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Prioritizing: What's Urgent, What's Important

Another important concept we need to understand is the difference between the urgent and the important. The important things sit and wait while the urgent things scream to us. The phone is a perfect example of this. A conversation on the couch with your husband is important. The phone call in the middle of it seems urgent. Our nature is to choose what seems urgent because we react immediately rather than thinking about the choice we have and determining the best thing to do.

Our priorities and goals can help us to determine what is important. But throughout life the urgent will scream louder than the important. In her book, A Mother's Time,

Elise Arndt says,

The urgent matters of life are those that demand our immediate response, the things that constantly bid for our attention. They give no consideration to what is presently being done. They include annoying interruptions at the wrong time for the wrong reason and the pressing needs of people around us. These are the urgent matters of life.

While the urgent continually begs for our attention, the important keeps silent. It patiently waits for us to take notice. While the urgent seeks us, the important waits to be sought by us. The important aspects of life take discipline to perform, while the urgent are accomplished on impulse. We live in constant tension between the two, don't we? Filling the needs of the moment causes us to become weary. We blame hard work for our anxiety. In reality, it is not hard work that produces stress, but doubts and misgivings about what we are doing. We have become slaves to the urgent.Elise Arndt, A Mother's Time (Wheaton, IL:Victor Books, 1987), 43-44.

Can you see how the urgent takes us away from the important? So what do we do about it? Discipline is the key. We started with the phone at our house. My husband and I discovered it was robbing us of the important. It rang while we were reading to a child, it rang during dinner, it rang when we had company, and we always answered it. We decided that the phone was the urgent and the things it distracted us from were the important. So, if you call my house, you often get my voice mail. If you are visiting, you will hear the phone ring a lot, but I won't answer it. Believe me, you'll stop hearing it after a while and it begins to blend in with the background. With one husband and four children, there is a lot of "important" to take care of. The "urgent" can be called back at a time when I am needed less by those who are important.

When you start thinking about what you need to do and categorizing it as urgent or important, it can help in decision making too. We need to discern rather than react.