The Priority Parallax: What’s TRULY Important?

time management, Kristen Lamb, setting priorities, writing a priority, building focus, psychology, success, how to become a professional author, self-help for writers, priority

For most of my life, being ‘right’ was my single greatest priority. Years ago, I believed I knew everything. Okay, that’s a lie. More like a couple weeks ago I believed I knew everything.

More lies. Dang it!

Truth is, this morning I knew everything then got some caffeine and realized I was completely full of it. It takes work for me to stop and ask the hard questions daily to keep me grounded.

What if I’m wrong? Why am I really doing X? What is my motive? Am I afraid of something? Do I really believe what I’m saying I believe?

Where are my pants?

Calm down...

I don’t spend vast amounts of time gazing into my navel searching for the Lint of Truth…especially since everyone knows the dryer hoards the Lint of Truth (left by socks who’ve achieved enlightenment and thus shed corporeal form).


Self-examination is still important. Alas, it’s also a tricky tightrope to walk, and takes years of practice not to fall on your head with a pole jammed somewhere painful.

We can lean toward questioning everything so much we become paralyzed neurotics incapable of making any decision. Conversely, if we don’t stop to examine what we’re doing and why? Let’s just say…

Persistence is a noble quality, but persistence can look a lot like stupid.

Me in My Smarter Moments

The Priority Problem

time management, Kristen Lamb, setting priorities, writing a priority, building focus, psychology, success, how to become a professional author, self-help for writers, priority

If I could boil down the essence of modern human angst into one core idea, I’d say we’re all facing a priority problem. We’re being relentlessly told we can have it ALL, when no…no we can’t.

Late Sunday night I got home from speaking non-stop for four days in Grand Rapids, Michigan. OMG! I love everyone and wanted to take them all home (but Feds have informed me this is technically ‘kidnapping.’ *rolls eyes*)

But, I work super hard to give it my all and, by the time I got home I was…DED.

*buzzards circling*

So, I am planning on taking a couple days off and…I need anxiety meds just to take a break…which is super sad but hey, at least I’m honest.

Nostalgia and Priorities

I’m from Generation X, and it’s tough not to miss a time where people didn’t talk on the phone while in a public toilet.

People my age have lived fully in two completely different worlds. We were the bridge generation from the industrial world into the digital world. We played the first video games, but also remember being bored.

I’m old enough to recall a time when if you missed a T.V. show, well sucked to be you. Television stopped at midnight only to resume at 5:00 a.m. with morning news, faith healers, and Captain Kangaroo (not necessarily in that order).

Back in my day *waves cane* the phone would ring and we had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA who might be calling. The highlight of my preteen life? When I got a phone cord long enough to extend the ENTIRE PHONE SYTEM UNIT into my room.

Cordless phones? Witchcraft.

I mostly played outside in the dirt. We slinked through barbed wire to traipse through rattlesnake infested fields searching for buried treasure—finding only fire ants, rusted tools, and the joy of bull nettle.

Under my cult-leader-type influence, we set way too much stuff on fire (using that Chemistry set I got for my birthday). Being a super non-PC generation, we killed a lot of imaginary Russians, made ashtrays in art class for Mother’s Day, and we all wanted to be Bruce Lee.

***True Fact #1: Once knocked myself out with nunchucks. True Fact #2: Eventually got pretty good at nunchucks. True Fact #3: We all wanted ninja throwing stars for Christmas, and 98% of parents did not find this at all odd.

Yet, I also played a lot of Atari. I even created multiple small business ventures using child labor (little brother and friends). We pulled weeds, washed cars, picked up dog poop all to score enough cash to imbibe in Pac Man and ice cream at the corner store….

Until we ran out of money and the clerk kicked us out. Then we had to resume being bored.

In school, teachers introduced us to computers that didn’t do much of anything useful…except allow us to die of digital dysentery.

Life was comparably simple for kids and adults. Get up, do your job, stay out of trouble, and go to bed. Rinse, wash, repeat.

Mom was awesome keeping up with bills because there were only like…five of them. Television had three channels. People didn’t expect you to be accessible 24/7. If you called and no one answered?

You called…back.


“Priority” Overload

time management, Kristen Lamb, setting priorities, writing a priority, building focus, psychology, success, how to become a professional author, self-help for writers, priority

Contrast my life in 1988 with 2022? It takes everything for me not to pack up and move to Alaska. Except I’m too lazy to pack, hate being cold and am too lazy to pack.

But seriously. Not only are we bombarded with calls, ads, emails, real mail and junk mail, but we can’t seem to escape.


Which is not exactly what’s so bad. What’s insane is we believe there’s a way to actually keep up with all this crap. But we can’t, because our world isn’t real.

