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The Difference That Matters; Priorities versus Projects

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Knowing the difference between priorities versus projects will help you become more productive and efficient with your time!

Priority – something that is thought to be more important than other things, that needs to be dealt with first.

Many a man has a long, long, list of things to do. Many women find this hard to believe. Often, I hear women say “I know he KNOWS to do xyz, but WTH?? He can remember the Super Bowl scores for the last 18 years but somehow he keeps forgetting to do xyz and defghijklmnop? How can he not remember?!”

Now before making your man an appointment with a short-term memory specialist or a marriage counselor to talk with him about “not really caring” may I offer a suggestion? The solution may be found in understanding the differences between priorities versus projects.

If you were to pick a random day and look at a man’s ‘to do’ list written on the tattered index card carried in the front pocket of his shirt (next to the grocery list on the pink Post-it note) it may look something like this:

1) Love up the wife (pick out flowers and write a note).

2) Take kids to the park…the with one with the zip line.

3) Call Mom.

4) Volunteer to help with eagle scout project (bring extra paint roller).

5) Help neighbor with their sprinkler job.

6) Upload new project files for work, meet with Jim – 10:30.

7) Drop off library books/dry cleaning/socket set to Bill/tax forms.

8) Work out.

These are a list of projects, not priorities.

A list of projects never ends. Projects on the ‘list’ change daily and in some cases, hourly. As projects get completed, items are dropped off and picked up, our children get older and don’t want to go to the park or our parents die and calling them is no longer an option. The point is, the project list never really ends. There is always something to do, somewhere to be, someone to help, another day full of choices to be made, within the time we have allotted.

Wait just a minute, the ‘to-do list’ said, WIFE! (I can hear the outrage from here). “Yes, you are right my dear, you are NOT A PROJECT. You are a PRIORITY.”

As adults, we know this. But sometimes in our day to day challenges, we place too much emphasis on what has to be done, on the projects instead of the priorities. This short-sightedness produces a false stress that spurs us to become reactionary, resulting in us rushing and resenting life and pressuring each other to hurry up and do more.

We turn our projects into a full-blown crisis when we imagine an ominous deadline. Yes, there are some things on that ‘list’ that we may have to complete on a certain day and time. But not every single thing has to be done each and every day.

Forgetting our priorities, we stop thinking and mindfully creating. Instead, we let a few un-managed thoughts spark the body into a full-blown flight or fight response. In other words, our bodies take over and our day may suddenly look like this:

We imagine these projects to be so crucial to our lives that we glance at the microwave clock and launch into frenzy mode, slamming breakfast bowls into the dishwasher, hyper-sniffing semi-clean clothes out of the hamper to find something for the kids to wear, while shouting “GET INTO THE CAR” “NOW!” as you hurdle the counter scaring the cat and the last child into the minivan while frantically texting “so sorry to hear the Chinese food made you sick last night” and “yes that back to school shoe sale continues until Thursday at midnight”, while simultaneously flashing a middle finger at the idiot that honks as you race through the yellowish light to reach the store to buy the popsicles for the five year old’s soccer game that starts in 7 minutes all while shouting at no one in particular – “why in the hell is that cat not buckled up?!” Sound familiar?

For the sake of not becoming the family that smells bad, puts cats in car seats and budgets for high blood pressure meds, we may want to get clear about our priorities instead of being driven by our projects. Letting our priorities guide us will ultimately help us find harmony between caring for our families, community church activities, work and caring for our self.

So how do we place the priority, back on priorities?

Here are 3 easy ideas to implement:

1)  Remember and respect the difference between priorities and projects. Priorities get set first. Projects can then be kept organized and in perspective.

2) We manage time, not the other way around. Time is a finite resource used to give us parameters to create and manage our lives. Time is not a living entity that mercilessly whips us through life.

3) Make a list of Priorities. Then talk them over with your spouse and family. Everyone may choose to prioritize differently. We do not have to agree, but knowing one another’s priorities helps us understand why some projects are more important than others.

The 3 Ideas in Action.

  • A priority list looks like this –
  • Spiritual life/God
  • Self
  • Family
  • Work
  • Community/Church
  • Everything else

Once this is clear, projects can be organized and given specified amounts of time to bring about the results you want.



  • Spiritual life/God                            
  • Self                                  
  • Family                             
  • Work
  • Community/Church
  • Everything                                                    


  •  20 minutes of Meditation                                   
  •  Listen to an audiobook on way to work 30 min each way
  • Pick out a card write a note to the wife. Take kids to the park

***Another thing to note, Self-comes before family. This is not a typo and is not selfish. Think of the last time you were on a plane and you were reminded in the event of an emergency you place the oxygen mask on yourself first then help others. To be all we want to be for our spouses and our children we must vigilantly care for and improve ourselves first. Remember you cannot give what you do not have and to extend value to others we have to increase our own value.

  ***Notice when priorities are set the projects fall in line, from most important to least. Also, notice that the amount of time to dedicate to each project becomes more clear.

Becoming aware of the importance of prioritizing will make a tremendous difference in living a balanced well-rounded life. Don’t stress that your efforts are not perfect. The idea that people are “doing it all” is false. We all have limited time, energy and resources and we all struggle to prioritize. Life asks a lot of us all.

Having a crystal clear set of priorities will take away the feeling that you are juggling flaming torches and sharp knives while pedaling in circles on a unicycle with a crazy tall seat. And best of all, in our relationships, we can stop struggling with each other to get projects done. We can stand back and be amazed at our priorities align our projects, resulting in our getting what we really want – an increased feeling of accomplishment as projects are completed and relationships with the ones we care about the most getting the time and attention they deserve.

    Prioritize Priorities.

  •   Stop being at the mercy of what matters least.
  •   Start spending time on what matters most.

Follow Craig on Instagram @craiglboucher

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