What do you do when you’re surrounded by fires and a mountain of tasks? You created a solid calendar and to-do list, but things happen to our schedules all the time. You still have to decide what to do first on the list when it’s time to tackle to-do items.
There are several things to think about as you prioritize your day or task list.
What can’t wait? Some things truly must be done right now. If a family member is completely out of a prescription medicine they need, you must go to the pharmacy that day. Extending out from the immediate, what needs to be done today, or this week, or this month, or just someday? Think about any deadlines. Now you have a timeline for a start.
What are my responsibilities? We all have them. There are two ways to look at this question:
- My responsibilities vs. someone else’s responsibility — absolutely help others, but put on your own oxygen mask before helping the person next to you. Note: sometimes we tend to enable irresponsibility instead of actually helping; it would be wise to make sure it is loving help before doing it at all.
- Responsibilities vs. fun — painting the bathroom is going to look beautiful and make the home and atmosphere better and add beauty to life, but is that project replacing work you should do or leading you to ignore family needs? It can be good to browse at the store as you pick up good deals for future birthday gifts, but have the last five dinners been frozen pizza because you haven’t planned meals or gone grocery shopping?
What can be grouped together? If you are already going to the pharmacy, how about stopping at the grocery store and dropping books off at the library on the same trip? Although it’s not urgent for any given day, bins of donations can be dropped off on any trip you make driving right by the charity. If you are putting a dish in the oven for dinner, could you throw in the brownies for the bake sale right after you finish putting dinner together? Why not write three thank-you notes and return a call while waiting for the piano lesson to finish?
What makes a nice break? All things being equal, if you’ve spent an hour sitting and paying bills, it might be good to head outside to pick up sticks after the storm. If you’ve spent the entire morning raking the yard, maybe a quiet activity would be a nice change right after lunch.
What is the value? What will be done in the end? Is the benefit only for today or for eternity? Yes, we wash dishes only to wash them again in a few hours, and that is good work, but we are also called to proclaim all God’s excellencies and speak truth in love. Or in other ways, are you investing time now that will pay off for days and weeks to come?
Remember prioritizing is about putting things in order. It’s not that you don’t do a lot of different things, it’s that you do the best things at the best time. The responsibilities for each day are puzzle pieces; you make them fit beautifully when you prioritize well.