Discerning What’s Essential

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’ ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.' Luke 10:38-42 (NIV)

Martha gets a bad rap in our preaching of this passage in Luke 10. But the fact is, we are all Martha from time to time, struggling to identify which tasks are the most essential at any one given time. Clearly, someone needed to make dinner, and I’m willing to bet that Jesus greatly appreciated Martha’s hospitality. It wasn’t that cooking dinner wasn’t important. Jesus just made clear that it wasn’t the most essential thing Martha or her sister Mary could have been doing at that moment in time. What was most essential in that moment was being taught at the feet of Jesus.

As we saw last week, collecting our commitments, tasks, and projects is an essential step of effective time management. But once all of your commitments have been collected, it’s time to determine what on your list are the most essential projects and tasks. This process requires clarifying what you believe God is calling you to in this season of life and your work. With that big picture and those overarching goals in mind, ask yourself, “What is the one thing that, once accomplished, will make everything else within this project easier or more fruitful?” The answer to this question is the most essential thing you should be focused on. Put everything you can on hold until this one task is accomplished. Then repeat the process again and again.

When I was writing my last book, Called to Create, I was overwhelmed by the number of tasks that needed to be done to bring that project to market. I had to get an agent, sell a publisher, conduct interviews, write 50,000 words, build a platform to market the book, etc. But at the beginning of the project, I knew that if I couldn’t get an agent to take me on, nothing else within the project would matter. Securing an agent was my most essential task. So I put everything else with the project on hold until I found an agent to take me on.

The truth is, at any given point in time, very few tasks and projects are truly essential. Get in the habit of identifying the essential two or three things on your plate and focus on them until the task is completed.


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