The First Step to Prioritizing Your Life – With Intention

We all have priorities. There are the priorities that we say are priorities and then there are the actual priorities we live.  We say we love to be healthy, but what we really love is chocolate, beer, and Netflix.

How cynical of me to say such a thing!

But seriously… you know what I mean. I’m just like you are.

Let’s say, though, that you’ve decided to be intentional about identifying and pursuing your current and most important long term priorities.

Step one is simply naming your priorities.

Where should you start on such a project?

Priorities in Three Buckets

While a simple and valid enough approach is to list off those things that you know are most important (your marriage, kids, job, faith), humor me and consider drawing from three different buckets of priorities.  And if you have a better word than ‘buckets’, please share. I’m beating up my brain trying to think of something cooler than ‘buckets’.

Here they are:

  1. Bucket 1 – Sustaining priorities
  2. Bucket 2 – Relational priorities
  3. Bucket 3 – Vocational priorities

I’ve been playing with this idea for a bit and would love it if you’d give me some feedback.  If we skew our lives too much toward any of these three, we get off balance. But if we tend each of the three as needed, harmonizing our priorities, things more along much more smoothly.

Sustaining Priorities

Sustaining priorities are those priorities that help us maintain physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

Prioritizing these areas of self-care gives us the proper energy and mindset and depth of character to pursue our relational and vocational goals.

If we fail to take care of our physical health, we succumb to lower energy and suffer the mental blahs that can turn into sour attitudes.

If we don’t protect our minds, we begin to have a skewed view of the world and put limits on ourselves and others that are less than helpful.  If we feed ourselves mental candy, we’ll get mental cavities.

If we don’t protect our emotional health, then we shrink back, lack confidence, and operate out of fear of others vs. gratitude and encouragement.  We shrink back from or overrun our relationships.

Finally, if we don’t protect and grow our spiritual health, we become the center of all we do and fail to see our proper place in the world. Whether you believe in God or not, lacking spiritual health spirals you into an ‘it’s all about me’ mentality that, in the long run, serves neither you nor anyone else very well.

In sum, tending to these sustaining priorities drives our ability to be all we can be in our relationships and vocation.

Relational Priorities

Relational priorities are those that you might most quickly list off if someone asked you, “Hey fellow, what are your priorities?” Because people ask me that all the time.

Identifying your key relationships helps you filter your calendar and energy and can have a very positive trickle down effect into the other areas of your life.

For instance, if your marriage is a priority, you might make sure that you shut off your work email when you get home to focus on your souse.

If your kids are a priority, you might make sure to put effort into your physical health in order to have the proper energy and physical strength to engage and play with your kids.

If friendships are a priority, then you might keep your emotional health up so that you are a healthy resource and not a drain on the people around you.

This bucket, to me, is one of the most gratifying areas to keep in mind when determining what is most important.  Nothing sounds more satisfying than having the most important people in your life near the end of your life NOT pretending that they love you. They actually do love you.

Just imagine if all of your decisions were driven by this one, single goal: To be love the people around you well and be loved by those same people. Powerful.

Vocational Priorities

We’re not talking ‘job’ here, although your job will fit in when talking vocation.  We’re talking overall passionate pursuit of your life’s work.

You might love your job in middle management. You might not. Either way, you will have some sort of work you want to pour yourself into that represents operating out of the gifts and talents that you happen to have. For instance, the individuals who lead the children’s music and drama program at my church do not get paid. But I can confidently say they see their roles as part of their life’s work and vocational priorities.

What are the things you do well?  What do you want to build creatively or in business or as a career trajectory?  What problems do you want to solve? What technology do you want to invent? What body of art do you want to create?

These things that you want to do should be key priorities in your life. Without doing something that makes you feel your using your best talents, you will, over time, lose energy and grow inward.  I don’t say that using research to back it up as I’m merely blogging off the top of my head, but we all know people who grow weary with life because they are plain bored and hate the way they spend their hours each day.

So…. what are your vocational priorities? Whether at work or on the side, do you pursue those things?

A Short Exercise to Get Started

Think through the above three buckets of priorities.

Pick one to three in each category.  The fewer, the better. That doesn’t mean you don’t have more than the one. It just means you realize that one will have cascading positive effects on other areas of your life.

Give it a shot. See if this exercise reveals or at least helps you consciously and intentionally identify the things you feel are most important.

The best side effect of this exercise? It begins to create some internal accountability. Naming things is powerful.

If you do this… let me know in the comments or stop by my Facebook page and leave a note.

Happy Prioritizing!

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