Saturday, August 4, 2012

Urgent... or Important?

One of life's great temptations is to substitute the Urgent for the Important.

I was talking to a co-worker one day a few years ago and she asked me if I was working on urgent or important issues. I confess that I was confused since I hadn't really considered the difference. Weren’t Urgent things Important? Weren’t Important things Urgent?

After some deep thought I did begin to see the difference. As I looked around at my staff I could see them frantically replying to e-mail messages, attending meetings, filing documents, writing memos and a plethora of  busywork tasks. 

Weren't all these things important? Well, these things may all need to be done at some point but in reviewing the accomplishments of very effective people it's easy to see that they spend their time on Important things and leave the Urgent things in the Inbox. No matter how many Urgent things are taken out of the Inbox, there will be more tomorrow!!! 

In her book, Miscellaneous Writings, the famous religious author, Mary Baker Eddy commented about wasting time said, “Rushing about smartly is no sign of accomplishing much.” Oftentimes we mistake busywork for productivity. 

As I looked around the office that day, seeing all of the employees glued to their PCs, I thought of how things were a few years back. Instead of endless cell phone conversations, using social media, answering email messages and text messages within 10 seconds of their arrival, people spent their time thinking, planning, developing strategy, setting goals and working towards them.

How do you rate on separating Urgent from Important? Have you ever been trying to think deeply or meditate when all of a sudden it becomes vitally important to dust off the desk? Or when really working towards a worthwhile task suddenly realize that the flowers need watering right away, or you just realized you need a gallon of milk from the grocery? The Urgent always tries to distract from the Important.

What are Important things? Well this is certainly something that is individual to each of us.

In many cases the Important things have to do with reaching out a helping hand or being a friend when someone is hurting.

Certainly making a living is Important, but even that should be kept in bounds and not take over as the most Important thing in our lives.  You hardly ever meet someone that is retired who says that they wish they had spent more time at the office when they were working!!

Devoting time to be with your children or grandchildren is Important, even if the Golf Channel is showing a great match.


Reaching out to the elderly or needy, or serving your church, synagogue, temple or mosque, or serving with a volunteer group whose goals are to enrich the lives of others, despite the politics or inconvenient time of day or any of the thousands of good excuses, are Important.

Many times just a smile and a warm “Hello”, or a silent prayer to see another as God’s loved child despite the outward appearance, is the most IMPORTANT thing that you could do.

For many, no matter what religion they practice, time spent in learning more about how to express God's infinite qualities of Love, Peace, Intelligence and Kindness are key to achieving their life goal.

The Litmus Test is: At the end of the day, do you feel that you have accomplished something worthwhile, and have not just spent another day on the treadmill?

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