When I was a kid, I spent time at other kids’ houses daily. Not BS ‘play dates’ where everyone dresses in ‘real clothes’ and cleans the house like it’s friggin’ Thanksgiving. All this so two sticky kids can whack each other with Jedi light-sabers that LOOK like actual light-sabers…instead of a stick.

The on-line world is filtered. Since websites thrive when people click, only the extremes are ever represented. Extremes get more clicks.

It gets awfully tiring being in the extremes.

We’re deluged with the extremely beautiful, thin, fit, smart, talented and the teenager who’s now a billionaire because he invented an app that makes a thousand unique fart noises.

And why am I even griping because the meme (above) is SO ME. I can have 6,000 pictures of my CATS!

Point is, when everything is a priority, then nothing is.

*writes this on sticky notes to post on forehead*

Because if I listen to the on-line world, I’m supposed to make millions of dollars, write books that fundamentally change the global culture, never age, have six-pack abs, a perfect marriage, rescue animals, save the rainforest, all while keeping a house so clean one could perform surgery in my bathroom.

The bathroom I refurbished myself using recycled tires, wire hangars, and wooden pallets. All held together with unenlightened dryer lint and non-GMO, vegan, eco-friendly glue I made…in my ‘free’ time or bought to support indigenous people from some place I can’t find on a map.

Priority? Save the planet THEN show off on Faceplant, Flitter, Sintrest and Instasham & TikMock.

Busy, Busy, Busy

time management, Kristen Lamb, setting priorities, writing a priority, building focus, psychology, success, how to become a professional author, self-help for writers, priority

I’m from the buckle of the Bible Belt and we have a saying. If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.

I’ve noticed that, unless I am mindful to unplug, get quiet and recalibrate, it is super easy for me to lose my way. Why? Everything is overwhelming. I hate my phone, am afraid of my mail and won’t shop until we’re down rationing toilet paper.

Priority Parallax

time management, Kristen Lamb, setting priorities, writing a priority, building focus, psychology, success, how to become a professional author, self-help for writers, priority

Objects on ‘To Do List’ might appear more important than they really are.

Every day is a habit of waking, taking QUIET time to reflect, then whittling everything down to what TRULY matters.

Or at least that’s the goal. Gotta start somewhere, right?

Because ‘having everything’ is playing life like Pac Man instead of chess.

In Pac Man you never win. It just gets faster and faster and harder and harder UNTIL YOU DIE. Chess? There is strategy, patience, willingness to ‘let go’ of even ‘important’ pieces to protect the most crucial one. In chess, you CAN actually learn, improve, grown and even win!

Go fig.

Entropy is real and alive and a beast in the digital age. Much we can’t control. Trust me. Target gives no figs I really don’t want eighty aisles of STUFF…especially when they only ever have two checkout lanes open, despite having forty.

*wonders if thirty-eight of the registers are real or props*

Only So Many Figs to Give—If It Isn’t TRULY a Priority?

time management, Kristen Lamb, setting priorities, writing a priority, building focus, psychology, success, how to become a professional author, self-help for writers, priority

We might want to have everything, but everything is a lie. We can’t make all things a priority because then, well…welcome to Hell’s Tilt-A-Whirl.

Back to those crucial questions I mentioned in the beginning. If we’re exhausted, strung out, and feeling like losers, it’s time to stop for a priority check (and a dose of reality).

The media is a lousy measuring guide because we will never be enough. If we were, they couldn’t sell us more STUFF. They sell us crap we don’t need by making us feel like losers, that we are missing out on the AMAZING…when we really aren’t.

Most of life is in the average. We’re only capable of being remarkable in a couple places. Why? Because being remarkable takes focus and a LOT of hard work. So choose the PRIORITY, then learn to be cool with the rest.

My home is clean…enough.

I haven’t finished all the painting and redecorating, but if the walls are that bothersome? Come paint and I’ll cook 😀 .

A final caveat on this? If I want my writing to be exemplary, where does it rank on my ‘list?’ Is it a priority?

An actual priority?

Since I’m OCD and a neat-freak, I know NOT to clean anything until I write. I must do this because my PRIORITY is to be a superlative author/blogger, NOT Martha Stewart—for an entire HOUR—before my cats and entropy destroy everything.

If my writing keeps ending up at the END of my list, more hard questions.

Why am I procrastinating? What am I afraid of? Is my writing always last because I believe I don’t have what it takes? Remember noble distractions can mask as priorities.

