Prioritizing Priorities

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:33

Dale Carnegie tells the story of two men who spent the day chopping wood.

The Worried Woodcutter worked hard all day long. He chopped non-stop without even taking a break for lunch. He ended the day exhausted and crabby but with a nice size pile of wood. As he stumbled home, he passed the woodpile of the Wise Woodcutter.

Shocked and angry at what he saw, he sputtered “I worked all day long with nary a break, while you took two breaks, spent time just sitting around and even took a short nap during lunch.” “Why is your wood pile so much larger than mine?”

The Wise Woodcutter

“Ah,” replied the Wise Woodcutter, “did you notice what I was doing while I was sitting down?”

“I was sharpening my ax.”

Most of us attack our days the same way the Worried Woodcutter swung at his trees. We get to the office early, dive into our work with gusto, work all day long, and end the day dragging and drained.

Short-Term Payoff ~ Long-Term Disaster

The worst part is that our brains continually reward us all through the day for our short-sightedness and poor planning. Consider the fact that our brain can only hold 4-7 items in its short-term memory at any one point in time. So, when your brain sees all the unfinished tasks that need finishing, the emails that need answering and the people demanding your time, your stress level rises and you leap in to try to minimize the load.

Each time you check one more item off the list, your brain breathes a sigh of relief that there is one less thing to keep track of. It seems like a good plan.

But, like the Wise Woodcutter, we would be much better off in the long run if we took time to sharpen the saw.

Unlike the simple action of checking things off a list or deleting irrelevant email, planning and prioritizing your day takes a lot of brain power. In fact, it is one of the most resource intensive activities your brain will do all day.

But it’s also the most powerful.

Which Woodcutter Are You?

Research shows that for every 1 minute you spend in planning, you will gain 10 in execution. 1 minute = 10 minutes. 15 minutes = 2 hour and 30 minutes! This may seem too good to be true but give it a try. If you gain even 45 minutes a day by beginning your day with planning and prioritizing, you will gain almost 12 days a year.

Do you want to increase your effectiveness and productivity? Tackle not just the urgent things but the truly important. Dedicate the first fifteen minutes of every day to short and long-range planning and prioritizing.

Who knows? Like the Wise Woodcutter you may even have time for a short nap.

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