Purposeful Living #1 -Foundation Post

I am so happy to introduce you to the love of my life, my husband, Todd. He has agreed to share with us how he is able to consistently center his life around correct priorities. This is something I have admired in him since the day I met him. He knows what is important to him, and he shows it by the decisions he makes with his time and actions. I am so very blessed to learn from him daily and to call him mine, and I’m so very eager for you all to “meet” him!

The following post gets right into his thoughts on priorities. It is a lot of great information. Stay tuned for follow up posts that break it all down even further, that tell of his own personal experiences and how he lives it out, and some fun posts that will enable you to know him more. Without further ado:

A guest post by my hubs, Todd Bowman

These posts are designed to model a system of purposeful living.  At least once a month, I spend time setting meaningful goals around one of seventeen core priorities. 
The Problem With To-Do Lists

Do The Laundry
Return Emails
Make School Lunches
Purchase Christmas Gifts
Get Car In To Shop
Grocery Shopping

A to-do list can be a fantastic personal management tool, but for many of us a to-do list is a destructive device serving only to separate us from what is most important.  

Most to-do lists are defined by urgency.  Unfortunately, little good comes from urgency.   

Ongoing urgent and important activity (crises, pressing problems, deadlines) leads to stress, burnout, and continuously putting out fires.

Ongoing urgent, but not important activity (needy children, phone calls, meetings, email) leads to feeling out of control of life, feeling like a victim, and shallow or broken relationships.  

And no, the answer is not as simple as throwing away our to-do list.  A life filled with random activity that that is neither urgent nor important (busy work, time wasters, pleasant activities) leads to some of the worst outcomes of all – irresponsibility and dependency on others for our basic needs.  

An Alternative

I received life changing advice from my Youth Pastor when I was a junior in high school.  He gave a message on the importance of ordering our lives around Biblical priorities instead of the priorities of the world.  Now I recognize, not everyone who reads this blog will agree that the Bible is what they should choose to center their lives around.  That is ok.  I encourage you to continue reading, as I believe even so, you can find ways to help prioritize what IS important to you.

One example he shared was how many adults find their identity in and build their lives around their work.  Many men (and women) will sacrifice relationship with their spouse and children in order to invest themselves in their job.  He talked about how this was not Biblical and how for most adults work should rank no higher than fourth or fifth on our list of priorities.

Even more surprising was his example that activity in the church should not necessarily be high on a Biblical priority list either.  God is not honored if we are active in the church choir, the prayer team, or the missions committee if we are neglecting our relationships with our family or friends.   

I heeded his advice and for the past twenty-five years I have made an honest attempt to live my life according to Biblical priorities.  

These priorities have developed and changed over time.  They changed dramatically when I got married.  They changed dramatically again when we had children.

It’s not a perfect list.  I’m sure many will quibble with what priorities are listed and where they are ranked below.  But this list is my best attempt to identify and order what is most important as communicated in God’s Word.

The examples listed under each priority are meant to provide additional clarity on the meaning of a priority, but they are not a complete list of how I apply these priorities in my own life.
Biblical Priorities

1.  Spiritual Health

Personal Relationship With God
Reading God’s Word
Submissive Spirit

2.  Emotional Health

Identity In Christ
Handling Interpersonal Conflict
Integrity / Character
Keeping Your Word
Stewardship – Money & Finances / Personal Possessions / Home
Personal Responsibility
Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood

3.  Social Health – Friends–Having A Mentor

4.  Social Health – Immediate Family–Spouse

Date Night

5.  Social Health – Immediate Family–Children

Family Night

6.  Work

7.  Mental Health – Scholarship


8.  Physical Health

Healthy Eating
Exercise – Aerobic Training
Exercise – Strength Training

9.  Emotional Health – Balanced Entertainment / Hobbies

10.  Social Health – Extended Family–Siblings / Parents / Grandparents

11.  Social Health – Friends–Close Friends

12.  Social Health – Friends–Being A Mentor

13.  Social Health – Friends–Neighbors

14.  Spiritual Health – Religious Activity

Bible Study
Prayer Group
Missions Committee
Worship Team
Service Activities
Para Church Involvement
Missions Trip

15.  Social Health – Extended Family–Cousins / Etc.

16.  Community Engagement / Public Service

Elementary / Middle / High School Involvement
Neighborhood Groups
Community Groups – PTA / Homeowner’s Association / Etc.

