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Why You Need Both Priorities and Posteriorities

We hear a lot of talk about priorities. And it’s with good reason: we need to know what is important in our life so we can make decisions on how to best use our time and resources.

However, what is also equally valuable is to know what’s NOT important. I loved how Kevin DeYoung described these not important things in life as “posteriorities”. Here’s what he said on page 62 of Crazy Busy:

This means, in addition to setting priorities, I must establish posteriorities. This is Drucker’s word for the thing that should be at the end (posterior) of our to-do list. These are the things we decide not to do for the sake of doing the things we ought to do. Making goals is not enough. We must decide what tasks and troubles we will not tackle at all. -page 62 from Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung

Are you spending time and energy on things that aren’t really priorities? If so, what can you do to make them posteriorities in your life?

One thing that helps me tremendously is to set yearly goals, monthly goals, and weekly goals. These help me to stay focused on chipping away at things that are important to me or taking slow and gradual babysteps in the direction of where I want to go.

I also find it so helpful to make out a loose schedule for each day with time blocks for each hour of the day as opposed to just making a to-do list. Maybe it’s just the Type A in me, but I have a tendency to create impossibly-long to-do lists. These just set me up for failure since there’s no way I can cram 32 hours’ worth of work in a 24-hour day.

Instead of writing a long to-do list, I’ve found it’s much more productive to make a loose schedule with time blocks at the beginning of each day. Instead of trying to fit my long to-do list into only 24 hours, I start with 24 hours, deduct 8 hours for sleep and 2 hours for margin time, and then schedule the rest of my day within the remaining 14 hours of time blocks.

When I start with only 14 hours — and that’s all I have to work with — I have to be a lot more careful what I plan and commit to.

Here are three questions I ask myself when thinking through tasks on my mental to-do list and writing out my time blocks for the day:

1. Does this task have to be done at all?

Many times, I realize that a task I had on my mental list isn’t a priority at all — just something was feeling obligated to do or thought would be nice to do?

2. If the answer is “yes”, then does this have to be done today?

I’m not trying to encourage procrastination here, but a realistic view of what is a priority for today. If something needs to be done but doesn’t have to be done today, I’ll usually add it to my Google calendar for a later date. That way, I’ve assigned it to a day and don’t have to worry about it until it shows up on the calendar again.

3. If the answer to the above question is “yes”, then can someone else do this task?

There are many tasks that must be done, but that I don’t necessarily have to do myself. These can be assigned as a paid chore to one of my children or delegated to one of my team members.

These three questions help me to streamline and pare down my to-do list and stick with the most important things on my time block schedule for the day. And you know what I love best about pre-planning my day within the 14-hour time block parameters? It helps me to start the day not feeling overwhelmed because I know that everything I’ve planned to do that day actually fits into my day — with room to spare!

What are some things you need to put on your posterities list? If you are still trying to fit them into your life, today is a good day to shelf, trash, or delegate them.

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  • jennifer says:

    When I first read the title of this post, I thought it would be about making a to-do list for when we are sitting on our posteriors:)
    The time block idea is intriguing. At first blush, it looks like more work than just making a to-do list. But, I am always making ridiculously long to-do lists then I get frustrated when I don’t accomplish half of what’s on it. I’ll have to give the time-blocking a shot.

  • LOVE Kevin DeYoung. I had the absolute pleasure of hearing him speak TWICE this past June at WorshipGod13. He was my favorite of all the speakers – so convicting yet motivating as well! His book will surely be one of my next reads.

  • Sheila says:

    Thank you for the helpful post. We all need a reminder to keep the main thing the main thing! So glad to see a personal post from you. It seems you have really cut back and I have missed them as this is the main reason I follow your blog. Hope to see more of them soon.

  • Rachael says:

    I love making lists, and to-do lists are right up there! I’ve learned to make use of ‘daily task’ style sheets that only give me 5 or 6 lines for things to get done on a given day. I’m currently using a laminated copy of the daily task list from “Life Your Way” (I think). It gives me a natural limit. And I do schedule in time blocks. The form gives a section for a ‘schedule’ with even a place to put times… I leave the time blank, but list the general activity order I’d like to see. Bit broad categories, like “play outside” (my son is 2 years old, so that includes me going out with him). It also helps me not forget things like ‘snack’ before we reach the starving stage.

    I need to get back into goal setting. I let it slip for various life reasons several months ago, wasn’t necessarily a bad thing then, but its time to get back into it now, I think.

  • Simon says:

    Interesting take on task-lists. Your idea of setting time blocks goes closely with that of “paying yourself first” and then learning how to use the rest of your time and money wisely…I believe this way you get very efficient using both.
    I have been using the 80/20 (Pareto rule) to determine what goes into my priority and posteriorities. The things that bring in most of the results (and happiness) rank high up…the rest take the tail end. Saves me lots of time, efforts and ensures am performing optimally.

  • This is definitely a good question and something to think about. I have a tendency to make everything a priority and get overwhelmed when I can’t get it all done.

