I was fascinated while reading Gary Keller’s book “The ONE Thing” with this insight about the word priority.  In it, he says:  “To be precise, the word is PRIORITY, not PRIORITIES, and it originated in the 14th century from the Latin prior meaning FIRST.”

What wisdom there is for each of us in our calendars, work projects, parenting and even spiritual life to recognize that the word priority should not be plural in order for us to gain victory over areas of our lives like relationships, spiritual development and work.  It is when we make it plural that we get overwhelmed by a jam packed calendar, an overtime workday and a lack of focus in our relationships with God and those we love the most.

You see, as I finish this blog, my priority is to go workout and then continue with a writing project I’m working on. I cannot workout and write at the same time.  I just need to workout. That is my priority for the next hour and a half. I have a bunch of other priorities waiting for me after that. But, until the workout is finished, working out remains THE PRIORITY.  We can have priorities (plural) for a day, week or month.  However, in any given hour, we can only have one priority.

That seems simple enough for a Saturday morning workout followed by a writing project and then probably some errands.  However, where it gets messy is when we move into our work week. If you’re like me you start your day with a PRIORITY … and then life happens. Teammates have sick children requiring you to step in an lead a meeting you weren’t expecting. Add unexpected phone calls, reports that are unavailable for the project you’ve prioritized and a special guest that arrived unannounced and your PRIORITY has become PRIORITIES.

What about the priority we long for in our relationships? How does that area get messy? For me, it’s when I try to prioritize being with one of my kids while checking my email, accepting texts or calls and giving them only half of my attention. My PRIORITY has become PRIORITIES.  My PRIORITY is to spend face time with one of my kids.

In my relationship with God, I start enjoying reading His word when I feel moved by a certain passage.  Then, I get so distracted thinking about how good this verse is that I’m reminded of a message I’m working on.  I then shift instead of focusing on God to  working on my new message.  I stop being with HIM and start working it into a message, podcast or blog. UGH making HIM my PRIORITY has shifted to having PRIORITIES.

So how can we make the word singular again? Here are a few tips that help me:

1. WHITE SPACE – Budget white space each day. Schedule pockets of time that allow for the unforeseen. The world we live in is unpredictable. There will be flat tires, traffic, projects handed off to us and other interruptions. To pack every hour of our day will only lead to frustration and overwork. Scheduling even 15 minutes between appointments can help build buffer and keep our PRIORITY.

2. FOCUS –  When you are working on your PRIORITY, give it your full attention. If it’s quality time with your spouse or family, leave your phone in the other room or turn off the TV. If it’s a project you are working on, choose to work 2 hours at home so you can remain uninterrupted. Leave your office door closed so your teammates know you need to focus (and let your teammates know that if the door is closed, you will be available in an hour). Even turning your back to activity around you or using earbuds can help you focus.

3. TIME BLOCKING – Schedule allotted time on your calendar. Even though you may not actually have a meeting for an hour, you need an hour to go over this quarter’s budget numbers. Schedule an appointment with yourself for the budget and keep it.

Psalm 90:17 says “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;  establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.” This verse reminds me that, as we seek Him in all things to help us identify each priority, we receive His favor and He will establish the work of our hands.  What a powerful phrase to ponder that the God of the universe will help us establish the work of our hands.  Don’t we want the work of our hands to be the things He’s determined as important in each area of our lives?  If so, we need to His provision for our priority.

So what is your priority for today …even for this hour?  Please share it with me below along with the ways you help keep this word singular in your life.

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  1. Wise words for us Lisa. For me I finally carved out some time to write a blog last night. Love the reminder to budget white space. I took the assessment yesterday on Lysa’s site and 160 hours are full – working on that – I see places I can carve out time to write.

  2. I love this! My priority this morning was to sit on the patio with my husband reconnecting after a very busy week. Now I have to set aside time to write my lesson for Sunday school. At some point today it is daughter time. I have a million things I’d like to and should get done today, but this message has helped me see that some things really do need to be my priority and not just a part of my priorities.

    1. Well done, Debbie. I hope yesterday was a renewing day of connection to your husband, daughter and great time preparing for Sunday school today. Thanks for visiting my blog. Enjoy your sabbath.

  3. Lisa, I have to hang my head a little here. After doing the time assessment, I have realized that I have over scheduled my life and multitasked by way into crisis mode. My priority this coming week (well next two week really) and next is truly writing every moment down. I have been wrapped in priorities. This post is definitely what I needed to really get it. Thank you!

    1. Kelly, this is great awareness. Don’t let discouragement keep you looking backward. Every tweak you make to get to a single priority hour by hour, day by day, is one step closer to success. Stay the course and thank you so much for visiting the blog today.

  4. Today was the day I chose to come over and sign up for your emails and look what I see about priorities? Two of them I am in the process of working on…my workouts…and quality time with my kids. Heading over to take the assessment and revisiting the time blocking schedule I created in one of my classes. Over scheduled and overwhelmed. Thanks Lisa!

    1. Mary, SO proud of you for following through on action steps from the retreat. Also, for knowing right off the top of your head your two areas of priority you want to focus on. SO happy for you. Well done. Thank for visiting my blog.

  5. Such wisdom wielded here! Priority can so easily turn into priorities. I have sat down to accomplish my Best Yes Online Bible Study and have found it leading to checking my emails, which made me think about my family, which in turn, made me think about sending out Christmas cards, and then, I caught myself reaching for my address book? What on Earth? I feel so scattered all of the time, between work, family, church, and boatloads of laundry, I forget how to prioritize. I feel as if my life consists of obligations, like one giant checklist that I have no control over. I just want time to work on my God Dream! I’ve been writing a Christian children’s book for the last 2 years; I only have 37 chapters completed and have so much more to do! It is taking me forever!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Jessica, your words make me think of the book “If you Give a Mouse a Cookie”. I get caught in that same cycle when I sit down to blog, write, etc. I am excited for the dream of the book inside of you and WOO HOO for 37 chapters already written. You are starting to pedal downhill my friend. Don’t stop now……Thanks for visiting my blog.

  6. Obviously a little behind on my email here…just sitting down to read this. Wow- what a huge help!! I love trying to break this down and look at my life this way. I was literally stopped in my tracks today and realized that I’ve been in this crazy mess of trying to control my future and make plans according to the what ifs…. I have become physically and mentally exhausted. I was ever so gently reminded by my sister this morning that God tells us to take one day at a time- to not worry about tomorrow. I felt such relief in the fact that I didn’t need to plan for today according to what could be in a few months. I just need to worry about today and what God has given me to take care of. This was a perfect addition to my breakthrough today…not only am I going to work on taking it one day at a time, but now I will work on one priority at a time. Thank you Lisa!! xoxo

    1. Shelly, first I can’t wait to see you next week! Thank you so much for reading the blog and for letting me know God reminded you of one day at a time! I am have the same consistent temptation to be over scheduled and over planned (and to miss the moment). Let’s keep each other appropriately focused on trusting HIM for today and tomorrow.

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