Saying No to the Unimportant

Father and Son Playing Baseball
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Many fathers struggle with putting first things first and being able to say no to what is unimportant. But getting to the stage where your time and attention are truly focused on the most important things in life is easier said than done. These concepts for prioritizing and putting first things first will help dads in their quest to create more quality and quantity time with their families.

Identifying Your Values. The first step to really setting priorities is to determine your personal values.

One way to do that is an exercise I went through during a seminar years ago. I was asked to "write my own obituary." That was a unique experience to see how I would hope to be remembered when my turn on earth is over.  I didn't find myself writing much about work - other than in generalities.  I also didn't write much about my hobbies or the things that I seem right now to spend a lot of time on.  I did, however, find  that family ranked pretty high for me when I thought in those terms.

Counting Your Hats. Each man wears many hats during his lifetime. These hats, or roles, when identified, help us organize our lives. So, count and identify your hats. These might include husband, father, son, employee, volunteer, and the like.  Figuring out all of our roles in life is a really good place to start in terms of organizing our time and setting our priorities.  

Think Long Term. Identifying long range goals is a critical step many of us fathers miss.

Some long term goals you might set include, "Raising my children to responsible, caring adults," or "Saving money to make a significant down payment on a home within five years." When you reduce your values and roles to specific outcomes and time frames, it is easier to make short term decisions.  As we set goals, we should remember the SMART acronym.

 We should make our goals:​

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Action-Oriented
  • Realistic
  • Time-Focused

Plan and Prioritize. Keeping in mind your long term goals, now look at your week and determine what steps you need to take to move each of these goals forward during the week. List the steps in your planner, smartphone, or personal organizer, and prioritize them.  You might try the traditional A/B/C system with A goals being of highest importance, B goals next, and C goals having a low priority.  For those action steps that lend themselves to a time commitment, schedule the time. For example, if raising responsible children is a goal, then you may want to set aside an hour to work with your children in the backyard garden to help them learn the importance of the "law of the harvest." Plug it in on your calendar for Saturday and keep your commitment.​

Remember Big Rocks and Little Rocks. If you have been to a time management seminar, you may have seen the example of big rocks and little rocks. Pretend you have an empty glass jar and some big rocks and some little rocks (pebbles or sand). If you put all the little rocks in the jar first, then the big rocks won't all fit. But if you put the big rocks in first, then pour in the little rocks, you can fill the jar completely and accommodate all the rocks.

Big rocks in this example are your highest priority and highest leverage activities. Plan them in your schedule first, and then the less important things after. You will be amazed how much better your time will be utilized.

Leave Work on Time. Now, not all of us can leave work on time every day. The demands of a day to day job are pretty high these days. But target to leave on time three days each week. If you take this approach, you will find you have more time at home. If you work late every day, you will miss the truly important things at home. So take off on time three days each week and keep your perspective.