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How to set priorities

At the core of John Brandon’s book, The 7-Minute Productivity Solution, is the development of good habits. Whether we are intentional about it or not, we are habitual people. I’ve got some good habits going on, and I’ve worked hard at those. For example, it’s now easier to turn thoughts of worry or complaint to thankfulness. But that took intentionality. I still have parts of my day that feel helter-skelter because I’m on auto-pilot with some bad habits. I still absent-mindedly grab my phone to scroll too often. Frequently, I fall into the trap of doing too much. My goal becomes to check-off everything on my to-do list as quickly as possible. As Brandon writes, “I fall into the trap of doing everything. The question to ask is, ‘Am I doing the right thing?’” 

I’m a stay-at-home-mom, and I homeschool my three children. Not unlike any of you, the task list for my day is long. Sometimes I need a brain reset to make sure what I prioritize is the most valuable. Often the high priorities we have don’t make our to-do list shorter, but those valuable priorities pack the biggest punch when we think with an eternal mindset. Building relationships, spending time with others, and serving our community are often tasks that aren’t visible like washing the dishes, turning in a report for work, or cleaning out the garage. Building relationships, spending time in scripture, and investing in others don’t make visible improvements in our day. However, I would argue that the accomplishments left unseen are the most important kingdom work.

Brandon has two routines that have helped me immensely. The first is making a list in the morning about what I hope for my day. This list is not an exhaustive to-do list. This is a list of hopes that I have about my day. Hope fuels our goals and it feels so much lighter to be fueled by hope than to be bogged down by a list of tasks. My morning hopes usually look like:

  • Connect meaningfully with each of my children
  • Connect meaningfully with my husband
  • Make sure progress has been made in educating my children
  • Find 15 minutes of quiet space to hear from the Lord
  • Find inspiration to write the next blog/article

Gathering up the things I’m hoping for and writing them down make sure I give high importance to the things that matter most. I only get one chance at each day. A day might not seem like a lot, but days add to weeks, months, and years. I’m really good at wasting a fair amount of time, so I try to be more intentional with how I’m spending my days. As a mother, these days with my children at home will soon be gone, and I want to look back knowing I used my time to invest in them and enjoy them. I don’t want regrets. Simply gathering some hopes in the mornings helps me do this. Of course, I still need to do the minutiae of life: scrubbing toilets, managing laundry, and balancing the budget. But, I don’t let these things consume my mindset for the day. 

To add accountability and focus to fuel tomorrow, I also recap my day as Brandon suggests. Were my hopes fulfilled? This helps me know what I might be hoping for in the coming day. Brandon writes, “Looking back is important. It’s not just hindsight. It helps with foresight as well. Where you’ve been often dictates where you’ll go.” If I don’t like how my day went, I take 7 minutes to regroup my list and start again tomorrow. Jesus generously gives us grace to right our wrongs. His mercies are new each morning. 

Immanuel Kant writes that “wisdom is an organized life.” We have three kids, we homeschool, and my husband works from home. You could walk into our house and make a good argument that maybe our life isn’t that organized. Currently, my youngest two children have a blanket fort taking over our family room. But looks can be deceiving and I think what Kant is saying is: Have you organized your life around your priorities? Are your hopes fueling your goals? Are you living out your day based on the goals that trump all others? This is how I organize my life. 

I think of Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” 

When I use my morning to write down the hope moments I want to capture, I make sure I’m adding kingdom oriented things first. First, Jesus. Next comes everything else. I think you’ll find that after putting Jesus first, not much else matters. “Jesus first” changes our mindset. The big things stay big, and the little things find their rightful place at the bottom of the priority pile.