What Are Your Thoughts? Then GET OFF MY LAWN! 😛 *SMOOCH!*

Do you feel guilty about doing NOTHING? Struggle to get of the hamster wheel of To Dos? Does it seem like the ‘easier’ our world tries to make life the harder it gets? Is it an active effort to keep priorities in line? Do you find your writing constantly put off for…later?

Do you miss being unavailable? And people not being ticked off because you were unavailable? Sigh. What do you miss about the ‘good old days’? I get it, modern life does have a lot of good, but I do miss having nothing to do.

Tell me about your favorite parts of childhood, or whatever time gives you the rosiest glow. I want to hear about your My Little Ponies, playing HeMan, watching I Love Lucy learning to work in a wood shop. Whatever! Share your stories. I love hearing them!

Have a hard time doing anything for yourself? Because it feels too selfish. Once EVERYONE else is tended, THEN…maybe…

There are cool ON DEMAND classes below if you want to have fun honing your skills at your own pace. Otherwise? Feel free not to scroll down 😉 . Working to make this easy.

I love hearing from you!

What do you WIN? For the month of AUGUST, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

***Been out of town so will pick July’s winner next time.


***All classes come with a FREE recording


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    • jeanlauzier on August 17, 2022 at 10:10 pm
    • Reply

    We would have been really good friends when growing up…we rode ponies, played in the creek, trekked through the woods…parents had no clue where we were most of the day. I miss the days of no cell phones…I love my phone, but some days I really would like to lose it. 🙂 It’s so hard to make the right things the priority when so many other things are shouting at us. I need to do better.

    • Jean Lamb on August 17, 2022 at 11:43 pm
    • Reply

    I constructed play scenarios for my friends, had a treehouse where I lived in the summer, help corral some bewildered tree frogs, let all the animals in the house sleep on my bed with me, went barefoot in an alley where I knew there was small bits of broken glass, and briefly considered forcing everyone into a composed by me musical. And also had two older brothers, so had a high pain tolerance.

  1. This hit home! Love your insights into how we will never get everything done. The inbox will always be full of emails, the house imperfectly clean, and the writing will not finish itself.

    • Beth on August 18, 2022 at 5:41 am
    • Reply

    I miss the fabulous climbing tree in our yard with branches that stretched all the way down to the ground so even little kids could get a few branches up before getting stuck & screaming for a parent to get them down. LOL! Achieving that top fork 30 feet off the ground was a rite of passage to adulthood. Perched there, you could see over rooftops for several blocks (a novelty in a flat state) & it was our starship, castle, & refuge where everyone came to perch like baby vultures on whatever branch was thick enough to hold us. Years later I learned my parents encouraged this as it gave them blessed quiet (except for children screaming who couldn’t get down again) & everyone knew where their kids probably were unless we were falling off our bikes (no one had thought of helmets yet) & skinning everything trekking the marathon 2 miles unsupervised in traffic to the library to fill our bicycle baskets with the 10 book limit per child to pedal home & drag them up that tree & read. QUIETLY. Because parents. Shhhhh!

    • Vic on August 18, 2022 at 6:59 am
    • Reply

    Grew up in urban area of London, played tennis with the local wall, went to the adventure playground, smashed my back against the tree while swinging on the line, got up to do it again, it was brilliant. Had no fear. Went walking in the pouring rain. Went down to local, closed down arsenal looking for WWII bombs and wasn’t even scared, it’s all gone and built over. Prioritising my needs, well let me finish everything else first, then I’ll get to it?.

    • Rachel McMahon on August 18, 2022 at 10:42 am
    • Reply

    I’m struggling with the priority problem right now. Also OCD and a clean freak, I start every day at my computer, writing or editing, and I barely step away until my brain is mush. I only stop then because I can tell I’m making things worse instead of better. I realized recently that I’m starting to resent anything that drags me away. I don’t have trouble writing daily. I have trouble facing the real world. I have so many books and so many plans for them that I’m in a constant rush to get something–anything–done. I made myself take yesterday off. Hubby wanted me to rest, but I call cleaning the house top-to-bottom taking a day off. Because I’ve become my writing. That only makes me more obsessive, because if my writing is bad, then so am I. I do everything in extremes. If I’m writing, then … Rachel = writing.

    • Helen on August 18, 2022 at 12:54 pm
    • Reply

    I get a kick out of your rants. Thanks.

  2. Queen of procrastination right here! Even when I set aside time for writing/blogging, it requires no effort to instantly start overthinking. Just as well I’m not a clean freak – I’d like to be but lazyitis strikes every time *heh* Lucky me, sons vacuum downstairs every Sunday and are responsible for keeping their own rooms clean & tidy; one does it better than the other.
    I was born in and grew up in Malaysia, and our playtimes always involved cousins descending on us as we had a big garden, and we’d just run around and have fun. One time I think we were playing ‘cowboys and Indians’, I was tied to a tree (willing victim) and was left there for ages as my darling sister and cousins forgot to untie me! LOL
    (Now I see how busy you’ve been and sorely in need of recharging, I feel kind of bad for emailing.)

