As any successful person will tell you, one of the fundamental keys to success in any field of endeavor is learning to establish priorities and then living by them. Any activity that does not fit into or advance any of those priorities is put on the backburner or even eliminated, even if that activity is good in and of itself. Even good activities, if they are incompatible with our established priorities, can become unnecessary distractions that hinder our progress toward success. A priority is the principal thing upon which we place our primary focus. It is that thing we consider to be of highest value and worth, first among all others. Establishing priorities means ranking everything in order of importance, determining which is most important, and then focusing our time, attention, and energy there. It is a matter of putting first things first.
Essentially, our success boils down to the issue of how efficiently and effectively we use our time. Learning to establish priorities, or to put first things first, is a critical key to effective time management. Most of us are busy people for whom time is at a premium. Remember, however, that busyness does not necessarily mean effectiveness. Successful people are effective people because they know how to set priorities priorities. Priorities help us avoid distractions, focus on the most important things, and get the most value out of our time every day.
Success in life is the effective use of time. Each of us is the sum total of what we spend our time on. The person you are today is a result of how you have used your time in the past. If you are overweight, for example, it may be because you have spent too much time sitting around eating and watching television, and not enough time exercising and being active in other ways. If you are ignorant and lacking in knowledge, you may be spending time on aimless and unproductive activities that would be better spent reading books or going to school. The way you invest your time determines the level of your success.
We need to pay close attention to time because time is the true measure of life. Our life on earth is essentially human consciousness residing in a physical body that exists in a linear but finite continuum of time and space. In the life to come, in eternity, time will not be a factor, but now it is. In our physical existence we are bound by the constraints of time.
Time is also the currency of life. Currency is the medium of exchange used in an economy to purchase goods and services. Just as money is the currency of an economy, time is the currency of life. And just as we use money to purchase things, we use time to purchase life. Financial success always involves the wise investment of money to get the biggest possible return for the smallest outlay. In the same way, success in life means receiving the greatest returns and benefits—to ourselves as well as to others—for the time invested. Every morning we all wake up with the same amount of time currency: 24 hours. Where we go and how high we rise in life depend on how we spend and invest that irreplaceable currency.
It stands to reason, then, that how we spend our time determines the quality of our life and death. How will people feel when you die? Will they be sad…or relieved? The way you invest your time this side of the grave will make the difference. Our quality of life (and that of the people closest to us) is directly related to how we spend our currency of time. We will be healthy, wealthy, wise, and spiritually mature in direct proportion to the time we invest in these things. In a very real sense we become what we spend our time on. Time is a precious commodity that must be carefully and wisely invested.
Because time is currency and a precious commodity, it should come as no surprise to discover that everything and everyone is after our time. Modern life is a constant bombardment of voices, ideas, opinions, causes, and expectations, from people in every degree of acquaintance, all vying for our time and attention. Some of it is worthwhile and deserves our attention; most of it does not.
How do we tell the difference? This is where establishing priorities comes in. Without clear priorities, we run the danger of wasting precious time listening to the wrong voices or allowing ourselves to be drawn in the wrong direction.
Knowing your priorities will help you evaluate the voices pulling at you and identify those that are the most important. The best way to minimize confusion is to get into the habit of deciding beforehand how you will spend your time each day. Personally, I plan out my time and focus for each day the day before. I have found that knowing where I am headed as I go into each day helps me avoid unnecessary distractions along the way. You can’t give your time or attention to every competing voice, so let your priorities help you zero in on those that are the most important. Let the others go.
Coming full circle, then, we see that the key to success is effective use of time, and the key to effective use of time is correct priorities. The only way to spend your time currency effectively is to identify the correct priorities for your life. If you do not know what you are supposed to do, where you are supposed to go, or how you are going to get there, you are in constant danger of abusing your currency and allowing others to do the same. Take it from me, nothing is more rewarding than to wake up in the morning knowing exactly what to do and knowing that what you are doing is right and correct.
Notice that I did not use the word “good.” Good is not always right. Many times we end up abusing our currency because we are distracted by good things that take the place of right things, thereby causing us to be busy, but not effective.
God is not impressed with busyness. The only way to live effectively is to use your time on the correct priorities for your life. Some of your priorities may be good, but not correct. It is important to learn the difference. Time wasted on incorrect priorities is currency that is gone forever. It can never be regained.
THE PRIORITY OF PRIORITY
In addition to helping us use our time effectively, there are numerous other significant reasons why establishing priorities should be a priority for us. For one thing, preoccupation with priority preserves and protects life. What is life? Time. And what is priority? Doing the right thing at the right time in the right way. Priority will protect your life because doing the right thing at the right time in the right way keeps us from doing the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong way. Priority enables us to spend our days putting first things first.
Second, correct priority is the principle of progress. True progress is measured not by how much we get done but by whether or not we are moving in the right direction. We may accomplish many good things, but if we are focused on the wrong things, we will not make any progress.