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Personal Priorities

Today’s Tuesday Reading is a reflection written for his cohort by Patrick Widham, IT Support Manager at Montana State University and recent IT Leaders Program alum.


When we started the first session, I mentioned that I was like a sponge and wanted to soak in all of the information I could.  Looking back on that statement I realized that I was not 100% honest with myself.

I did not fully grasp what the MOR program was all about and didn’t anticipate that amount of commitment that was needed.  I am happy to say that it wasn’t long before I came around! 

Time is a resource that very few of us have an abundance of.  Many years ago I really slowed down on reading anything that I felt was not going to bring me immediate benefit.  My reading list has consisted of technical manuals and certification courses and those only when absolutely necessary.  I left out the soft skill material since I was a technical lead and not in a people management position. 

Time being that finite resource that it is, I also made a conscious decision when I moved to Montana for this job that I would commit my time at home to my family, friends and Christian activities.  While I do read and study a lot, it is not professional development type study.

You have probably all heard the analogy of putting stones, pebbles and sand in a jar.  Starting with the stones first you can get just so many in the jar, but then you can add a few pebbles, but even after that you can still put sand into the jar.  If you reverse the order and put the same amount of sand and the same number of pebbles, you will not be able to get all of the stones into the jar.

I took this approach with the ITLP program and with my own professional development.  Not to go into my personal beliefs or life in too much detail, but I decided that I was not going to change anything that I was doing at home, this is the biggest priority for me.  I also wanted my development as a leader to be a large stone as well, so this required some re-prioritizing of my allotment of time.

The setting aside time each Monday to figure out the plan for the week was a catalyst for change that I needed!  And I have made some changes.  I come to work ½ hour earlier than I used to, this time is spent on professional/personal development.  I have also struggled for years on how do I spend my lunch, do I use it for work, do I use it for exercise, or do I spend it developing relationships with coworkers and direct reports…  In the past I let whatever was happening each day dictate what I was going to be doing.  Most days it became a time when I spilled my lunch on my desk while I was working.  This is no longer the case; my lunches now have a specific purpose, to do something that is important.  Some days this has been work, but most days I have enjoyed this time more than I have in over five years.  I have read several books, spent time in the campus library, walked for miles, and had lunch with folks I want to get to know.

The biggest takeaway from the program I have experienced is setting priorities.  We can prioritize our work, but we also have to set priorities for ourselves.

It is funny in that sarcastic way that funny is: By dedicating a few blocks of time each week to do something I had never done, and that I didn’t think would fit in my busy schedule, I have ended up with more time to take on more important tasks or to relax!


If you haven’t learned Patrick’s lesson yet, do consider what he has learned – that priorities do matter and that if you set and honor your priorities you will enable yourself to address more of the important including time for yourself and your family.

.  .  .  .  .    jim