Our priorities say a lot about us.

What we claim are our priorities also says a lot about us…

[Ironically, those two lines above are all that WordPress managed to save of this post.  I hit ‘publish’, WordPress came up with some sort of error type screen, and promptly swallowed the rest of the post.  I then had to decide whether the post was sufficiently important to prioritise rewriting it.  I’m not convinced, but I’m doing it anyway…]

You see, if you believe what I told you, you’d think my main priorities are; God, family, church, friends and the role to which we believe we are called.

But what about if you wanted to find out my priorities without asking me?  What if a random stranger followed me round for a couple of days and tried to establish what my priorities are, based simply on looking at the things to which I devote my time?  I’m not sure the stranger would conclude my priorities are what I claim they are.  I’m not sure I’d really like the stranger’s conclusions at all…

I said some time ago (on a different blog) that I quite fancy the idea of having a documentary made about me.  They’re all the rage at the moment – documentaries about ‘normal people’ (I’d obviously struggle to fit into that category…).  I figure I’d come out of it looking pretty good (I’m not talking physically, here!)  But if, by some amazing twist of fortune, I did come out of it looking even slightly passable, it would be for one simple reason.  It would be because I would be good.  The fact of the matter is, this would require me to change.  I could not live life like I live and have a documentary made that looked anywhere near flattering.  I would have to up my game considerably.  I’d have to prioritise my so-called priorities.

I guess the main reason I’m saying all this is that I came to a startling realisation a while back.  It’s a conclusion that I didn’t really like, but I think it’s true.  Here it is:

We have time for everything we prioritise.

You might need to say that to yourself a couple of times to get what I mean.  But I think it often is that simple.  You won’t discover my true priorities by listening to what I say.  You’ll discover my true priorities by watching what I do.  The things that I actually put first in my life are my priorities, whether or not I like to admit it.

Take blogging for example.  Blogging is something which I’m trying to devote some quality time to [I didn’t have in mind to type posts twice, but there we go!].  But this last week, nothing of any great significance has happened in this area.  Sure, I could point to the fact that I’ve spent a lot of time awake-in-the-middle-of-the-night-with-a-very-awake-child.  But the fact is, other things have managed to fit in even if blogging hasn’t.  Yes, some of these things are more important than blogging, like looking after the boys, and putting in a few hours at work.  But there are also things that aren’t quite so vital.  Here’s what my browsing history reveals about some of the less vital uses of my computer:

  • looking at what friend’s houses are on the market for/bought for/sold for/worth
  • browsing imdb for films that can be fused with band names (I blame Martin) 😉
  • Doing random quizzes on the BBC website
  • Watching stuff on YouTube
  • Reading about the nightmares people have with Yodel (a courier company)
  • Browsing BMW prices (though that’s for a blog post … honest)

Now, none of these things is intrinsically bad (though the top one does fit neatly into the ‘disturbing stalker behaviour’ category).  A lot of it was just ‘chilling out’.  But was it the best use of my time?  You see, although I put it down as chilling out, it was, more accurately, a complete lack of discipline on my part.  It wasn’t like I set aside half an hour to relax by mooching around the internet.  No, there were other things I could and should have been doing, but I just let myself get distracted.  My priority became me (and I’m inherently a bit workshy) and stopped being any of the priorities I claim to be mine.

So, this week, I’m going to try to make sure my time is used more for what I claim to be my priorities and less for the other stuff.  I’ve had to do lists for a long time (some of the things on my to do list also date back a long time…) but one thing I’ve found helpful in the last few days, which I intend to carry on for a while, it putting priorities on my to do list.  I’ve chosen five things that are priorities.  Some are the genuinely urgent, must-do things, others are things that tend to drop off the bottom of every day’s list (like cleaning out the chickens).  By putting 1 to 5 next to them, they seem to be more likely to be done.  On the downside, the other things don’t necessarily get done (I’m probably thinking to myself, ‘well, they’re not so important’…) but that’s something I’ll work on!

Over to you:

How do you set your priorities?

How do you make sure that the things you actually do are the important things?


[I’m a bit gutted, because my original two questions were much more clever … but I have forgotten how they were worded!]

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7 Responses to Priorities.

  1. Tanya Marlow says:

    I love how you can write really challenging things, without me feeling like I’ve just been judged or condemned. You’re very skilful like that…

    So – ouch. Yes – my priorities are seriously in need of realignment at the moment. And I know that I have much less excuse than most because I spend vast swathes of time without anything being required of me. And still I don’t pray…

    My priorities tend to be writing and online shopping at the moment (both of which feel very self-indulgent…) Was very comforted by your Internet browsing list!

    Thanks, friend – I shall think on this.

  2. nickparish says:

    On prayer:
    I remember sitting in the lounge at home, when I was still living with Mum and Dad. Mum’s best friend was staying for a couple of days. We were sat in silence engrossed in things. I was reading, as was Mum’s friend. Mum was, I think, doing cross stitch.
    All of a sudden, Mum’s friend just laughed. The weird thing was, it was clearly something to do with Mum. They’d communicated in the silence, quite casually yet effectively. I piped up something ‘amusing’ like, “Let me know if you want me to join in the conversation”. I knew that their communication was based simply on years of friendship and a well-developed mutual understanding.
    To this day, I have no idea what Mum’s friend laughed at, but that’s what I want my prayer life to be like. The ability to just sit in silence, happily communicating with God while engrossed in life. A mutual understanding that comes with time spent together. The result of a relationship that spans many years.

  3. threescore says:

    Genuinely challenged here Nick, thank you for going to the effort of re-writing the post (I know that feeling…)
    My own priorities are also far more likely to look like your workshy computer ‘research’ than the “God, family, church, friends and the role to which we believe we are called” list – which I could have almost written myself. I think I ought to practise more self-discipline. Ouch.
    In order to do the Most Important Things I have a number of non-negotiables fixed into the weekly planner, a certain amount of flexibility on the rest and an agreement to be accountable on everything to a few wise friends, primarily my husband.

    • nickparish says:

      Thanks for your comment. It’s reassuring to know that I’m not the only one who ‘could do better’ in this area. I think it’s maybe harder not having much in the way of specific requirements placed on me (and this links in with what Tanya says above, too). I can muddle through life relatively easily, without a huge amount of self-discipline. However, I always used to talk to my kids at school about the difference between doing their homework, and doing their homework *well*. I guess it can be the same in life – I can cruise, or I can do it well. The difference, as you allude to, is self-discipline.

  4. This is really challenging. Not sure I’d feel comfortable with a stranger noting down my priorities. Think they might find out social media is one of the biggest. Going to have a look and reevaluate my time. Thank you.

    • nickparish says:

      Hi Wendy. Thanks for your comment. Thinking about it, I might rather have a stranger noting my priorities than a friend – less embarrassing 🙂
      I think the social media thing can be tricky too. In social media, I and others have found an aspect of community that can be genuinely beneficial. In my case, it’s being at home with a small child, and finding that I don’t have to leave the house to find community. This, of course, has both advantages and disadvantages. There are perhaps times when I should be going out instead! As you say, it can be important to re-evaluate this use of social media from time to time. How much is it a genuine desire for community, and how much is it simply frittering away hours and avoiding doing other stuff? Different days probably see me at different ends of that spectrum!

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