Urgent But Not Important

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Time management is not about managing our time. Time management is about managing ourselves.

We spend our time on activities that are important or not important, urgent or not.

In our world of 24/7 e-mail, computers, text messaging, cell phones and satellite television, urgent and important are easily confused.

For effective self-management we want to focus our attention on the important items and be able to discern the difference between three types of activities, as follows:

1) urgent and important

2) urgent but not important

3) not urgent but important

The not urgent and not important items hardly get a second glance from us anyway.

To be able to detect the differences in these activities we need to ask ourselves a few questions.

What are the most important objectives for me to achieve today? this week? this year? in my lifetime?

What are the urgent activities that called to me today?

Which ones were both urgent and important?

Which ones were urgent but not important?

It is the urgent, yet not important, activities that we need to manage the most. The cell phone ringing or the ding of an arriving e-mail sound a call for immediate action. Electronic communications appear urgent, but how many of these missives actually are important to our long-term goals and objectives?

Listening to music, watching television shows, surfing the net, shopping or dining out can become the next ”urgent” activity. When we allow the close, the cool or the alluring to define how we spend our time, urgent matters override the important ones.

By permitting seemingly vital matters to overtake activities that lead to our long-term or short- term objectives, we become confused, and our commitment to a goal is dissipated. The paradox of the important task is that it rarely has to be done today, or even this week. The urgent job always demands instant action. The irresistible siren song of the urgent devours our days.

In retrospect, we realize that the call of the urgent has tricked us, and we have ignored important tasks that did not beckon us with interruptions.

In hindsight, which is always 20/20, we see how we have been manipulated by the mirage of the urgent. We have succumbed to our urges.

To avoid being fooled by the urgent but not important tasks that vie for your time and energies, take a moment to consider the following:

  • Make a list of the five most important tasks you want to accomplish this year.
  • Make a plan of how and when you are going to get those things done. List specific tasks and times.
  • Decide what success looks like.
  • Let others know your goals, and ask them to hold you accountable.

Since you are reading this column, I’ll surmise that having a strong and healthy relationship with a child may be one of your five goals.

Give yourself specific tasks with deadlines. May I suggest child input here as you define your tasks? Remember we want to ”work with” our children, not ”do to.” Have a clear vision of what achievement looks like. Let each child know what you are planning on doing to make the child feel important and loved. P.S. Children are wonderful for holding us personally accountable.

With clear commitment to your goals, you’ll be able to sort urgent tasks into the categories of either ”important” or not ”important.” At some point you will have the lasting satisfaction of knowing that you made the right choices in managing yourself.

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