  3. This is going to my writer friends!

    • Beth Brubaker on August 18, 2022 at 4:01 pm
    • Reply

    Egad- SO me both younger and older! It took me a while after moving to the mountains that I could READ A BOOK OUTSIDE instead of sequestering myself in on a beautiful day. Had to force myself to turn off my computer and walk out of the room, and I still struggle daily with priorities, because keeping busy makes me feel useful- yet doesn’t accomplish much at all!
    I’m also a list maker, but don’t really prioritize things. I have way too many interests, and I get distrac- oh, look- BIRD!- er…what was I saying?
    Yah. that’ happens a lot. Especially when I binge Gilmore Girls for the ninth time. And Bones. And NCIS.
    Where was I? Right. Priorities.
    I just got a new job at the tender age of 54, so this might be a good time to practice priorities, now that my time won’t be my own for most of the week. We’ll see!
    Thanks so much for the old school life lesson!

  4. You’re always so relatable. I finished binge watching Stranger Things and got really nostalgic. The good ol’ days.

  5. Getting thrown out if the house to ‘get your nose out of that book and into the fresh air!’. Learnt to stack some books on the window sill, walk around the house to pick them up and climb a tree to read for the rest of the day.

    • Roger L Nay on August 19, 2022 at 9:26 pm
    • Reply

    I have several friends living in Grand Rapids. You look way too young to have watched Captain Kangaroo or only have three television channels to choose from. My first experience with a computer was as a fifth grader in Battle Creek, Michigan. It took two men to carry the thing to our classroom and it’s only function was playing tic tac toe. It was unbeatable.

    • Rachel Thompson on August 20, 2022 at 10:59 am
    • Reply

    Priorities: one can say no. I stopped regular TV watching in 85. I had better things to do. I killed face book right after I joined. I had better things to do. I won’t do social media yet. I can either write the next book or I can waste time. All those deluges of crap we were fed our entire lives don’t need to be eaten. We need not choke down social manipulation. You won’t miss anything. We gain more with books. Read enough of them and one can learn how to write one. Like Campbell said, “follow your bliss.” I don’t believe treadmills are anyone’s bliss, and if so, something is wrong.

    • Beth on August 20, 2022 at 12:10 pm
    • Reply

    Treadmills are my bliss when I want to take a long walk & Florida is under a severe storm or heat advisory + the cost of gas prohibits migrating to air conditioned indoor options. I climb on board, turn on an audiobook & lose myself in words until my legs are tired. (Northerners, think of Florida summers the way you think of blizzards. Extreme heat + lightning will kill you just as dead)

  6. Great post! We are close enough to the same age that so much of this rang true for me. All the growing up stuff. I think I would have really enjoyed being your friend as a kid. Probably as adults too. =)
    Priorities constantly shift as well. Sure, I’m a writer, but now my fiancé and I are starting a new business. It’s really put time in focus, because there isn’t enough to do all the things. It’s made me rethink what is important. Happiness and time spent with loved ones is number one now. I do try to let go.
    A perfect vacation would be time on a beach to read in a hammock, and then maybe see a rock concert that evening after a perfect meal somewhere awesome. Writing is in there somewhere. But it’s not the most important for me. Does that make me a less “Pro” writer? Maybe. But in the big scheme, the books get written, a little slower, and maybe better, maybe not, and life is lived, and happiness is pursued.

  7. OMG this is my life. I had this tab open on my computer for a week. I laughed all the way through, but in a kind of rueful way . . . like I probably should be doing something about the chaos and get back to my WIP which has languished all summer despite my best (mental) intentions. (Real intention to write would have to include actually opening up the word doc.) I’ll put this in my end-of-month writers’ forum article round up — but I feel like so many people need to read this right now, that I’m going to share over on FB today.

    • Victoria on August 28, 2022 at 4:20 pm
    • Reply

    You are right on the money as usual. I have so many things to do and they are in various stages of not being done. I have a book I started and am struggling with revision. I want to finish yet I am afraid. Afraid of what? Argh! I also have a toddler and juggle with having the energy yet not the time or vise versa. I want a system that works for me! Things I miss…how the phone was just a device. Now it’s morphed into an extra appendage

  8. A real game-changer blog which has made me sit back and take stock of what I am doing to become a published author. Linked back to this blog on my Ko-Fi blog (DeborahAD):

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