Okay, I know. “Important priorities” is redundant. Priorities denote importance. So what is important to you? Ask yourself what your priorities are. Do we think about that very often, or is running around putting out fires the basis of our lives? Is doing as little as possible and being comfortable the basis of our lives to where that is the only priority we have?
Here’s an exercise: Keep track of what you do for a day or a week or a month. It can be a rough accounting. At the end of the day or week, think about what you did and for approximately how long. It might be something like this:
This week, I slept 58 hours, I worked at my job (including getting ready, and traveling to and from the job) 53 hours, I relaxed (or had fun or did nothing-much: aimless television, aimless reading of newspapers, magazines, novels, aimless internet, aimless conversations and socializing, being with friends instead of with family, etc.) for 36 hours, I ate (including preparation and clean-up) for 16 hours, I shopped for two hours, and I’m not sure what I did for the remaining three hours.
If this were your accounting, what would anyone think are your priorities? Sleep is good and making money is important. Eating is necessary. Can’t fault you for that. Then again, do you sleep to live or live to sleep? How late did you sleep in on Saturday and Sunday? 58 hours equates to more than 8 hours per night. Do you do the minimum necessary to get a paycheck or are you always getting better and becoming of more worth to your present and future employers? When it comes to discretionary time, it looks like you don’t care much about accomplishing anything. Your priorities are to be comfortable and relax. That’s about it.
If we don’t set priorities, we have them anyway. Life can show us our priorities or we can show life our priorities.
Someone who has purposeful priorities and takes control of her life instead of letting life drift in the wind might have an accounting something like this:
This week, I slept for 55 hours, I worked at my job (including getting ready, and traveling to and from the job) for 53 hours. Included in this time I spent seven hours improving myself and showing my supervisor that I am doing more than is expected so that I can be promoted and paid more. I relaxed (relaxing reading, television, internet, socializing) for 12 hours. Most of this was pleasant time and fun with my spouse and with my children rather than in isolation and irritation if anyone bothered me. I ate (including preparation and clean-up) for 17 hours. The whole family helped prepare the meals and clean up afterwards, and we talked during meals about school, goals, dreams, accomplishments, and so forth. I shopped for two hours. I spent 10 hours in introspection, spiritual pursuits, general self improvement, becoming expert at skills and talents that interest me, helping to improve the human condition as much as I can, improving our community, and so forth. I spent 10 hours directly with my spouse and with the children, other than having fun and talking to them at dinner, helping with homework, helping them prepare for life, cleaning the house and yard together, etc. I spent six hours in physical exercise. I spent three hours making sure my papers, receipts, finances, books, memories, and so forth are organized.
Did you know you could do so much in a week if you just had and acted on priorities?
If someone were to look at this second accounting, what would they think of your priorities? It looks like you’re trying to improve yourself so that you are always employable and so that you can make good money. You spend time getting to know yourself, improving yourself generally, keeping yourself healthy, and in helping others. Family is obviously important to you, and you certainly understand how important it is to train and help your children and stay in tune with your spouse. Organization so that you can get more out of life is a priority for you.
In this second accounting, even though there was relaxing and having fun, doing nothing or wasting time or being comfortable at the expense of getting better were not seen as priorities.
Priorities help us get the most from our lives. We can accomplish more. We can get further. We can even relax, socialize, and have more fun with priorities. I’ll say it again. Life can show us our priorities or we can show life our priorities.
This week, let’s think about our priorities. Are they a tool we use to get where we should be, or are they something we pay no attention to? Let’s make sure we are going somewhere and that we are using priorities to get there.