Important, Not Urgent
June 24, 2014
It is 4:45 pm, and in my perfect world, this blog was going to be written before noon. Well, actually last Wednesday before noon. But that didn’t happen either day, because urgent things kept coming up. For instance, this morning I took my very sick cat to the vet. He was fevered last night and I thought I would wait it out a while. But when he was still hot and more lethargic this morning, I decided that visit to the vet was urgent. Last Wednesday, when a friend called and told me she had found a lump in her breast, I decided that spending time with her that day was urgent.
Of course we do what our values and priorities tell us is most important. Some things are urgent and important, and both of the above examples qualify as such. But we run into problems when we only pay attention to and have time for what is urgent in life. Best selling author, Stephen Covey, in his matrix on time management, http://www.positive-change-tools-for-success.com/Time-Management-Matrix.html, illustrates a way to pay attention to and do not only what is urgent but what is important, because if we don’t, the urgent things always get done and the important things never get done. I have found this bit of wisdom very helpful to me in the past fifteen years. So today, when I got to the office later than I expected, I made a conscious decision to attend to some important matters that were not urgent, even though there were urgent matters at hand. Aren’t there always?
I sorted through and cleaned a big pile of paperwork and clutter off of my desk. Why, you might ask, is that important? Well, for many reasons, but the first one was that I was misplacing things. Important things. Like the contract for my book. And some insurance information for a client. I couldn’t find either of these things, and my guess was that they were in “The Pile” on my desk. It was not urgent, but it could become urgent if my inattention to those items created difficulties for me. I could have shuffled through and perhaps located what I was looking for. But “The Pile” affects me in other ways, which is another reason it is important. It is sloppy and makes my whole desk and perhaps even my office look messy and that bothers me. I haven’t yet had a client tell me that it bothers them, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if it did. It is….ooops…was… unsightly. I don’t feel at my best when I can’t find things. I don’t feel at my best when my surroundings aren’t pleasing. Not urgent. Important.
There are so many important things we put off. Like taking care of personal business, things like wills and home inventories. When two of my clients had home fires, they both bemoaned the fact that they had never taken the time to get a fire box for those important papers. And they hadn’t taken a good inventory of their home. These are important things, but not urgent, until they are urgent, and then it may be too late. I bought a fire box after seeing one of those clients on my way home. I still do not have an up-to-date inventory.
Sometimes we put off important things in relationships. We need to have a conversation with someone and we don’t, maybe because it will be uncomfortable or conflicted. We don’t do the important work of staying connected in relationships, of taking the temperature of the relationship, until there is a crisis. And then the important becomes urgent. Couples often tell me after episodes of infidelity that they knew they needed to be making more time for each other, that they knew they had issues they were avoiding, that they knew they were in trouble. And so the unattended to important things are now urgent. Much damage has happened in the meantime.
Spiritually, important learnings are often unattended to until there is a crisis. We know we want to be a part of something bigger than we are. We hunger to explore and experience the mystery of life. We want to ground ourselves into something deep and sure. And yet, doesn’t it often take a crisis before this need becomes urgent. A terminal or chronic illness. The loss of a loved one. A betrayal. These things make our spiritual lives become urgent.
What is important in your life that you keep putting off? What do you need to attend to that won’t be urgent until, well, it is, and then you might have so many regrets.
There is a saying. “Regrets for the things we do can be tempered with time. Regrets for the things left undone never leave us.”
Tending to the important things in life helps us have fewer regrets.
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