You Can Only Do 2 Things Well

July 2, 2017

Categories: Priorities

One of the most common complaints in our society today is that we’re too busy, and we don’t have enough time to do the things that are important to us. There certainly are a lot of things competing for our time. This problem is exacerbated in our current culture that places a high priority on things like social media and cable television. There’s always a new post to check out, or a new article to read. Also, whatever you are into (e.g., sports, news, home improvement, even the weather), there’s a cable television channel broadcasting that topic 24/7.

We all struggle with this issue, because we are all dealing with the problem of limited time. We each have a limit of 24 hours per day. There’s no way to get around it.

I remember hearing a guy say something about this topic several years ago that has always stuck with me. He was a pretty busy guy—he was a successful businessman and professor at a prestigious university.

He said that people have 3 main categories of activities that take up most of their time: (1) work, (2) family, and (3) hobbies. Here was the important piece of advice: At any given time in your life, you can do 2 out of the 3 things well.

There were 3 main takeaways from this advice:

  1. You can’t do all 3 things well. We might try to balance work, family life, and our golf game. We might want to keep spending energy in all three areas. But the bottom line is that for most of us, it’s impossible. There just isn’t enough time in each day. If we try to expend energy in all 3 areas, what happens is that we end up not doing any of the 3 things well. We are stretched too thin.
  2. Prioritizing involves loss. To make something a priority, you have to give up something else. You can’t have it all. It’s impossible. In order to do some things well in your life, you have to give up other things. That’s just the way life works. Instead of trying to minimize all your losses (which is impossible), the key is to prioritize and make choices about what losses you want to take on.
  3. There are seasons for everything. If you want to do everything well, you can… but not all at the same time. In other words, you have to focus on different priorities in different seasons of your life. For example, before you have a family, you might be able to pour a lot of energy toward your work and your golf game, because you don’t have a family to balance. Once you start having kids, however, if you want to prioritize that part of your life, one of the other two other areas needs to be moved to the back burner. This doesn’t mean you have to give up your golf game forever, but you might have to wait for a different season to pick it up again (e.g., after your kids go to college).

In order to live well, you have to order your priorities. Prioritizing necessarily involves loss and giving something up. This can be painful and difficult. But the alternative is worse—running ragged in your life, not doing anything well. Which 2 things do you want to prioritize and do well in this season of your life?


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  1. […] Several years ago a book came out saying that entrepreneurs who are starting a business need to pick 3 of the following to focus on: Work, Sleep, Family, Fitness, Friends.  And this article talks about our ability to only do 2 of these areas at a time well. […]

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