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.