Competing Priorities

These last few weeks the pressure has been on big style in my office as the powers that be have demanded the delivery of a number of long term projects within an increasingly short term deadline. I have been shackled at my desk, pounding away at my keyboard like one of those harassed detectives you always see in the movies. Without the cloud of cigarette smoke engulfing me and glass of bourbon surgically attached to my right hand.

I’m comfortable with handling such pressure as I’ve been doing it for over 17 years now. I also trust my analytical and report writing skills sufficiently to know that I will deliver a quality report on time. If they would just leave me to get on with it. What doesn’t help is hordes of stressed colleagues continually circling me like vultures over a dying animal in the desert. Leave be people in my focus bubble and the job will get done.

Everything is a priority. On Monday, Task A is the priority. Then someone else will tell you that Task B is urgent before the next knock at the door demands Task C ASAP. I might clown about a bit but I’m no juggler despite this place increasingly resembling a circus. It’s fire fighting of the highest order and the priorities pile up as the next crisis lumbers over the horizon. It’s inevitable that it will all end in tears.

Declaring everything a priority actually means that nothing is a priority. Jumping mindlessly from one test to the next without any plan or structure is a sure fire way of ensuring that nothing is seen through to its completion. When we panic or become stressed then we are more likely to rush and make mistakes. There can only be one priority at a time, otherwise we may as well pull down the shutters and all go home.

I have many competing demands. I am busy at work but desperately trying to get my head above water so that I can take some leave. I’m training for a marathon next month and have set the month after that as the deadline for finishing my book. There are bills to be paid, telephone calls to be made and jobs around the house that have been overlooked for too long. There is also the small business of blogging.

You might think these are all worthwhile pursuits and you would be correct in that assessment. All of the above are a far cry from the not so distance past when my priorities were making it to the weekend so I could get ridiculously drunk and predicting next year’s Champion Chase winner. My interests now are physically and mentally edifying whereas before they were shallow and destructive.

None of them, however, are my priority. Note the use of the singular there as opposed to that term I despise – competing priorities. There can only be one be it a Highlander, a ring to rule them all or in the busy, barmy world of Mr. Stephen Robert Black. That priority is my family; for without them I’m incapable of delivering any of the other stuff. They are the foundation upon which everything else is constructed.

The job pays the bills, the running keeps me in shape and the writing is my dream. But I would drop them all in an instance if they came between my family at myself. Choose your priority wisely. It can fuel your other dreams powerfully and blast you off on the adventure of a lifetime. Or it can bring you crashing back to the ground and reality in a ball of flames. There can only be one.

Do you struggle with competing priorities in your life at present?

What is your priority?

Do you have a middle name? The more embarrassing the better.

42 thoughts on “Competing Priorities

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  1. Well-put, as always. I find the declaration of priority much easier than the application. :/
    My stated priority is my husband. In everyday life, by the percentage of time they take up, ’tis the children and household.
    I personally hold the most boring and predictable middle name. My husband has a deceased relative, however, who was assigned a middle initial, Q., by the post office in order to differentiate him from others of the same name. His wife asked him what the initial stood for, so he told her for years that something ridiculous completed it.

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  2. I feel like I have adhd most days. I can’t seem to figure out what’s most important so I half ass everything and then end up blogging or going to gym because I’m stressed out by the important stuff. Everyone is alive so I guess there’s that.

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  3. “Declaring everything a priority actually means that nothing is a priority. Jumping mindlessly from one test to the next without any plan or structure is a sure fire way of ensuring that nothing is seen through to its completion. When we panic or become stressed then we are more likely to rush and make mistakes. There can only be one priority at a time, otherwise we may as well pull down the shutters and all go home.” How many times we stumble on every task being a “priority”? 😩 we just keep jumping and running to the next thing after another and losing the momentum to focus on one thing at a time. Honestly I feel we prioritize unnecessary things, and not people. What we gather is just nonsense, emptiness, and we lose ourselves in the process. What matters is how it effects in the long run. Like my dad says, “do your best and the rest will fall into place.” Live a little, life is really short.

