Sunday, August 30, 2009


Yesterday while proofing something I discovered that the person who'd collated the information had made some major mistakes. We're only days from going to print, so there was no way to hand it back to be re-done.

As I headed out the door to fix the problem (a process that involved a 90-minute walk), I found to my surprise that I wasn't irritated. It was a Saturday, Andrew was home to mind the kids, and there was nothing else on my agenda. I didn't have to figure out how to handle competing demands on my time. Amazing.

Like most people, I'm rarely at my best when priorities collide. If I'm on a business call and my offspring have a meltdown -- ugh. If I'm trying to focus on the Sunday sermon and one of my kids has a sudden, inexplicable need for attention -- ugh. If I'm having a heart-to-heart with a distraught child and another child walks in repeatedly -- ugh. It's true that mothers are natural multi-taskers (hey, we can even grow another human being inside ourselves while living our own lives!), but there are certain things that can't be done well simultaneously. Learning to prioritize is as basic a survival skill for a mom as learning to say no.

A few years back I figured that one way to lower the combustibility factor in my life was to be very clear about my priorities. Here are my top three:
1. Faith
2. Family
3. Community
To me these seemed pretty obvious, and not particularly original. However, once I began to check regularly to see how my life aligned with what I said was important, I found I wasn't doing as good a job as I'd thought. It's easy to let #2 overwhelm #1, or #3 overwhelm #2. It's okay if there are occasions when that happens, but a systemic mismatch is a major problem.

I don't try to prioritize beyond the top three. Where's work? Probably a subset of family, since the main reason I work these days is to make ends meet. I like what I do, but I have less interest in building a career than in building lives.

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