It’s all about Priorities


It’s 11:00pm and I’m cleaning the bathroom.

I’m tired, my head is aching, I have to get up in less than six hours, and I’m ensconced in the heady fragrance of bleach and disinfectant. But I’m humming a merry tune.

When I realise what I’m doing, I start to laugh. Because this is crazy, right? What sane person would be in this situation?

As I scrub the shower cubicle, I think about priorities.

There was a time I thought I was good at prioritising. I managed a busy office. I had staff and responsibilities and so much to do that my to-do list sometimes stretched for pages at a time. And then I had kids, and I discovered that I knewΒ nothing about meeting deadlines, prioritising tasks, and having a demanding and uncompromising boss.

These days I’ve got a better handle on it. We have a schedule, a routine, and I’m pretty good at making it happen. Cook dinner, eat dinner, clean up dinner, bath the kids, read a bedtime story, maybe two, have some cuddles, a few kisses, one more drink before bed, and then, finally, the bliss of two sleeping children. And then…


The day is over.

Except for all the housework left to be done.

Washing. Ironing. Tidying. And the job that gets put off most of all: cleaning the bathrooms.

Once, I would have prioritised those jobs, and made sure to get them all done before bed. But not anymore.

Instead, I looked around at all the housework that needed doing and I said to myself, “Self. Get your priorities straight. The first thing you need to do is write. After you’ve finished writing, if you’re still awake enough, you can start on the housework.”

And so tonight, it’s 11:00pm and I’m cleaning the bathroom.

I’m tired, my head is aching, I have to get up in less than six hours, and I’m ensconced in the heady fragrance of bleach and disinfectant. But I’m humming a merry tune.

Because I know I’ve got my priorities straight.

Are you good at prioritising?


Filed under Life With Kids, Random Stuff, Writing

21 responses to “It’s all about Priorities

  1. Everything I need to do on a daily/weekly basis get done with no more than an insignificant deviation. Things I need to do monthly sometimes deviate a few days from when I planned to do them.

    I am however focused on removing things that do not need to be done (the shower head needs de-scaling, but does it need to be done that frequently?) rather than fitting in everything a perfect list would include.

    My weakness is prioritising certain types of relaxation: for example, I like computer gaming but do not usually do it while my wife is home so (i) we can be sociable and (ii) explosions do not distract her from studying; in my effort to get my necessary tasks done I often do not include time for these things.

    • I think scheduling time for relaxation is something that a lot of people forget. I’m impressed that you even notice the shower head needs de-scaling. I’m pretty sure my husband wouldn’t notice three-inch thick mold growing on the shower walls.

      • I do plan time for relaxation; I just end up spending on other relaxing things (like reading πŸ™‚ ).

        I actually do more cleaning than my wife at the moment because I have more time.

  2. As soon as I sit down at 5:00 a.m. to start work I pull out a post-it and place a bullet note. As I work I write the first thing I need to do today and throughout my shift I add bullet points. There is always something or two related to the home: Clean kitchen floors, clean guest bathroom, vacuum downstairs, wash Noah’s clothes, etc. There are appointments, exercises, phone calls, emails. There are no priorities; just the list, which I cross off as I go. Welcome to my OCD. And the smell of bleach? LOVE IT.

    • I like it. πŸ™‚ I’m not a list writer by nature, but have had to learn to do it since having kids. My memory isn’t as good as it used to be. (Or I’m just trying to remember things for more people…) And, bleach? I love it too. I always thought I was the only one.

  3. MerylF

    Atta girl! When you’re looking back on your life, would you rather be saying “wow my house was so clean”, or “look at all the books I wrote”?

    I know which one I prefer πŸ˜‰

  4. I’ve forgotten how tough it is with little kids now that mine are all grown up. My priorities have totally changed and writing always comes first (I tell a lie, coffee and chocolate always come first! πŸ˜‰

    • Haha. Coffee is also important. πŸ˜‰ Not that I want my kids to grow up too fast, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to them both being at school full time!

  5. Jo, you have your priorities straight for sure! Writing before cleaning, always. πŸ™‚

  6. All life, it seems to me, is about ever-changing priorities, responsibilities and perspectives. It’s easy to get into a mindset and feel you are missing out on something better (certainly I got into this morass recently), but a little mental adjustment means that, hey, I’m also happy to be putting some biological cleaner down the loo to unblock it in the hour or two before midnight instead of imagining I could be a brain surgeon.

    • You’re exactly right. So often when we feel dissatisfied with our lot in life, it’s because we’re imagining the perceived better situation someone else has. It’s also very easy to lose sight of what our own priorities and (more importantly) dreams are in the face of the day-to-day mundanity of modern life. But a little bit of mental adjustment and hey presto, the world is a wonderful place full of opportunity and excitement.

  7. No, I suck at it. However, my Aunt Jan (who raised 6 daughters – very close in age) once told me that she manages it all by, “I clean one room a day.” That’s it. The other rooms can be a disaster, but at least ther eis one room that’s clean. It’s pretty much the best advice ever.

  8. I wish I could say that I was able to rank writing as a higher priority than all that other stuff. Unfortunately… life isn’t that kind to me. Family time comes first. Then work-time. Those have to be my top two priorities. (The second one is important because you can’t have good family time without a sustainable income to support the family.) After that… there’s just not much time left. Most of that remainder goes to “health and physical maintenance” (eating, sleeping, going to the doctor) because without health, there won’t be any of those first two things. Now I’m really down to bare-bones time. House and Home maintenance (housework, cleaning, home repair and home improvement projects) has to come next… because that’s where my family (see Priority #1) lives. After all of that… then and only then, if there’s time left in a day, do I write. Most days… I’m already at a time deficit by the end of the day…

    • All that said… I’m attempting to begin a discussion with members of aforementioned family in which I hope to upgrade “writing” to “health maintenance”, on account of my sanity rests on my writing.

      • I’m very fortunate to have a family who understands and supports what I do. Note, however, that I still have to DO all that other stuff. I just know that I can productively clean a bathroom late at night, but I can’t productively be creative late at night.

      • Myself… I can’t productively do anything late at night if my body tells me I should be sleeping. So I have to try to cram it into the normal wakeful part of the day.

        Every writer’s circumstances and situation are different, and no two situations are ever directly comparable, I think. We each have to approach this the best way that we can and try to make it work. Some will be more successful than others. Right now… I’m on the lower end of that successful time-finding spectrum.

      • I’m finding it more difficult now, but back when I was “crazy” I would go days at a time sleeping only an hour or two each night. That’s one of the things I miss about the “good old days”.

        You’re right, though. And at the end of the day, writing is one of those careers that you don’t age out of.

      • I have had a major envy on, for years, for people who can survive on limited sleep. I had a professor in college who needed a max of 4 hours per night of sleep. Of course that easily meant he had time to do all kinds of extra things outside of school. My body, unfortunately, just doesn’t work that way. So I know what you mean, there.

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