My husband offered to take my son with him to run errands the other day and I thought, “Yes! I can finally get to those piles in my bedroom that are driving me crazy.” My next thought was, “Hmm…I should probably use this time for some one-on-one with my daughter. She’s been extra whiny and clingy lately and could use the attention.” My ever over-achieving self then thought, “I can do both!”
I started cleaning and organizing in hyper-drive so that I could still have time to play at the end. But, after I noticed that I had told my sweet girl, “Just a minute…” for the hundredth time, something in me made me stop. Something in me asked, “Okay, what really matters right now?” Even though I really wanted to finish my to-do list, I made myself sit down on my dirty kitchen floor and color with my two-year-old.
It took me a few minutes to focus on the present. But, when I did, I began to truly enjoy myself. I noticed how well my little girl held the crayons and how carefully she colored. I marveled at how well she’s learned to talk. She made me laugh. We sang songs together at the top of our lungs and she showered me with hugs. I thought, “Why is it so hard to do the things that matter most to me?”
I thought a lot about priorities that day. It occurred to me that while listing your priorities is the easiest thing to do, actually making time for those priorities is not. Quickly think about the three things that matter the most to you. Easy, right? We all know what they are. But, what tends to fill up our minutes and hours and days doesn’t always align with what we say.
Some of this is inevitable. Life is life. Dishes must be washed, errands run and dinners made. One thing I’ve loved learning about from The Power of Moms website is how to involve my family more with these things. But, all too often, I find myself hurrying to do “little” things so that I can have time to do the “big, important” things. It just doesn’t work. What I seem to learn over and over again is that if I make time for what is truly important, everything else works out in the end.
I’ve discovered two reasons why it seems hard for me to focus on my priorities. The first one is that they usually require more work, time and effort. Simply stated, it’s hard. Clean the kitchen or teach my easily-frustrated son to write his name? Veg in front of the television or meditate and study? It’s not hard to see which is easier.
The second reason I tend to overlook priorities is because they don’t have quick or even visible pay-offs. Busy-work and to-do lists are nice because you can check them off. You can see that you’re through and there’s a nice clean room or a pile of papers to show for your effort. Things like focusing on a child’s needs, working to become more patient, and furthering your education can last a lifetime. You may not see immediate results or even get the results you anticipated. After spending one-on-one time with my daughter, did she magically become less whiny overnight? No, she’s just in one of those “stages” and it’s going to take time and consistent effort on my part.
Focusing on our priorities first actually energizes us and gives us greater capacity to accomplish all the other things. After I stopped to smell the crayons with my daughter, I felt renewed. I felt more patient towards her and I knew that she knew that I loved her. And, those piles in my room? They were gone within the next 24 hours. It all worked out in the end.
QUESTION: What keeps you from focusing on your priorities?
CHALLENGE: Write down your priorities and put them in a visible spot. Ask yourself throughout the day, “What really matters right now?”
Photo by FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Originally posted August 22, 2011.