Time management is overrated. Priority management is king. This is a realization that I’m coming to presently. Now, certainly time matters. How we spend our time matters. But thinking about time alone will not likely change your life.
Probably like you, I tend to have more things I want to do than time to do them. When I feel this way, my first instincts used to be figure out how to get things done faster. I would think efficiency. Now I’m learning to evaluate priorities. This is both more difficult and much more life-changing.
A couple years ago I wrote out this question as part of how I evaluate my personal values:
How can I spend most of my energy today on what will have the greatest impact in my family and ministry?
The word “energy” in this question is really important, and I’d like to write more about that later. For now, I’ll summarize the point this way: think about your priorities as how you spend your energy and not just time.
Priorities provide the necessary focus to my life to give me a fighting chance to spend my time and energy on the people and tasks that matter most. As John Maxwell wrote, “Today’s priorities give me focus.” With time management alone, I run the risk of getting more efficient at fulfilling someone else’s priorities. This is why priority management is king.
Here are a few practical ways I’m learning how to apply this in my own life:
- My relationship with Jesus is my most important priority, therefore I will spend time each day in prayer and Bible reading before I do anything else. There’s a pattern to how I spend many of these mornings that I’ve written about here.
- My family matters more than any other relationship after God. Bethany is the most important person in my life so I need to have regular time alone with her. This is a challenge at our present stage of life with five young kids, but we find ways to make it work. We try to get out alone at least two times each month and have two over-night stays together annually.
- If Bethany and I aren’t focused on our family priorities, someone else will decide what should matter most for our kids. We really try to be deliberate about how many extracurricular activities we allow into our kids lives so that we have margin as a family. Bethany and I also did something different this year by taking a planning retreat to plan our 2017 family calendar together. This allows us to get important trips and events on the schedule so I can plan my work vacation time according to our priorities. Also as part of this retreat we spent time putting to words our family values and a focus of prayer for each of our kids.
- My job as a pastor needs to be focused on what matters most. The church that I serve as a campus pastor actually does a really wonderful job with annual planning and goal setting. This allows for clarity on the biggest priorities for my team for the year ahead. With that said, I am on a quest this year to get better at really planning my time and energy around the right people and priorities in my ministry for the year ahead.
- My physical health will aid or limit my calling. I am on a personal mission to enter my 40s healthier than I entered my 30s. This is not a natural thing to me and has been one of the most difficult areas to build better habits in.
What about you? How can you spend most of your energy today on what will have the greatest impact in your family and ministry? To help, try these three questions out from (again) the great John Maxwell:
- What is required of me?
- What gives me the highest return?
- What gives me the greatest reward?
What will your answers do to challenge how you prioritize your life?