Monday, September 23, 2013

Putting Priorities to Work

The other day I told you why priorities are important, and then on Friday, I shared my priorities with you.  Today I'll show you how I'm using my priorities to define my days.

Have you heard this story?


One day, a professor walked into class carrying a large glass jar.  He proceeded to fill the jar with rocks.  When it was full, he looked at his students and asked if the jar was full.  When they said that yes, it was indeed full, the professor reached under his desk and brought out a bag of small pebbles, which he poured into the jar, shaking it lightly.  The pebbles, of course, rolled down into the spaces left by the larger rocks.  He asked again if the jar was full, to which his students responded that yes, the jar was indeed full.  Next the professor brought out a bag of sand, which he poured into the jar, shaking gently, causing the sand to fill the spaces between the pebbles.

Sometimes the story ends there, sometimes the professor pours water or coffee into the jar, proving once again that, even though the jar was full, there was room to add more.

If the professor had added the sand first, then the pebbles and rocks, they would not all have fit, but because he added the larger rocks first, then let the pebbles and sand fill in the gaps, everything fit into the jar.

All right, so my 5 priorities are the big rocks in my jar.  I need to place them first, because if I don't, if I let myself be distracted by all of the pebbles and sand of life, I won't have room for them.

If you want to spend your days with purpose, doing what is important to you, it is worth a few minutes of your time, at the beginning of every day, to place your big rocks.  Or, if you are not a morning person (me!), take a few minutes at the end of each day to plan for the next.  Schedule those priorities, and write them down, so you have a clear plan for your day. 

During my planning time, I also write down my pebbles--those things that need to get done, but don't necessarily fit into one of my 5 priorities, and sand--things I would like to do.  I number them in the order I'd like to accomplish them, and then fit those things in around my priorities.  It's not a schedule, more like a guideline, or suggestion, for my day.

For me this means spending time with God, my number one priority, first thing in the morning.  Family is my next priority, and in the morning when we're getting ready for the day, and again in the afternoon and evening when everyone returns from school and work, I am here for them.  Nothing else is more important during that time.

My next priority is rest, and yes, I schedule this in to my day, first, by not overscheduling, and second, by offering myself grace when my long to-do list doesn't quite get done.

Self-care, my 4th priority, happens first thing as soon as my boys get on the bus in the morning.  If I put it off, it may not happen.

And finally, connection is my 5th priority.  I am blessed to be a part of an amazing sisterhood, and am so looking forward to going deeper in our relationships going forward.

All of the other stuff?  The vacuuming, the errand running, the laundry, the volunteering... there will be time for that, but during this stage of my life, I am making sure that my priorities take precedence over everything else.  Take a hard look at everything that's being asked of you, both by yourself and by others.  If it doesn't fit into or around your priorities--things that are most important to you--then maybe it doesn't need to be done.

How about you?  If you have a formal list of priorities, does it work for you?  If not, how do you spend your days?

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