As I woke up this morning I heard God speak to me and say, “Don’t mistake the urgent for the important.”
Former U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower once said, “What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important”. This is said to be how he organised his workload and priorities. His ability to manage his time and tasks enabled him to effectively prioritise people and resources even whilst under great stress and conflict, all the while remaining positive.
Eisenhower ascertained that:
Important activities have an outcome that leads to achieving and fulfilling our goals and dreams. They are what we are made to do and be; they answer a God given call deep down on the inside of us. The important motivates us and has a purpose behind it.
Urgent activities demand our immediate response and attention and are often connected to fulfilling someone else’s dreams and goals. They are the activities, situations and people that we often find ourselves concentrating all our time and energy on because the consequence of not dealing with them is usually uncomfortable and immediate. Anyone who has children/teenagers or demanding or needy people in their lives knows what it is like to be surrounded by the “urgent”.
Eisenhower categorised and listed all of his responsibilities, tasks and activities under:
- Important and urgent
- Important but not urgent
- Not important but urgent
- Not important and not urgent
As with all things that are truly important we do need to step back and take stock of where we are at, and what is actually important to us. Some things can look and sound important, and may even be important to someone else, but if what we are spending all our energy on is not important to us, nor is it helping us to achieve our goals and dreams, then we must ask ourselves the question, “why are we spending our life on it?”
When we do discover what is important we then know what to prioritise our time and attention to. Otherwise we can go through our whole life merely responding to the urgent, and never truly living for what is significant to both us and God’s plan and what is best for our lives.
There are those activities, situations and people who are urgent, but if they are continually preventing us from doing the things, which are important to us, and God orchestrated then we need to examine our urgent and why they are always in the urgent category.
Sometimes we can bring the urgent upon ourselves because we procrastinate or don’t manage our time effectively. We can put things off which leads to pressure and unnecessary stress.
Other times we simply need to discern where we can delegate, reschedule or say a polite NO, and even encourage people to problem solve themselves.
It may be initially easier to succumb to the “urgent” around us and fix and do everything ourselves, but that will usually only lead to living constantly in the realm of the “urgent”.
To prevent being overrun by the urgent I’m learning to schedule time in my week to specifically catch up and give time to particular situations and people so that I don’t always end up feeling rushed and stressed. I try to schedule weekly time so that what was in the “important but not urgent” category does not suddenly become “important and now urgent,” causing any of my goals and dreams to always be pushed aside.
A big distraction
Lastly there are some things in life that are neither important nor urgent. They are simply a big distraction. These are the situations and people we need to have firm boundaries on. It is also why it is imperative for us to know what is important; what is urgent, and what is something we need to have nothing to do with at all.
Don’t mistake the urgent for the important, but seek God, listen to your heart, and give time to what is truly important and not just urgent.
“Look carefully how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is”. (Ephesians 5:15-17)
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you”. (Matthew 6:33)
Prayer: Lord help me to know what is important to you, and what you have created me to spend my time, energy and effort on so that the urgent stops overtaking the important in my life. In Jesus name Amen.