Habit 3: Put first things first. Execute on most important priorities. To live a more balanced existence, you have to recognize that not doing everything that comes along is okay. There’s no need to overextend yourself. All it takes is realizing that it’s all right to say no when necessary and then focus on your highest priorities.
Habit 1 says, “You’re in charge. You’re the creator.” Being proactive is about choice. Habit 2 is the first, or mental, creation. Beginning with the End in Mind is about vision. Habit 3 is the second creation, the physical creation. This habit is where Habits 1 and 2 come together. It happens day in and day out, moment-by-moment. It deals with many of the questions addressed in the field of time management. But that’s not all it’s about. Habit 3 is about life management as well–your purpose, values, roles, and priorities. What are “first things?” First things are those things you, personally, find of most worth. If you put first things first, you are organizing and managing time and events according to the personal priorities you established in Habit 2.
In our post on Habit #2, “begin with the end in mind”, we walked through a process for creating Individual Sex Life Visions and then combining the individual visions from both spouses into a Marital Sex Life Vision. Habit #3 is about making that vision a reality. The purpose of a vision is to drive your behavior — your Marital Sex Life Vision is the guiding star that leads the decisions in your sex life. When you have a choice to make, you evaluate your options in the light of your vision and move in the direction that brings your vision closer to reality.
Assuming that your vision is in line with God’s will, you will also move closer to him as you pursue your vision. This passage from the Old Testament is an example of how badly things can go when your priorities aren’t right. The Israelites were focused on building their own wealth and neglected rebuilding God’s temple.
Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house [God’s temple] remains a ruin?”
Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord.
Even when your vision is lined up with God pursuing it can be easier said than done. For the purpose of this blog post we’re going to assume that you and your spouse were able to create a Marital Sex Life Vision that is in line with God’s Word and also satisfying and agreeable to you both. If that’s not the case, then you’ve got more work to do. This blog post doesn’t talk about how to negotiate your vision. Don’t skip creating your vision together — go back to the previous post if necessary. Creating your Marital Sex Life Vision is fun and rewarding.
But just because you and your spouse agree on your vision doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy to implement. Sometimes it may even seem like circumstances are conspiring against your sex life: kids, jobs, health, church, anxieties of life, friends, hobbies, electronics… the list is never-ending. When you have more things to do than you have time, that’s where prioritization comes in: putting first things first. We’ve written about How to Have Time and Energy for Great Sex, and some concepts from that post will be helpful here as we talk about Habit #3. As we wrote previously:
You can’t have everything, but you can have what you want most if you prioritize it.
Your time and energy are finite resources, and everyone around you will drain them dry if you let them. Your boss will let you work as many hours for free as you want. Your kids will spend two hours eating dinner and stay up until midnight if you let them. Your church will let you serve every day of the week. Your friends will let you help them with every project. People on the internet will argue with you 24/7. Netflix will create more shows than you can possibly consume.
No-one will stop you from exhausting yourself for their benefit — except your spouse, if you’re blessed. The only one who can protect your time and energy is you.
Here’s an exhortation: if you don’t have time and energy for a great sex life with your spouse, that’s because it isn’t as important to you as all the other things you spend your time and energy on.
Is that exhortation convicting to you? It convicted us when we wrote it!
Steven Covey created the Importance-Urgency Matrix to help people understand how they’re prioritizing, and we’ve found it to be an extremely valuable tool.
Everything we do falls into one of these four quadrants.
Quadrant 1, Necessity: Activities that are both important and urgent. These are emergencies that you need to handle right now. Most people have no problem prioritizing these things.
Quadrant 2, Effectiveness: Activities that are important, but not urgent — this generally includes your sex life, unless you’re super-horny right now. It also includes all kinds of long-term personal growth: learning, planning, relationship-building, serving. Quadrant 2 is what usually suffers when we mistakenly focus on…
Quadrant 3, Distraction: Activities that are urgent, but not important. It’s all-too-easy to get sucked into these. Distracting tasks are often important to someone else who has made them urgent for you, but they aren’t important to your life. Just because something is urgent doesn’t mean it’s important! Say it out loud. This quadrant is tricky and deceptive. You can fill your entire day with distracting activities if you aren’t extremely diligent.
Quadrant 4, Waste: Activities that are neither urgent nor important. Some people can get trapped in these lazy, pointless activities, but most adults recognize this garbage. Checking your email every five minutes. Surfing Facebook. Worrying. Pouting. Substance abuse. It’s important to know that not all relaxation or hobbies are wasteful — the waste happens when these non-productive activities become excessive.
So where’s your sex life in this matrix? Your sex life should be in Quadrant 2 — it’s of critical importance, but hopefully not too urgent! Don’t sacrifice your sex life for junk that belongs in Quadrant 3 or 4.
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth— for your love is more delightful than wine. Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like perfume poured out. No wonder the young women love you! Take me away with you—let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers.
