To Do Lists Aren’t Priorities

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I make a to do list for everything. I love the satisfaction of crossing the items off and accomplishing a new feat. To do lists are helpful and efficient. But to do lists aren’t priorities.

Heath and I recently celebrated our anniversary. But by celebrated, I mean we were stressed, worried, anxious, frustrated, and hurt. Between wedding planning, honeymoon planning, job stress, plus suddenly living in the same city once again, our relationship suffered. Our planning and accomplishing our to do lists thrived.

To do lists aren't priorities

While Heath and I fought, we decided on a videographer and rearranged our wedding budget. We made plans for our road trip and Heath kicked butt in his office. (I can’t say I kicked butt nannying, obviously). We accomplished much at the expense of our joy.

Life can be stressful.

A few weeks ago I might have said life is stressful, but I don’t think that’s true.

Life can be stressful, if you let it.

We let it. We let our to do list trump all else.

We (I) let the size and shape of the tables we needed to rent for our wedding become the first priority. We stressed at length about how we would travel the country, how we would tell our families, how we could not be considered financially irresponsible or psychotic.

But most of all we fought about how we weren’t spending enough time together. We didn’t feel encouraged or loved or happy. We felt stressed and forgotten and lonely—even though we saw each other every day.

We forgot that like all of the growing items on our to do list is the unwritten priority to love and care for each other. To put each other first, to value our relationship above our circumstances, to focus on the good in each other, not on the ability to forget your computer at the office.

We focused on our to do lists all day, but to do lists aren’t priorities.

After loudly repeating that simple fact to each other over and over without fixing our problem, we both sat down to make a list (ironically). We wrote down our priorities as individuals that we wanted in our marriage, things like eating breakfast and dinner together or exercising daily or taking time to encourage each other’s dreams.

Our lists weren’t that different. In fact, we wrote down almost all of the same things. We both want to be healthy and we want to attend church together and we want to relax with Netflix every once in a while.

We both wanted all of these things to be priorities, we just weren’t doing them. We focused on the things we didn’t care about instead. We intently focused (argued) about work and how much money we would spend on gas and our thoughts on burlap.

When your actions don’t align with your actual priorities, you become stressed. When I focus on what types of flowers should be in my bouquet instead of taking time to write (my actual priority), I become frustrated. When I pester Heath to focus on finding us a bartender while he’s closing a deal at work, he becomes overwhelmed.

It’s easy for priorities to slip away and change with the stress of jobs and to do lists. If there’s one thing wedding planning will teach you, it’s that.

Heath and I have one new, simple rule: No talking about the wedding, the trip, or any of the day’s action items during meals. It’s a small, simple, extremely hard to abide by rule, but it has made a world of a difference. And after the wedding, the rule will remain: No talking about the action items during meals. It’s just extra stress.

It’s bizarre how this small change has dramatically changed our relationship. Now we have time for me to gush about how cute the boy I babysit is and Heath has time to make jokes about ring bears and tell me his thoughts on lobbyists in DC (typical dinner talk). It helped re-align our priorities. We could give love and attention to each other first, and focus on plans later. Now, we get more work done each day without the added stress of wanting to kill Heath for even suggesting we take a dog on our trip.

What priorities of yours are suffering because of your to do list?