Not so long ago I was sitting at my home office desk staring blankly at the computer, my cold cup of tea and half-eaten lunch to the left and a whiteboard with a hundred and one to do priorities to the right. One glance at the magnitude of that was enough to send me running for cover in another room. I thought I knew my priorities after all that’s why they were on the white board, right? Yet I was not managing and any sane person looking at that list could see how impossible I had made it for myself.
Does this sound familiar to you?
You are not alone if you have ever felt overwhelmed by your priorities, as everything seems to be important, nothing seems to be something you want to or could remove from the list. The problem when we believe everything is important is these things tie themselves suffocatingly around us like a jacket many sizes too small for us to manage to breathe. The list becomes daunting even to the most driven and energetic amongst us. Priorities have to be manageable or they are no longer priorities but a ticket to a less than satisfied life or worse still complete burnout.
I have to be honest, it was hard for me to admit that I had too many priorities and if I did not do something about it I would self-combust. For all of us this is where the journey to discovering our priorities has to start – the place of capacity and reality. Most of us choose too many things because we do not follow what I call The 3 Step Process To Discover Priorities
We are quick to write down all we need to do and then wham bang number them one to 1000 for our priority and then get to it. But I want to share a process that is not about that, rather it is about slowing us down, making us look at our capacity, our reality and hear the wisdom of God to then discover our priorities, not the other way round.
A word of caution first – the process of discovery and then living out our priorities is a journey not a once a year event nor is it as easy as just following these steps. But by utilising these tried and tested steps we embark on the journey stronger, more able to succeed at pursuing a well-managed life.
The 3 step process to discover priorities
1.) Allow time to be still, pray, journal as a way to think through what season you really are in. This can be very hard for many of us – to slow down seems to be counter intuitive to the I want to/need to get going on all things. But slowing down to reflect about this season is vital to discover what our real priorities should be not just what we presume them to be. It is even more important when we feel overwhelmed to make the time to do this.
2.) Once you know what your current season is (and what God is saying about this season) then look at what you have been doing – do these match up? Being overwhelmed comes from trying to match priorities into a season they do not belong to. Deciding that you want to join a book club the year that you are embarking on the season of a new business venture may not match even though you would love it. Yet for someone else it may be the perfect match.
In your journal allow room for creating three lists….the first list is the things that are yes as they match the season and what you sense God is saying to you. The second, a list of what I call the FUTURE PROJECTS – this is where many of my whiteboard items have now been placed. The third list is things that are a definite NO. Having these written down clearly in three lists in your journal help you to not only discover what are the priorities but also allows a place to record the many ideas/desires/projects you want to do in the future. The reason for the third list is that some things need to be under NO as they are not in the foreseeable future…e.g. I would like to travel back to Israel, but this is in my definite NO list at the moment not my FUTURE PROJECTS list. The FUTURE PROJECTS list is what you want to be able to focus on in the next 12-18 months but will not be right now. The NO list is not in any of this time period.
3.) The third part of discovering priorities is to allow the input of others into this journey e.g. your life coach, spouse or a close friend. By sharing with them your priorities and them gifting you with listening to you this enables you to see how your list really sits in your reality and capacity – are they true to who you are and will they be possible to complete? Those close to you can be a great blessing and resource when it comes to discovering what your priorities are.
This is a journey of discovery with twists and turns so do not be afraid to let go or change your list as you go. Please can you leave a comment or thought on how this resonates with you at this time in your life – it would be great to hear from you. Praying for you.
P.S. You also may be interested in Why Giving Up A Balanced Life Will Work For You where I share about letting go of striving and struggling for perfection. Being able to live life with its ebbs and flows is a significant factor in having a healthy managed life rather than madly trying to keep all the balls juggled in the air at all times. A balance is about making priority choices. Saying yes to some things and no to others – that is what life balance is about not juggling all the want to balls in life at the same time.