January 4, 2010

Downside of Multi-Vocational Lawyering: Priority Paralysis

Usually, my law office work priorities set themselves. Deadlines are deadlines, client expectations are what they are, and there's always the steady pressure to generate monthly revenue, should the first two factors fail to provide adequate inspiration. So I generally get enough legal work accomplished to maintain the necessary pace.

Likewise, my duties as an adjunct business prof come with built-in mechanisms to keep me on task. Classes meet as scheduled and I have little choice but to be present and prepared. Syllabi, exams, and grade submissions are all required on a time-sensitive cycle. Most semesters, prioritizing the academic work happily takes care of itself.

And as a writer and speaker, I'm driven by a God-infused urgency, the compelling sense that life here is short and there's only so much time to reach people with the Gospel and its rich applications to life. And, of course, humanly imposed calendar deadlines are an ever-present part of this realm as well. Churches where I'm preaching and media hosts don't wait around until I'm good and ready to appear, and editors rightly expect that I'll eventually produce copy. All of which, again, dictate a fairly easy-to-follow list of priorities. 

Balancing the three vocations, though sometimes a bit challenging, mostly keeps me energized and enthused. There seems to be a natural ebb and flow, with priorities intensifying in one area while fading in another. Of course, some of this balance may be the fruit of reasonably good planning and a bit of self-discipline, but even more is the fruit of serving a very merciful God. In any event, I almost always have a pretty clear sense of what's on top of my agenda for any given day.

But then there are the occasional days, like today, when the priorities of my three main vocations enter into a dangerous and dysfunctional equilibrium. Days when the responsibilities and demands of each area seem to beckon with equal urgency (or lack thereof). Legal files clutter my law firm desk, the beginning of a new semester looms, columns and chapters remain formless and unwritten.

What to do? Maybe writing this blawg post will help clarify my priorities? Other suggestions are welcome!

How do you prioritize your responsibilities (legal work and beyond)?

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