Silent Priorities


Where have I been? What has taken me away from writing, and how has something that had become a cornerstone of my weeks simply evaporated? After 74 editions, my Writing Wednesday practice fizzled and died.

Until now. Now my inner voice has called me once more to the page to clarify my thoughts and my life. Now writing has again become a priority. I’ve written about priorities, discipline, and how I used to be a writer. But, I’ve never quite understood that not all priorities beckon us clearly or with our deliberate conscious intent.

Some priorities are not a choice we’d ever hear ourselves say out loud or put down on our to-do lists. Some priorities are silent.

We all have them. Behaviors, habits and thought patterns that repeat in the dim just below the light of our conscious reasoning. Things that we want to find time to do seem to fall into a vacuum and there’s just never enough time.

Or is there?

I started to realize that I had some silent priorities in my life earlier this year when I did a full-time audit. When I looked at my days, my weeks and my months and said: “where the fuck is all my time going?”. I printed out a couple spreadsheet templates and started really looking at it. When the math didn’t add up, I knew I had some silent priorities. Things that I was not aware of scheduling or making time for that were eroding into the possibilities available to me.

Looking at a spreadsheet of how we use our weeks can be frightening. Although a substantial amount of my time was productively spoken for — there were over 30 hours that were somehow unaccounted for at the end of every week. I couldn’t seem to find out where this time was going. I knew I wasted some time, but was I really being this unintentional with the most precious resource I have? Was I really feeling so busy, but yet had so much free time when I took the feelings out of it and made it mathematical?

Yes. I felt overwhelmed, and at my wits end juggling multiple commitments. But, was I dropping balls that I didn’t even see?

This exercise was startling and drove me to evaluate what I could eliminate off the list. So, I made a decision to leave one of my professional commitments, and figure out another way to use those hours towards endeavors I felt more compelled to pursue.

Seemed simple enough. Cut something out you know is taking up time, and then you’ll have exactly that amount of time back to use. It didn’t work. At least not the way I thought it would.

When I made it known that I was intent on parting ways in a professional relationship, I was suddenly thrust towards greater advancement opportunities, monetary rewards, and of course a greater time commitment.

In trying to eradicate a draw on my time, I actually ended up committing more time. Committing more to that very thing I had identified as a possibility to slash to recoup some hours in my week. So, there goes that easy win I had envisioned.

But, I am always one to bite off more than he can chew and usually find myself wading into waters rapidly realizing their depths exceeded my initial sounding of them. I then became fully leveraged as the sole engine driving a schedule I wasn’t sure I could operate sustainably.

New commitments aside, I was missing something. I hadn’t realized that I was measuring known elements, and not accounting for factors below my conscious awareness. All of the hours I was measuring and all of the ways I aimed to recover lost time were about what I knew I was doing.

What did I not know I was doing?

What were my silent priorities?

What didn’t make it on the list that I was spending a lot of time doing?

These questions helped me to ascertain that I was lying to myself. There were things that I did with my time that occupied all the hours of my days and weeks. Somehow hours were being undirected and squandered. Idleness is a task if we are not careful. Inactivity can be an activity if we do not become aware of it.

My silent priorities were robbing me of the truth. I was lying to myself about what I did with my time and energy. I had something that was very important to me, but that I never consciously or deliberately admitted was one of my absolute top priorities.

What was it?

The specifics of what it was don’t matter now. What matters is that we all have these things in our lives. What matters is that now I’ve found a way to suspend my efforts towards this silent priority. Now I’m using that bandwidth to sit here and get back to one of the things that matter most to me in life.

I am back here writing because I stood up to my silent priorities. I am back because a shone a light into the darkness and illuminated the areas of my life that I was hiding something.

I realized that I had never decided to invest my time in these subversive directions. I was making decisions that lead me towards these behaviors, but I was oblivious to the consequences. I had no idea how much time I was really putting into an area that didn’t serve me.

Even when I decided to make a list of how I spent my time it didn’t make it onto the list. I was still hiding it from myself. Yet, when I looked closely and the math didn’t add up. When the cold hard truth was right there in black and white — 30 hours of time unaccounted for — I had to finally assess the fact that something was off. There was a thief, and I could never get back what it had stolen.

Time is both infinite and finite. The time this noiseless task skimmed off my budget went on for too long. When I became aware of it I was able to put the culprit out of my life.

What are your silent priorities?

It could be the 3 hours of TV you watch, plus the 2 hours you spend on social media every day. Or any number of small things that add up in the silence. These things are seldom activities we consciously sit down and plan. Who makes the conscious decision to take 1/4 of their day and spend it in front of a screen with nearly no productive plan of action? Few people would admit it, but many do nonetheless.

The addict is seldom one to identify the addiction as a priority or a problem.

Think about your time. Next time you tell yourself you don’t have enough of it, think about what you’re not telling yourself. Think about what is not being said or heard.

Think about your silent priorities.

I did. And it set me free.

Thank you for reading!

This is the 76th installment of Writing Wednesday. A commitment to myself to actually pursue my dreams of becoming a writer. I am resuming this practice after almost an entire years absence.

I am a writer.

Let me know what you think, and follow my journey on Instagram/Twitter (@multitude27)