This Magic Monday, we focus on making time for the most important things over the seemingly urgent things in life.
We have all said at one time or another, “there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day. If we just had more time.” We’ve all hoped it would be so. Here’s what I’ve discovered, though. We all have time for what we choose to make time. Or, to put it another way, we have time for what we intentionally prioritize.
Our struggle comes in distinguishing between that which is important and that which is urgent. If we don’t know the difference, we’ll never be able to choose that which is meaningful. We will, by default, choose the urgent every time.
I know some of you are thinking, urgent things are important things. Sometimes, that’s correct. The situations and circumstances we face in our lives can be both. For example, when someone comes down with an illness, it can be both critical and essential to get them to the doctor. Critical, because if not addressed quickly, the illness may turn into something greater and essential, because it could impact others in your household; physically or otherwise. The reality is those urgent and important events are typically few and far between. Instead, our neglect of the important forces us into the critical.
So, how can we focus on the important rather than the urgent? Are there some guidelines we can use to help us make the distinction? Here are three ways to help you prioritize.
- Create artificial deadlines. Without a deadline, other things tend to appear and take up our time, and if too many things start to take over, we become stressed and distracted, thereby forcing us to then focus on the urgent and not the important.
- Be selective with our “yes.” The largest barrier to a fruitful life is not commitment, but over-commitment. We need to learn how to say “no” to good opportunities so we can say “yes” to the best opportunities, and those things that are important for us in our lives. Yes, we may disappoint a few people along the way, but when you say “no,” you can always preface it with, “No, for now, is not no forever.” If we’re going to choose the important over the urgent, we must learn to be selective with our “yes.”
- Do first what matters most. The third way we can keep the urgent from crowding out the important is to do first what matters most. How many times have we placed work over family? Or, we run errands instead of spending time with a friend who needs consoling? Do you want to look back and say, “I wish I would have (fill in the blank)?
Most of us tend to make everything urgent because by making it urgent and getting it done, we feel a sense of accomplishment regardless of the level of priority. On the other hand, when something gets done that truly matters, it typically has an impact on us and others as well. The needs of others, in my humble opinion, come first and thus the importance of your actions.
One of the most respected and admired business leaders and speakers, Stephen Covey, once said, “what does it matter how much we do, if what we’re doing isn’t what matters most?” As difficult as it can be at times, try not to lose yourself in the urgent.
Allow yourself to do what is important, those things that matter most in your personal life and your work life. Remember, every morning, when we rise, we have a chance to make a difference in our lives and the lives of others. Choose the better part, the important part, that which matters most, so that you can hold on to it forever.