17. Miscellaneous

Building Your Own Priorities & To-Do List

Choose A Format
In 1992 I ordered a Franklin Covey planner after reading the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  Twenty years later I am still using a paper and pencil Covey planner to keep my priorities, my time, and my life organized.  While I am old school in my methodology you can use whatever format (computer, smart phone, etc.) works best for you.

Set Meaningful Goals For One Priority A Month
Spend thirty minutes once a month reflecting on a single priority.  First record what you are currently doing to make this priority a reality in your life.  Then record what you could be doing to strengthen this priority.  Each month focus on a different priority and over the course of a year you will hit nearly every priority.  In year two begin the process all over again.  Focusing on one priority a month is the minimum, but you can do this as often as you want.  My wife and children are priorities I focus on almost weekly while physical health is an area I may only focus on one or two times a year.     

Over Time Create A List For Each Priority

If you are faithful to the process (once a month) eventually you will have a list of activities you are currently doing and a new set of goals centered on each priority. For example, I have a list dedicated to priority #4 which is my relationship with my wife Amy.  This list is dedicated to setting goals and identifying activities to both deepen our relationship and encourage her growth as a person.  I use a pencil to write my goals on lined pages which I keep organized behind a tab in my Covey binder labeled Priorities.  

Priorities #4-My Beloved Wife, Amy

Make Plans For Important Events
  • Birthday – November 27
  • Mother’s Day – May
  • Anniversary – July
  • Valentine’s Day – February
Schedule & Plan Twice Monthly Date Nights

Create A List For Sub-Priorities As Needed
You may want to create an activities and goals list for important sub-categories as well.  For example, under the broad category of Social Health – Immediate Family-Children I created additional lists to keep Amy and myself mindful of the broad responsibilities we share in raising our children.  These sub-priorities are listed below.

Children-Spiritual Health
Children-Emotional Health
Children-Social Health
Children-Mental Health/Scolarship
Children-Physical Health

{with my girls in 2005}

Review Priorities Weekly

Create space once a week to review every activity and goal for every priority every week.  Most weeks I do this on Sunday night after the kids are in bed.  Setting a goal is powerful, but having that goal beckon you on a regular basis is far more powerful.  Even if you are nowhere being in a place where you can realistically accomplish the goal reviewing it weekly will dramatically increase the changes that one day it will become a reality.  

Nearly 3 years ago, I approached Amy and set a goal that I would be a regular contributor for her blog.  Two years ago I set a goal that I would develop a list of correct priorities and write posts on these priorities.  Amy even helped me develop a title for these posts – Todd Talk.  And here we are – three years after writing it down – this goal has become a reality.  

I’ve shared with Amy on a number of occasions that even if no one else finds this topic as exciting as I do that it doesn’t matter.  I am really proud of the content of this post and feel a sense of accomplishment in seeing it through to completion after working on it in short spurts here and there for so long.      
If you are wondering why writing this post took so long it is because I set the goal under Priority #17 – Miscellaneous.  As much as I wanted to write, and enjoyed the process of writing, it really was last on my priority list.  I couldn’t justify spending a great deal of time reflecting and writing when there were so many other areas of my life which were more important places to dedicate my time.  

Set A Weekly To-Do List
During the process of reviewing all of your goals select individual goals you plan to work on during the week and record them on a weekly to-do list.  Many if not most of your goals will not make it on to this to-do list.  Some goals may sit in your priority lists for weeks or months.  This is okay.  If you review them weekly you will get to the most important ones eventually.  It is also okay if a goal makes it into your weekly to-do list and you never get to it.  Just put it right back in your to-do list the following week.  You will get to it eventually.  The goal to write this post made my weekly to-do list for weeks on end.  Fifteen minutes this week, ten minutes the next, five minutes the following week, and so on and eventually this post was completed.  Yes!