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  4. I really enjoyed this thought provoking blog. Like you my priority is my family. It must always be so for they are my anchor and my strength as well as my inspiration to get up and show up day after day. Family is everything!

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  5. My priority has been my boys for the last 18 years, lately my new husband and now me. I’m effectively bunking off, I’ve left the children with their father and husband dearest with a very full freezer and some peace and quiet. I think he might be sulking. My primary priority right now is just very selfishly me and my book and a blog every few days. I feel guilty pleasure.

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  6. You’re writing about your office was so well written I could see it all happening in my head like a movie. Like that was ultra cool.
    Still at camp and trying to find time to write almost impossible. I’m either in service or seeing kids. Best week ever.
    My middle name is Caroline which is much better than Matilda. My great grandma name was Matilda Caroline so my oldest daughter has same middle name.

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  7. Yess, there is quite a bit to be done and I’m not even in school yet. I don’t think Robert is that bad! My parents did not give me an embarrassing middle name… In fact, they liked it so much they decided to call me by it! Most people don’t know my actual first name.

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  8. I served my country for nearly 32 years as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force and now have been retired for three years so I no longer give much thought to priorities unless of course it’s which book will I read next. However, when I worked it was always reactive to a problem or issue never proactive and that bothered me.
    Middle name, plain old Ann…

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  9. “Declaring everything a priority actually means nothing is a priority.” BINGO! I forgot where I heard it, but there is a language where the word for “priority” has no plural. … I just thought that was interesting.
    To answer your question, my priority is my relationship with God. If He created me (and I believe He did), then He alone knows why I’m here. If I lose touch with Him, I am off on any number of rabbit trails, and all my energies amount to pretty much nothing.

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  10. You’re very right, family has to come above everything and it’s often Scott that calms me down when work pressures get too much- you wouldn’t believe how much they think you can do in a 3 day week. I hope you get everything you need done soon so you can enjoy the summer a little bit.
    My middle name is Ann- urgh. It’s the same as my Mum and Auntie so I guess that’s why my Mum gave it to me, but luckily that’s where the chain stops 😄

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  11. It is difficult at times to put tasks in perspective and create priorities. My own are usually shuffled to the bottom of the list, in favor of family. But that’s a big part of being a Christian – serving others – and it is not a chore. At the same time, I do find it important to take care of myself and take time to work out, pray, etc. Those things make me better and happier, thus a better and happier wife, mother, and teacher. My middle name? Courtney.

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      1. My dad chose it and often calls me by both names in his fonder moments, unlike when I use my kid’s first and middle names…when they are in trouble!😊

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  12. I really struggle to manage all my priorities. Family is a huge priority to me— except now that I’m working I don’t get to eat dinner with them. Community is a priority but when I’m invited to spend time with people it’s like work gets in the way. That means work is the biggest priority in my life but at the same time it’s not. It is so true that when you prioritize everything you prioritize nothing. Learning to make time for people has become a lot of late night texts and calls and really making the most of my days off. Thanks for this post 🙂

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  13. Man do I right now. Tying to put the house up for sale. Have depersonalize and ready it for open house. It is not easy with kids and jobs and life. Like everything of course. Everything is on the back burner now. Sigh.

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      1. Not at all. Ugh and I usually try to dedicate time to WordPress blogs everyday too. and I’ve missed three days! That’s a lot for me as I really read the bloggers I follow. I’ve gotten through open house today so hopefully this week will calm down and I can focus on writing.

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  14. I definitely struggle with my priorities. Well no, actually I struggle with responsibility , obligation to my family whom I love with all my heart and wanting personal freedom to be able to do the things that I want to do as a person. Not a mother, not a spouse, but as a person; the person I was before all that.

    Those two things: responsibility and desire for personal time are at times in conflict for a variety of reasons.

    I think the struggle is real. I’m not certain there is an answer.

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