Get Your Priorities Straight

This may sound like common sense, but too many people do not have their priorities in order. If you are separated, divorced or a single parent with a child or children and do not have your priorities in order it will inhibit your ability to effectively manage your life and care for your children. I will go into a lot of detail regarding one specific priority in a later chapter, but for now let me provide a few examples. You might not have a problem developing a priority list that deals with the three most important things in your life: Income, shelter, food, children and health. Those were my top 5 and my health suffered tremendously because I could only focus on the first 4 Items. When I put 100% of my time and energy into being a good father and paying the bills, my physical and mental health suffered. Allow me to explain how priorities should work.

First thing first

Personal Testimony

When I first got divorced, I took a job for a lot less money than my skills and experiences warranted, but I wanted a job that was flexible, close to home and allowed me to work remotely on certain days. I was able to be present for my children. Most months I was able to pay my bills, but barely. No time or money for a gym membership, no organic foods, nothing that did not include food, shelter and clothes. As a result, in a 2-year period I gained 30 pounds and I’m only 5’9”.

I was able to cook, clean the house, take my kids’ places, have their friends over, watch their sporting events, etc. I had no time for myself, not even to care for my health, but that’s what it means to have your priorities in order.

The next, more critical phase for anyone is to think ahead and go deep. You need to start listing ALL of your priorities. What’s more important, little league or a family vacation, a cell phone for your 13-year-old daughter or a new mattress for your 5 year old son, a new transmission for the car or a prom dress for your daughter. I mentioned in my introduction how difficult my life was at the early stages of my divorce when I did not have sole possession of my kids and my house was in foreclosure.

The one and only positive aspect of having your house in foreclosure is that when your home is in foreclosure, your lender will not accept your monthly mortgage payments. Which means, I only had to worry about paying the utilities. I did not have to worry about a mortgage, HOA dues or property taxes, which brings us back to priorities. There was about a six-month period when, on more than one occasion, I had to choose between paying the electric bill or the water bill.

My decision was based on the weather. If it was during the winter and we were expecting very cold temperatures at night, I would pay the electric bill first and allow the water to be turned off for 3-5 days. If the weather called for more moderate temperatures, I would allow for the electric to get turned off and would sleep on the couch at night and use the fireplace for heat. On more than one occasion, I remember having a representative from the water company or electric company come to my door and ask if I could make a payment before they turned off my water or power. That’s what you call waiting until the last minute. That eight-month period taught me more about keeping my priorities in order than any book, class, or article I could have.


First and foremost, it’s essential to identify your priorities. Take time to reflect on your values, goals, and aspirations. Think about what I mentioned above. What truly matters to you? This self-reflection helps you clarify your priorities and understand what you want to achieve.

Once you’ve identified your priorities, it’s crucial to set clear goals. Define what you want to accomplish and establish a timeline for achieving these goals. These need to be daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly as you think about the school year. Creating a roadmap provides direction and motivation.

Effective time management is another key aspect. Use tools like to-do lists, calendars, and time-blocking to allocate your time efficiently. Prioritize tasks based on their urgency and importance, and allocate your time accordingly.

Learning to say no is also vital. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by commitments, so be selective about the tasks and responsibilities you take on. Saying no when necessary helps you maintain focus on your top priorities.

Regularly review and reassess your priorities. Life is dynamic, and circumstances change. Periodically evaluate your goals and adjust them as needed to stay aligned with your evolving values and desires.

Lastly, practice self-discipline and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Avoid procrastination and distractions, and make time for self-care, family, and relaxation to prevent burnout.


Most people reading this blog would not face such dire circumstances, I hope. However, many single parents will face many conflicting priorities, mainly financial, that impact their children. The more prepared you are and the more you think things through, the easier it will be when conflicting priorities arise. This list can and will be a big stress relief as you navigate your way through life as a single parent. Think about your life, your children and their needs. Include anything you and your children could possibly need within the next six months, but track it month to month. Then do it by season. The seasons affect what your children will be wearing, if they will be in or out of school and what sports or extracurricular activities, they might be involved in. Then create a yearly list, which might include college if your children are older. What colleges you can or can’t afford and what financial aid might be available will be part of the decision-making progress as your child plans for college. Your list of priorities will change and don’t be surprised if you revise them weekly. Continually revising your priorities is an important part of the learning process. I still list my priorities and actually have a daily list. It keeps me focused and if I can’t accomplish a couple of things on the list, I move it to the next day with no regrets because I know I have my priorities in order.