Real Help for Real Living (Jan.14): “Priorities” is not a word

Recently, my wife cooked for an event at the Charlotte Rescue Mission. She is an incredible cook. Although she’s not Italian, you wouldn’t know it by the way she cooks.

On her way home, she called me. There was no “Hi, Tony” or “How are you?” She got straight to the point. Her opening line was, “This is important!”

I panicked. Was she in an accident? Did the car break down?  There was a long pregnant pause as I waited to hear the inevitable. Her second sentence was, “I left my lasagna pan at the mission.”

I laughed because as a “deputized” Italian, she had her priorities right.

But you can tell by the title that “priorities” is not a word. This past December, the Leadership Breakfast Group sponsored an inspirational Advent event. The speaker, David Miller, director of the Princeton University Faith and Work Initiative, spoke about “Priority.” He went on to say that until a few hundred years ago, the word “priorities” did not exist. Rather, the word was “priority.”

His comment echoed a workshop I attended. The leader challenged us to consider what our priority was – what was the highest and best use of our time. I’ll be honest: I had been trying to be everything to everybody and was not using my time in the highest and best way possible.

There is a popular Scripture verse that begins with, “This one thing I do…”

I can find myself working on one project and get an idea that sidetracks me. I move onto a different project. Yet the verse “This one thing I do” keeps pulling me back to the priority at hand.

I’ve read enough articles to know that multitasking may be very much in vogue, but it’s been documented that when you try to do that, your productivity declines. Even if you are working on a project and someone comes into your office, you will lose the momentum you had prior to the interruption.

A lot of good things cross your path every day. If you said, “Yes” to everyone, you would not accomplish your main responsibility. Notice I didn’t say you wouldn’t be busy. You would be very busy, but that doesn’t mean you’re accomplishing your job.

Another Scripture verse that helps me says, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything.”

I’ve had to learn to delegate. I’ve also learned I cannot say yes to every invitation. Even though many of those things are good, I know that time is a limited quantity.

As you begin this New Year, consider what are the three things that justify the creation and existence of your job.

You’re thinking, ‘Do we have ‘priorities’ and not a “priority’?”

Well, preachers think in threes, so work with me for a minute.

There are three things that need to be my priority in 2011. I didn’t say that other people didn’t have the skill set or gifts to do those things. I didn’t say that I was the only one in the organization with the ability to do those things. I did say that there were three things that should be the focus of my time. That needs to be my priority in 2011.

Happy New Year.

The Rev. Tony Marciano is the executive director of the Charlotte Rescue Mission and a regular South Charlotte Weekly columnist. He is available to speak to your group. Call 704-334-4635, ext. 213 to schedule him.

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