December 2012

The Main Thing

I was at a training session on time management and some speakers had motivated us, made us feel guilty, told quite a few jokes and given pithy illustrations. After a coffee break (or in my case, a two cup coffee and toilet break), we had been allocated into that dreaded of all undertakings – the breakout group. Sometimes it is called a small group or a discussion group, but you sit with strangers and, in the light of the speakers input, consider some questions on the topic (hopefully), with the aim that you learn from the wisdom and experience from each other (even more hopefully).

On this day, the third or fourth question on the discussion list was something like ‘a) Considering all the priorities clamouring for your attention, what is the one essential priority that you must accomplish every day’ and ‘b) what would it take for you to achieve it’. The implication, coming from an earlier speaker, was that we so often fail to complete even the most basic of goals as we are swamped with urgent but often low priority tasks. The discussion that ensued, was sometimes helpful, sometimes less so, – a typical breakout group.

That is until the contribution of a person who had, up until that time, said relatively little, apart from the obligatory starting gambit of going around the circle and stating ones name, the firm/organisation you were part of and the role you played within it. At that occasion he had made such an impression on me that I could remember neither his name, organisation nor job. In a lull in the conversation, when the chap who felt he needed to comment on everything took a longer breath than usual, this person quietly but clearly said ‘I start every day by taking my dog on a prayer walk.’

The silence that greeted this statement was deafening. The jaw of the chap who commented on everything simply dropped, the eyes of various group members looked anywhere and everywhere apart from in the direction of the person who made this statement. The uncomfortable silence stretched until the woman, who had been reluctantly cajoled to take notes and report back to the later plenary session, queried, ‘err, can you expand a bit on that? I don’t have enough to report back ...’

He looked at the note-taker and said, ‘I leave home before 7 every morning, and am lucky if I get back home by 8pm. My day is full of meetings, reports and decisions, probably like most of you here,’ he said looking around the group. ‘I’m also a Christian and I believe in prayer – talking to God, some of you might call it meditation. What’s my main priority? Well, there’s actually three,’ he said with a furtive smile. ‘Firstly, if I don’t walk the dog, no one else will. Secondly, if I don’t get to do some regular exercise, I find by mid afternoon I run out of steam. And thirdly, as I walk my dog at 6:30 am and get the exercise I need, I talk to God and somehow that sorts out most of the other demands on my time.’

I can’t remember what the afternoon session was about, or if the speaker(s) motivated us with more Powerpoint quotes, pithy illustrations and self depreciating humour. However, I do wonder if I can ever learn that wisdom, to discover and set my priorities and stick to them.

And your priority is?


December 2012