Separate Work From Everything Else
I actually have two Covey planners.  The first Covey planner is used exclusively for work.  On a daily basis I review work related priorities, set goals, review a calendar of scheduled activities, and create a to-do list.  The second Covey planner is used exclusively for my personal life away from work.  On a weekly basis I review personal priorities, set goals, review a calendar of scheduled activities, and create a to-do list.  

Additional Thoughts

Start Small
Developing goals for all of the priorities listed above can be a daunting task.  Start small by spending a few minutes to begin the process of identifying and ranking your own priorities.  Or choose just one priority you consider important and begin setting a few goals in this area.  Getting started is far more important than waiting until you have time to complete the entire project perfectly.  Over time your priorities will develop and your goals will become clear.    

Don’t Define Priorities In Terms Of Time
My relationship with my wife is more important than my work, but it doesn’t mean I will spend more time with her than I will at work.  There will be periods in everyone’s life when our work, our children, our family, or our friends will demand exceptional amounts of our time.  The purpose of focused priorities is to keep us grounded during these times.  For example, my commitment to Amy will ensure I create slivers of time to connect with her during an eighty hour work week.  This commitment will also ensure I don’t become unnecessarily consumed with work over a long period of time at the expense of her and our girls.    

An Activity May Fall In Multiple Categories
Being involved in a small group Bible study is an activity that may fall under several priorities including spiritual health, emotional health, mental health, your spouse, having a mentor, being a mentor, close friends, religious activity, etc.  

Some Items May Stay On A Priority List
Friday is Family Night at our house and has been for years.  I grab fast food and some snacks for the family and we sit around the television and watch our favorite shows while we eat.  During the summer we rent movies.  Scheduling a weekly Family Night is a permanent fixture on my Social Health-Children priority list and is listed nearly every single week on the to-do list I create on Sunday night for the upcoming week.   

Priorities May Change
As mentioned earlier in this post, correct priorities for someone who is single are different than for someone who chooses to get married and/or have children.  Choosing to get married means your life is no longer your own.  You become responsible for another person’s spiritual, emotional, mental, physical, and social well-being.  The same responsibilities are multiplied with each child we choose to bring into this world.  


The primary benefit of living life around correct priorities is a life filled with purpose.  
My life may not be as fun as the lives of others.  But my life is rich, and full, and meaningful.  It is a life filled with peace even in the midst of tragedy and pain.  It is a balanced life filled with caring relationships.  It is a disciplined life filled with meaning. It is a life of stability and able to manage crisis without creating crisis unnecessarily.   

I’m far from perfect.  I daily make mistakes and often stray from the life God would desire me to live.  And I experience the negative consequences of selfish actions and decisions.  But to the degree I pursue God’s will for my life instead of my own I also experience His blessing.

Outline Of All Purposeful Living Posts
Purposeful Living Outline

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  • bonnie
    December 31, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    I enjoyed reading your husbands how to on priorities. Here is a web site you might like to checkout it is wonderful also and I feel you will be blessed for checking it out as I am blessed by your site.

  • Carole
    July 27, 2012 at 12:42 am

    So helpful! And a bit convicting – but the “start small” is really encouraging. – Recovering To Do List Slave 😉

  • Jody
    March 17, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    Sorry forgot to mention Todd’s writings…thank you. Can’t wait to get some points on how you implement a plan for kids’ allowances/point system and their chore charts. Need help in this area — big time! Any help/suggestions greatly appreciated.

