I didn’t prioritize maintaining it. It got lost in a sea of “other things” that needed to be done and it fell to the bottom of the list. Obviously my time management and neglect of the garden demonstrated its true lack of priority in my mind.
Are you prioritizing your true priorities? To find out, try this:
Make a list of what you would call your top three priorities. Then make a list of the top three things that consume your time. How do they match up?
Obviously this isn’t a perfect exercise, factoring in work and family commitments that are beyond our control, but it should still, in part, be reflective of where our true commitments lie.
If work is edging out your proclaimed priorities, do you throw your hands up and decide there’s nothing you can do? Or do you pray and seek out an alternative plan that leaves you with more time for the things you truly count as valuable?
If you count God as your number one priority, what does that look like in your life? Are you ingraining him as part of your every day or do you find yourself saying a quick generic prayer just as your eyes are closing for the night?
Ask God to reveal to you where your priorities should lie and what steps are necessary to get there. He loves to help us get our lives in order when we ask for his help.
Now try to identify one of your priorities that isn’t getting its deserved time of day from you. What would be a next step in bridging the gap of proclaimed priority vs. actual priority? The first step is to acknowledge the discrepancy and the second step is to take action to fix it.
Here, I’ll go first. I acknowledge that my kids are a top priority, but now that they’re old enough to be self-sufficient it’s all too easy to go about my business while they’re off doing their own thing. If I want long lasting relationships with them, I must be proactive about spending time with and really getting to know each of them individually. This week I will endeavor to spend more quality time with each of them. (Perhaps by weeding the garden together…kill two birds with one stone, yes??)
If we aren’t deliberate with our time, we will end up wasting it. Period.
Have you identified the discrepancies between your priorities and where your time is spent? What steps can you take this week to bridge that gap?
Leave me a comment to let me know your thoughts. I’d love for you to sign up to receive future blog posts by email as well. Have a happy Fourth of July and thanks for reading!