    Working in blocks of time is something that I’m starting to do, especially with my daughter being on summer break. It definitely makes me more productive and I think it might be wise to keep it up once school resumes in a few weeks.

  • Stephanie says:

    Time blocking is a great idea! I found a printable that will help me with this. I am really looking forward to trying it out 🙂

  • angi says:

    I love the 3 questions. This summer, I’ve gotten much more intentional about asking those type of questions and actually following through. My biggest struggle is delgating to others – I’m learning to not be a control freak!

  • Anne says:

    I haven’t really deleted much from my to-do list, but I am more realistic than I used to be. The time budget helped me to see that I only have about an hour a day for my to-do list items and an hour for housework and meal prep. It helped me be honest with myself and realize for about 8 hours a day I can really only do child care for my active and mobile 9 month old. When she couldn’t move, I could do a lot more. I appreciate how in other posts you explain that different seasons of life have different demands on our times.

    The budget also helped me realize I can only spend 30 minutes a day couponing/surfing the deals sites/checking Facebook if I want attend to my priorities like prayer, time with my husband, and reading.

  • One of my “posteriorities” was lawn care. We just finally hired a lawn guy this summer. Best decision we ever made. Taking care of the lawn every week was a nightmare for me, and I didn’t have time, and DH is allergic to grass and couldn’t do it. Hurrah for the lawn man. It takes unbelievable stress off me, not having to worry about when to find time to mow, not mowing often enough, it being too hot/rainy/etc to mow.

    • Becky says:

      Beginning to wonder if hiring a maid will fit into the same category for us nowadays. Feel guilty, but it may be a priority since everything is getting disgusting since I’ve been working at my mom’s & late dad’s business for the past year (unexpectedly).

  • Victoria says:

    Spent the first evening of my planning retreat blocking out my days. I always find that the process of doing so really helps me realize what I do and do not have time for. I have never done it daily, I do it every few months to keep me on track. I too mark in what I call flex time hours and when I am making up my daily to do list I look at just how much flex time I have that day and try to not over book it.

  • KM Logan says:

    Excellent tips I definitely need to take some of them today 🙂 Oh goals how you vex me.

  • Thanks Crystal! I always appreciate your advice. With just starting a new blog recently. It’s so important that I choose my priorities as I don’t want to neglect my family. Yet I’m trying to put forth my best on my blog. Thanks for digging into these things. It allows me to put things into perspective and choose wisely.

  • Time blocking is key – if you know when you’re going to do something, you’re far more likely to do it!

  • Lora C says:

    This post was exactly what I needed!!!!! Thank you for sharing!!!! I am definitely going to start doing the time blocks daily. I get to the end of the day and find that I feel like I haven’t accomplished nearly as much as I had planned.

    I am also going to pass this along to a friend. She told me that she has been praying for God to give her 48 hours at least one day a week since she has so much to accomplish at her new job. Hopefully this will help her.

    Thanks again!!!!

  • Such a timely post… just when planning the children’s activities and resisting the temptation to take on too much volunteer work is really hitting. I feel called to take a hiatus from most of my volunteer activities this fall as my baby is growing too fast, so fast that he would not like to see that I called him ‘baby’!

  • Kristi says:

    A couple thoughts-

    I read a blog post recently that is a version of the same theme (kinda) here: The blogger (Andrea Dekker) lists her “Don’t do list”. I love this concept.

    My husband is self-employed, and he often stresses to me that it is just as important for him and his business to say “no” to certain projects as it is to say “yes”.

    It seems to be just as important that we intentionally place our resources (times, attention, energy, money) into our priorities, and put aside or re-prioritize those posteriorities so that the posteriorities don’t steal valuable resources from our priorities. Love these concepts!

  • Jerilyn says:

    This is a great post and exact why I subscribe to (Amongst others!)
    I love the simplicity of the ideas here but it can really change our days and our outlook on them. Especially as we go through the seasons of life. My posteriorities list is much, much larger than it used to be. With 3 kids and homeschooling, I don’t seem to get much else done and that is okay.
    I need to get my hands on a copy of this book. I’ve liked everything I’ve read of his, but haven’t heard of this one!

    • Becky says:

      Jerilyn, I feel terrible when I don’t do things that I feel like I should do–like volunteering, socializing with friends, working more, etc., but I am so impressed with the women who are able to say no to things like this in order to pursue priorities like you’re speaking of. Keep your eye on the prize, & you will be rewarded. You’re doing great!

      • Jerilyn says:

        Thanks Becky. I have to admit that as an introvert and complete homebody it’s easier for me to not get involved and that I probably should become involved with something when the timing is right. Like when my sons get a little bit older.

  • I too make ridiculously long to do lists… and then feel guilty when I only 1/4-1/2 (in other words a reasonable amount of things) done. I LOVE this idea! I think this would definitely help me set realistic goals and use my time more effectively. Thanks for sharing!

  • Sarah says:

    This reminds me of a mantra I keep in mind–don’t let the urgent trump the important. It seems that when I am feeling the most stressed, I have been mistaking the urgent as important.

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