Identify the Quadrant 3 stuff in your life and stop doing it. This can be hard to do because many Quadrant 3 activities come from your commitments to other people. You may not be able to quit immediately because you gave your word, but you can immediately begin to unwind your commitments. Be warned: people will try to make you feel guilty — this is a trap! You don’t need to feel guilty for quitting unimportant activities.
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.”
As for Quadrant 4 activities, you and your spouse will need to use discernment to determine if they’re excessive or not. Are Q4 activities preventing you from achieving your Marital Sex Life Vision? Facebook and television seem to be especially pernicious. You need to be ruthless in cutting back or eliminating Q4 activities until you have plenty of time and energy for Q2, including your sex life. Try finding some relaxing hobbies that you and your spouse can do together!
How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.
Putting first things first in your sex life means that you say no to activities that aren’t important, and you say yes to activities that move you towards your Marital Sex Life Vision. Your vision should include elements like frequency of sex, how you will communicate, how often you’ll try something new, how you’ll feel before and after sex — all of these things take time and energy to pursue! Throw away the Q3 and Q4 activities that are weighing you down and preventing you from running the race with your spouse.
What are the things you plan to put first in your life so that you can make your Marital Sex Life Vision a reality? Share in the comments!
Proverbs is an amazing book, and I’ve made a habit of reading the chapter of the book that corresponds to the day of the month. There are three types of women that are highlighted in Proverbs: the adulterous woman, the quarrelsome wife, and the wife of noble character. This three-post series will examine each of these types, starting today with the Adulterous Woman.
Proverbs has a lot to say about the Adulterous Woman. She is dangerous — and no wonder. This type of woman has the capability to burn up everything you hold dear in your life. Your marriage, your family, even your career. Her house “leads down to death” and “none who go to her return or attain the paths of life”. This is a serious warning. How often have we seen this happen? How do we protect ourselves from this danger?
“Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman.” Wisdom is a lifelong acquirement, so this is no easy suggestion. Proverbs 1:7 says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” This statement could fill up a book. God is powerful, sovereign, and holy. You should have a proper fear of God, and that fear should humble you. If you live your life through that lens a lot of things will orient in a good way, including your marriage. James 1:5 says “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Fear God, pray for wisdom, and read God’s Word which is full of wisdom.
Guard your marriage. This could also be another book. Your marriage is the most important relationship in your life, and it is worth guarding. Guard your time together, guard your speech to one another and about one another. Be truthful to each other and identify problems as they arise. Do not slander one another to your friends and do not make friends with people that will entice you to engage in that sort of conversation. Trust your spouse and assume they want the best for you. People don’t typically set out to intentionally commit adultery. But if you aren’t diligently tending to your marriage you might unknowingly be taking small steps towards that path.
Make sex a priority. You need this. Intimate contact creates physical and emotional bonding. The more satisfied you both are in your sex life the less likely you will be to look for satisfaction outside of your marriage.
Proverbs 2:16-19: “Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive words, who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God. Surely her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead. None who go to her return or attain the paths of life.”
Proverbs 5:3-6: “For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it.”
Proverbs 6:24-29: “Keeping you from your neighborʼs wife, from the smooth talk of a wayward woman. Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes. For a prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread, but another manʼs wife preys on your very life. Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another manʼs wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished.”
Proverbs 7:10-12: “Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent. (She is unruly and defiant, her feet never stay at home; now in the street, now in the squares, at every corner she lurks.)”
Proverbs 7:26-27: “Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death.”
Proverbs 23:27-28: “For an adulterous woman is a deep pit, and a wayward wife is a narrow well. Like a bandit she lies in wait and multiplies the unfaithful among men.”
Your marriage goes from “the two of us are the priority”, to “now that we have kids, we can’t be the priority right now”. And you might even convince yourselves that “it’s only for a little while”, or “when the kids are gone, we’ll pick up where we left off!”, but it’s not, and you won’t.
When all that “life stuff” starts taking over the priorities, you and your wife start what I call a“slow drift” apart from each other. Slowly but surely, “life” starts to sit in between you and your wife, and before you know it, you realize that you haven’t had sex in two weeks, and you’re crabby with each other, but you don’t really remember why, and the kids are acting out, because they’ve noticed something’s up with mom and dad, and life just seems miserable.Ever been there? I know we sure have. And you know what the cause is? Life. Plain, simple, boring, LIFE.
Like many problems, it’s a matter of priorities. Everything in life seems so important, but for the most part that’s a delusion. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the life of John the Baptist. He only lived about 30 years. What do we know of him from the Bible? He lived in the wilderness, baptized a bunch of people (including Jesus), and got executed by Herod. Those are the only aspects of his life that were important enough to God to write in Bible. And what does Jesus say about John? “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.”
Having sex with your wife is the most important thing you’ll do most days. Make it a priority. Your kids, your job, your lawn, your hobbies… they’ll still be there after you’ve given her an amazing orgasm. Do it today.