God, Country, Notre Dame

To-Do List

Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons but wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord.
~Ephesians 5:15-17

I have a lot going on in my life right now. My days are filled with Important Things that Need Doing. I need to optimize My Time so that I can achieve all of my Important Things.

We tell ourselves these things a lot. I have told myself these things a lot of late. I will probably tell myself these things even more in the near future, as I pack my house and family to move across the country and start a new job. But here I am to tell myself and the rest of you that I was, am, and will be lying to myself.

There are things in life that cannot be put on the back burner. You can’t put them off for later. The problem is this: Which things are they, really?

When I was in college, the University of Notre Dame helped me with this. It was written everywhere: God, Country, Notre Dame. A basic set of priorities to help me organize my life. And that worked really well when I was a college student who’s biggest responsibility was turning in my paper on time. Notre Dame, my college student responsibilities, were very important. I should do my work, go to my classes, and turn in my projects on time. My country, the United States of America, was even more important. In national crisis, my country comes before my college work. And before either of those is God. Mass, prayer, and my personal times with God came before anything else in my life. Yes, it might be the Sunday of Finals Week and I might have a whole text-book that needs reviewing (or reading), but I put everything down to go to Mass.

Now, I have other things in my life. I have a family, my husband needs to be a part of my list of priorities. Some have kids, as well, that they need to fit in. There are jobs, community involvements, and amazing callings like the Ladies of Our Lady Retreat. We have friends, pets, careers, dreams, and no one buying our food for us anymore. In the hustle and bustle of life, how do we handle prioritizing?

One technique I like involves writing down everything you need to do. That’s an important first step, knowing what each thing is, instead of running in a panic from each thing to the next as you think of them and forgetting something important.

      • Write a blog post
      • Pack the house
      • Clean the house
      • Get the car fixed
      • Go to Mass
      • Buy party supplies
      • Sell the house
      • Get the plumbing fixed
      • Call a landscaper
      • Go to chorus rehearsal
      • Date Night
      • Feed the cat
      • Make dinner
      • Buy shampoo

Here’s a simplified version of my list right now. You can tell I’m pretty scattered, and that some of the items on the list are much bigger than others, but that doesn’t make them more important. So now you label the items A, B, C into three big categories based on importance.

A – Write a blog post
B – Pack the house
A – Clean the house
B – Get the car fixed
A – Go to Mass
A – Buy party supplies
C – Sell the house
A – Get the plumbing fixed
B – Call a landscaper
B – Go to chorus rehearsal
B – Date night
A – Feed the cat
A – Make dinner
C – Buy shampoo

Well, that helps to narrow things down. I’m going to reorder the list for a more visual sense of things:

A – Write a blog post
A – Clean the house
A – Go to Mass
A – Buy party supplies
A – Get the plumbing fixed
A – Feed the cat
A – Make dinner
B – Pack the house
B – Get the car fixed
B – Call a landscaper
B – Go to chorus rehearsal
B – Date night
C – Sell the house
C – Buy shampoo

Well, that feels better. But there’s still a lot in that A section, and it’s a pretty broad range of things. So I number within each section:

A4 – Write a blog post
A5 – Clean the house
A1 – Go to Mass
A6 – Buy party supplies
A7 – Get the plumbing fixed
A3 – Feed the cat
A2 – Make dinner
B4 – Pack the house
B3 – Get the car fixed
B5 – Call a landscaper
B2 – Go to chorus rehearsal
B1 – Date night
C1 – Sell the house
C2 – Buy shampoo

I’ll reorder again for the visual aid:

A1 – Go to Mass
A2 – Make dinner
A3 – Feed the cat
A4 – Write a blog post
A5 – Clean the house
A6 – Buy party supplies
A7 – Get the plumbing fixed
B1 – Date night
B2 – Go to chorus rehearsal
B3 – Get the car fixed
B4 – Pack the house
B5 – Call a landscaper
C1 – Sell the house
C2 – Buy shampoo

Now this is where the magic happens. I now have a completely ordered list. This last step was the one that made the real difference. I started with the C section and looked at everything in it (in this case, just two items) and said “If both of these came up at once, which one would I need to do first?” The answer is that it is more important right now to sell the house. Now, it is likely that house selling is pretty far off, and buying shampoo may wind up being some low-hanging fruit I can take of, say, when I buy the party supplies, which are much higher on the list. But I have it prioritized.

The B section contains the “not immediate” necessities. However, I know that when Date Night comes up, everything gets set aside unless it’s “very important” or A level. Similar with my chorus rehearsals. They are high on my priority list. Packing the house is very important right now (more so than concerning myself with the landscaping) but my husband will have time to pack the house after I leave, and my car needs to be fixed before I can go.

In the A section, we’re reaching the point of this exercise. Right at the top is Mass. Drop everything, visit with God. Immediately after that comes the physical needs of myself, my husband, and our cat. Then my blog post here. This blog is both a committment I have made, and a form of prayer that I engage in. After that is the preparations for the party we are having tomorrow and the outstanding plumbing issue we need looked at.

So, I have prioritized the things on my quick list of “things to do”, but I have also done something else. I have prioritized the big picture too:

      1. God
      2. Physical Necessities
      3. Commitments (work, blog entries, volunteer work, etc)
      4. Family & Friends (Date Night, party, etc)
      5. Me Time (My hobbies, like chorus)
      6. Long Term Commitments (packing and selling the house)
      7. Non-necessities (buying shampoo)

It’s not as simple as God, Country, Notre Dame, but it sure reminds me of what I should be doing. And God still comes out on top. He always does, He is priority #1. There’s a good reason for that. As long as I make Him #1, I know the rest will always follow from Him.

What are you priorities and how do you order them? Is He #1? Or has He fallen down your list?

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