Today in church the warning “You cannot serve God and Mammon” came up. In my mind it’s a warning against splitting your focus and a reminder to pay attention to what’s important over what’s easy or popular or comfortable. It reminded me of a comment one of my bosses once made, that he thought the 10 Commandments had lost their relevance in modern society. For example, he commented, you don’t see many people walking around toting their portable idols for worship, in western society there’s not a lot of competition for top God dog.
This conversation gave me an idea for a way to test your priorities. We all can identify something as our top priority, and we might tell ourselves and others that that thing is the top priority. Maybe God is your top priority. Maybe family is. Maybe it’s something else. What do YOU identify as your top priority?
Take this test and see if your priority really IS your top priority.
- Time test: How much time do you dedicate to your identified priority (let’s call it your IP)?
- How many hours in a day do you spend on your IP?
- How many hours in a day do you spend on your job?
- How many minutes or hours in a day do you spend surfing the internet – or watching TV (or otherwise procrastinating)?
- How many minutes or hours in a day do you spend shopping?
- How many minutes or hours in a day do you spend sleeping, showering, commuting, eating or otherwise taking care of daily needs?
- How does the time you spend on your IP compare to the time you spend on the other activities? Do you dedicate the most or the best hours of your day to your IP?
- Money Test: Does the way you spend your money align with the way you want to order your priorities?
- How much money do you spend on your IP in a month?
- How much money do you spend on clothes in a month?
- How much money do you spend on your cable subscription, deluxe cell phone package, internet hook-up, Netflix subscription, magazine subscriptions, dining out, gifts?
- How much money do you spend on hobbies?
- How does the way you spend your money reflect on your prioritization of your IP versus your prioritization of other non-essential expenses in your life?
- Interruption test: What item wins an interruption?
- If you’re watching TV or surfing the internet – will you happily stop to focus on your IP?
- What if you’re eating or sleeping or in the shower?
- What if you’re working?
- Quality time test: Do you multitask while attending to your IP?
- Will you answer your cell phone, respond to text messages or attend to other interruptions while engaged with your IP?
- Do you take any steps to minimize the chance of interruptions while engaged with your IP?
NOTE: There are no right or wrong answers
You might be spending more time, money and attention on your IP or you might not.
If your time, resources and attention are focused on your IP – and you feel good about this allocation – GREAT. Your values are aligned with your actions, carry on.
HOWEVER, if your test results suggest that your time, resources and attention are not focused on your IP, that doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Maybe your IP . . . is NOT really your IP. Sometimes we identify something as a priority because it’s a priority for our parents, family or friends, even if it’s really not a priority for us. Anyone ever sign up to support a charity, to lose weight or to buy Tupperware because of pressure from others? It’s easy to adopt someone else’s priorities – especially if you haven’t taken the opportunity to identify and flesh out your priorities for yourself. If you think this is the case for you, well, sounds like it’s time for a retreat or just some time alone to think about your priorities, to identify what’s most important in YOUR life – and then choose to align your time, treasure and attention with what’s important.
Now, if you KNOW what your IP is, but your time, resources and attention are not focused on your IP because, well, you weren’t really thinking about it, it’s time to figure out what you want to do with your life. If you’re reading this post, you want to live a life that matters, a life that has meaning. To live a meaningful life, identify your values – AND live by them. Start to spend more of your time, your talent and your focus on those things that you know to be important. This is hard at first – but stick with it. You may surprise yourself. And in the end, your life will align with your values.
So – how did you do? Are you aligned? Is it time for an adjustment? (which type?)
thanks for sharing,
Update: p.s. – Becky Blanton wrote a great article about her fresh take on time management. Rather than handling time management in a mechanical, efficiency-based manner, Becky addresses time management in a values-based manner. So, once you’ve got your priorities straight, head on over to Becky’s site to figure out how to align your time with your priorities. Warning: Becky writes with tremendous (sometimes blistering) honesty on her site. Be sure you can take the heat!