Rolling out of bed at my leisure and spending the rest of the day following my nose – playing a game of four-square or hopscotch, running in the sprinklers, riding my bike, exploring, and hanging with my friends. Whatever grabbed my attention determined how I spent my day. Being in the moment, fully present – that’s what I loved about summer growing up!
I look back on those carefree days with fondness. Back then, engaging in activities that made a difference or were fulfilling were not even on my radar.
All these many years later, the longing to make a difference and contribute in significant ways is far more important to me.
What I’ve discovered is that pursuing anything worthwhile takes sacrifice, effort, and most importantly, having very clear priorities. After all, I can sacrifice and exert a great deal of effort into the wrong things and still not achieve my goals and experience fulfillment. The ability to prioritize makes all the difference, to know what’s most important and what will yield the biggest return.
When it comes to your life, both personally and professionally, how successfully do you organize and execute around your priorities? If this is an area you struggle in, chances are that your priorities are in need of some realigning. It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking that you can attack the urgent while overlooking what’s most important, but ultimately it catches up to you.
Just because your life is busy and bursting with activity does not equal a productive or fulfilling life. In fact, it often adds up to a frazzled and frustrating life. And it is possible to be engaging in all kinds of good activities and still not be doing what’s most important.
When you put the most important things first, life just works out better! That means…
- Putting God first – regularly spending time in His presence, getting to know Him in a deeper way, diligently seeking Him regarding all aspects of your life, and leaning on Him throughout your day. It sounds obvious and easy, yet we are exceedingly quick to leave Him in the dust.
- Then taking care of you – eating well, exercising, taking breaks, getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, growing yourself intellectually, engaging in activities that make your heart happy, etc. It’s nearly impossible to invest in others without investing in you. Living life from an empty place negatively impacts your relationships, your work, your creativity, and more.
- So you can…treasure people – How valued do your family and friends feel? What kind of space do you have in your life for them? How present are you when you spend time with them? Do they hesitate to reach out to you because they feel you are too busy?
- And achieve goals – being stuck, repeatedly stopping and starting, or being busy yet never reaching your goals are all signs that your priorities are out of whack. Whatever God’s created you to be or do, that matters!
Want to enjoy the power that naturally occurs when you live out of your priorities? Consider the following:
1. The most important things whisper and the least important things shout.
You are bombarded with e-mails, Facebook notifications, and phone calls that shout with a “ding” when they arrive. They convince you they are urgent —that you must drop everything and attend to them right now. That’s a lie – they will still be there when you complete the more important task you were engaged in before they arrived. Focus! Learn to complete the task at hand and not be tempted by what seems urgent in the moment. Turn off your phone, log out of your e-mail and Facebook. Set aside the time where you are unavailable until you complete a more important task. People will respect your boundaries when they see what you are able to accomplish, and when they know you will follow up with them when you can offer your undivided attention.
2. Reflecting matters!
In order to prioritize, you must see the bigger picture and be able to break it down into actionable steps. Then you can identify what needs your attention first. Planning, thinking, and reflecting takes time, yet, if done well, it will actually save you time later. This is not a one-time event. Changes are constantly taking place requiring you to reassess along the. It may seem like a big investment of time, but skipping this step just might prove even more costly.
3. Recognize what progress feels like
Initially, progress can feel uncomfortable. It can be challenging. And sometimes, it feels like a lot of effort with very little movement, at least in the beginning. If you expect it to be easy and fast, you will never get you where you want to be. It’s natural to do what’s easy, but if you operate out of your priorities, you will do whatever will have the greatest impact regardless of the difficulty level.
4. It takes getting radical
If reaching goals was easy, more people would be fit, thin, and accomplished. The truth is it often requires making tough decisions and making big changes to reach your goals. You have to be willing to challenge your expectations, confront your fears, question your methods, and be willing to take risks that are way outside your comfort zone. When you are willing to get radical, you are more likely to put the most important things first.
5. Learn to say no
There will be oodles of “good” things vying for your attention, but that doesn’t mean they are the “best” investment of your time. When your priorities are clear, what fits and what doesn’t, is more obvious making it apparent when it’s time to say “no.”
6. Remember that people and tasks are not the same
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey states, “You think effectiveness with people and efficiency with things.” Understanding that people and relationships matter more will impact how you interact with others and what you prioritize.
Accomplishing big things is going to take more effort that one person can put forward alone. Learn to hand off tasks that others can do so that you can put more energy into what only you can do. For some, that will loop you back to #4 and require a radical new way of thinking about things. Delegating requires you to communicate your desired result clearly, and let go of the need to manage the how.
While the relaxed summer days of the past were delightful in their season, continuing to live in a follow-your-nose-kind-of-way will shrink your effectiveness, keep you from reaching your goals, and prevent you from walking in all that God created you to be or do.
Successful people know how to prioritize. That doesn’t mean that every successful person is a millionaire or has become the top dog in their organization. Success is more about living an obedient life before God. Without priorities, you will not accomplish the vision God has given you or experience the fulfillment you long for.
How comfortable are you with prioritizing? What challenges do you face when it comes to priorities? How have you experienced the power of priorities in your life or leadership?
© Can Stock Photo / stas11