  • Jody
    March 17, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    Amy — I’m new to your blog. Found you from Pinterest. I just want to encourage you to keep doing what you are doing. You are a gem. I love your posts….making homemade lip gloss to laundry detergent and your recipes. I’m in Minn-E-Sota enjoying your blog. Just wanted to share my thoughts with you. God Bless…enjoy your Spring Break with your girls and hubby. Sincerely –Jody Pennington, Rochester, Minnesota

  • Anonymous
    January 24, 2012 at 12:45 am

    Thank you for your post. I have been really thinking about my priorities lately. I am involved in a lot of the ministries in my church and I’ve come to realize that this year I stretched myself too thin. My main ministry – my family- is not getting as much of me as they should. So thank you for being one of the many reminders I have been given this week to drop some of my responsibilities so my family can once again be my MAIN focus.
    THANKS! Balance is so hard to achieve but worth the effort.

  • Mustang65
    January 19, 2012 at 4:59 am

    Thank you and great job Todd!

  • EmmaF
    January 19, 2012 at 8:11 am

    My religious beliefs are not the same as your own, so my priorities look different, but I still find your words wise and thought provoking. I love that you have two separate planners, and I now plan to incorporate this into my life. As a stay at home mother I often struggle with balance, but having read your words I feel more confident in organising my priorities. I also wish I had a mentor, the need for someone older and wiser has always been unfilled in my life, how fortunate you are!

  • Amy Bowman
    January 19, 2012 at 5:03 am

    {comments are from Todd}

    @ Mustang65 – I appreciate the kind words. Thanks.

  • Amy Bowman
    January 19, 2012 at 4:05 am

    {comments are from Todd}

    @Sona – Great question! This will be the topic of a future post, but I’ll give you a quick answer. I didn’t so much put friends above spouse and children as I put a specific friend above spouse and children – a mentor. Someone who is older, extremely wise, loves God, has a deep knowledge of God’s Word, and has successfully lived through the trials you either are facing or will likely face in your future. There is no more meaningful gift I can give Amy and my girls than a person who can fill that role in my life. The two men whom I currently consider mentors gave me insight, wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and tools to handle challenges in our marriage that Amy & I found difficult to work through on our own. Amy received the same blessing from women who play a mentoring role in her life. For me Priority #3 is a natural extension of Priority #2 – Emotional Health. But it’s so important I wanted it to have a Priority all it’s own.

  • Amy Bowman
    January 19, 2012 at 3:49 am

    {comments are from Todd}

    @Anonymous – Thanks! I appreciate it.

    @Ashley – You’re welcome!

    @Leslie – Thanks for taking the time to read the entire post. It is long. Hope you found it helpful.

    @Anonymous – My wife and I both thank you!

    @Anonymous – You bet. Thanks for the compliment.

    @Budget Design Girl – I appreciate the compliment. But I am the lucky one in our marriage.

  • Budget Design Girl
    January 18, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    Amazing! You are truly blessed to have such a grounded man in your life!

  • Anonymous
    January 18, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Fab.u.lous. Thanks for sharing.

  • Ashley @ Coffee and Apple Juice
    January 18, 2012 at 6:04 am

    Thank you for this!!

  • Anonymous
    January 18, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    This is just what I needed this morning! This past week since discovering your blog, I have made an extra push to establish a routine and I’m already feeling the difference. Please don’t ever stop writing, I keep coming back to your writing when I need a little lift. What a blessing!

  • Sona
    January 18, 2012 at 6:19 am

    So good to change perspective!! We do tend to get bogged down by WORK and neglect most other things… but a completely new perspective really helps to shake things up… and get our priorities right!!
    Just curious to know why you put friends above spouse and children in the social health sub-head…

  • M Leslie Wray
    January 18, 2012 at 6:17 am

    Oh Amy, your man did a great job! When I first saw how long it was, I thought, “um – do I want to take the time for this right now?” It only looks long! It took me a few minutes and it was so interesting! Looking forward to more “Todd Talk.” Great job! Not to mention, it made me feel a little guilty and I felt the boot in my rear 🙂 Happy for both of you.

  • Anonymous
    January 17, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    I love this! What a great approach and SO true!

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