Thursday, January 26, 2012

Priorities 101 (Problem Three)

This post is part of a series about setting priorities. If you missed the introduction, problem one, or problem two, feel free to take a moment and catch up.

In the past few posts, I've shared two ways we fail when managing priorities and how we can fix them.  First, we can banish unclear goals by using concrete wording.  Second, we can eliminate overly lofty expectations by being realistic.  I've fallen prey to both of these areas, but the one that really gets me is this.

Problem Three: Taking on too much

This is a classic trap.  Women are notorious for taking on too much, saying yes too often, and putting too much on our plates.  The danger with this is that when everything is emphasized, nothing is emphasized.  The essential blurs with the trivial.

When your hand is in too many things, daily tasks -- simple ones -- start to look like impossible hurdles. What?  You want me to make a grocery list?  I need to reply to an email?  Come on, now!  Do you think I'm superhuman?

It's hard not to be frazzled when there are too many irons in the fire.  Nothing is being prioritized, yet everything is vying for your attention.

Solution Three: Find your big pieces

Take time to prayerfully discern what's essential.  Those are your big pieces, and they will look different for everyone.  Don't pressure yourself to believe that someone else's big pieces need to be your big pieces.  They don't.  You're unique.  At the same time, don't project your big pieces onto someone else because they, too, are unique.

Although this is ouchy, one easy way discover your current big pieces is to pinpoint where you spend your time.  Our time reveals our priorities.  Very few of us, if pressed, would outright say that our life priorities are television, Facebook, or searching the Internet.  Yet some of us, if pressed, would realize that we devote more time to these activities than to our real priorities.

Take inventory of your big pieces, and then tweak what needs to be changed.  Cut out those pieces that add clutter instead of purpose to your life and, by all means, put the big pieces into your life first.  

Whenever I'm helping the girls to clean up their blocks, I've noticed one trend.  If we put the small pieces in the box first, we never can fit the big pieces in later.  It ends up looking like this:


Small pieces are pesky this way.  They crowd big things out.  When we have too many little things demanding our attention, we lose the ability to focus on the big ones.

Let me warn you: once you pare down, you may find it tempting to add more.  More will always be asked of you.  So repeat these two phrases as if they were your mantra: I will have to say no.  I will disappoint people.

It's liberating to know that it's okay to say no to requests that don't align with your big pieces.  (Seriously.  Do it.  Flex the no muscle!)  And when you say no, it will disappoint people.  But if you say no wisely, you'll be disappointing the right people, rather than the wrong ones.

With your big pieces in place, your life will look a bit more like this:


 And that's kind of pretty, isn't it?

Stop back for the conclusion of the Priority 101 series.

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1 comment:

  1. thanks so much for this series it is a great eye opener and I appreciate the way you lay everything out.

    ReplyDelete