Before reading the next paragraph, please answer this three-part question: What is the single most significant thing you could begin doing regularly that would:

  1. Make you more effective at your work?
  2. Create a better atmosphere for your family?
  3. Enrich your spiritual life?

On the assumption now that you have named three specific things that would make your life better, let me pose one more question: Can you defend your choice to omit any of these three things from your schedule this week?

All of us have urgent things that will have to be attended to before this day ends — phone calls, appointments, sales calls, deadlines, interruptions, etc. But some of us will also do our versions of the things you named earlier — like planning next week's big presentation or making three extra calls, telling someone "I love you" or helping children with homework, or taking time to read the Bible and pray for a few minutes.

The difference in people who tend to life's really important things and those of us who simply react to whatever happens in a day and live the scripts others write for us is called discernment. Maybe you prefer to call it setting priorities or putting first things first.

It is absurdly easy to fall into the activity trap. That's when you think that being busy is the same thing as being productive. We humans can equate having done huge amounts of unimportant things with having done something that is actually significant. They simply aren't the same.

Moving quickly and efficiently is important only if your movement is in the direction of some worthy goal. Since you took the time at the start of this piece to name three specific steps toward noble ends, why not take some time now to figure out how to include them in today's schedule for yourself?

You may need to cut out some waste and cancel some unimportant things, but you will be better for it. You will have started to practice discernment between the things in life that really matter and all the second-rate distractions we let get in the way of doing them.

Is your movement in the direction of some worthy goal?
You likely know the writings of Stephen Covey. His "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" has sold widely and helped many people toward a clearer view of career, family, and personal life. "The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule," insists Covey, "but to schedule your priorities."

Jesus put it this way:

"Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need" (Matthew 6:33 NLT).