Leadership Perspectives

Priorities are a funny thing

I’ve noticed a funny thing.  Whenever I have a trip planned, whether for business or pleasure, I always start a few days or weeks in advance (depending on how far in advance the trip is planned) listing and trying to chip away at the things that I need to do before I leave.

Listing the priorities.  Some of things really must be accomplished, like buying the tickets, stocking up on cat food, and finishing a client proposal.  There are other things that should be done like arranging to have research pulled for an article I need to write when I return, and planting some flowers recently gifted to me that are currently sitting on plastic in my yard.  Then there are just things that I want to accomplish like making a window shade for our very sunny kitchen window and reorganizing my client files. Of course, this is all in addition to going to work every day.

About two weeks before I leave, it all seems infinitely doable, and then the clock starts ticking.  The pattern of response is predictable.  First, I feel a little sinking despair and try to work a little bit faster and harder.  But then I start editing the list.  By the day I am due to leave, things that it seemed unthinkable to leave undone are still not done and I’m okay with it.

Here’s the funny thing.  You’d think the things on the must be done list would get done along with a few things on the should list, and the things that I just wanted to accomplish would be left for later.  But often, that is not how it works.

Yes, the client proposal gets written but maybe I decide that a family member can pick up the cat food.  They don’t always get exactly the right kind, but the cat survives, and without me to cater to his finicky nature, amazingly his girth survives.  I have my outbound ticket but decide to stay flexible and hold off on buying the return ticket.

At the last minute, I arrange to have the research gathered but when I start to plant the flowers, I realize that they are thriving sitting on plastic in their little dirt mounds and they will be fine for another six days if someone waters them.

The client files aren’t finished, but amazingly, the window shade is, despite the project taking much longer than I expected.

Priorities are a funny thing.  They shift, they ebb, and they flow.  If we can remember that not everything that seems imperative really is, we can save ourselves a lot of angst.

Equally, when we realize that the things that we want to accomplish are just as important, even if they don’t seem important to others, we live a richer, more satisfying life.

I’m heading out for a few days vacation with a friend.  You know what I am the most pleased about getting done before I leave?  My new window shade.  I made it myself and I’ve wanted to do that for a year. I set today as my deadline, and it will be the first thing I see upon my return.

Priorities are indeed a funny thing.


  1. Am trying to break that hold that Mom and the 1950’s still have over me, and simply buy my tix, grab my suitcase, and walk out the door with a clear head. And not make the beds and scrub the kitchen floor. Hard!

  2. It’s true, Cheryl. It’s figuring what has meaning for YOU. Of course, if coming back to sparkling floors, or an empty desk, or a finished project ready to post is what will make your heart sing, then that’s what you should attend to. It’s the other stuff we need to leave behind.

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