When I was a kid, I read everything I could get my hands on. We had a good-sized personal library in our home, plus we made frequent visits to the public library. I read every night; I read in the car; I read in the bathroom. I read for information; I read to relieve boredom (Sorry, Pastor L. of my childhood); I read for excitement; I read because there was something in front of me to read.
I saw this booklet one time, The Tyranny of the Urgent. I read through it, and knowing me, I felt guilty because I wasn’t planning my life properly. But the concept is good: don’t let the urgent things crowd out the important things.
Although I have this phrase deeply ingrained in my bones, I hadn’t read the booklet since about 1973, so I thought I’d look it up and see if it is possible to read online. You can see it at this web address http://www.olemissxa.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Tyranny-of-the-Urgent.pdf. It’s even better than I remember, actually.
Charles Hummel, author of The Tyranny of the Urgent, says this:
The following four steps will take us a long way toward more productive use of time: decide what’s important, discover how time is now being spent, budget the hours and follow through.
Hmm. Do I detect a pattern in my life here? I’ve written about set-down disease, where I put things down without noticing where I put them. I’ve written about issues with food, wherein I can easily choose the fastest thing to eat, rather than that best thing to eat. I’ve written about money that comes in like a snail and goes out like a cheetah. All of these things happen because I do not take the time to plan ahead, both for times I can anticipate as well as urgent needs that impact my ability to choose the slow, important route.
I think I’ve just lumped the urgent and important into one great big pile. It has to do with Yesterday Me, Today Me, and Tomorrow Me. Tomorrow Me will figure out whether this thing is urgent or important. But for now, it’s all important! It’s all urgent!
Maybe it boils down to what’s happening inside my body/mind/spirit. As long as the voice shouting, “You should/You have to/You’d better” has the floor, ain’t nobody got time to figure anything out. Newsflash. That voice is NOT the boss of me.
Another pattern: when anyone tells me to keep track of [how I am spending money, what I am eating, the inventory of stuff I own, how I am using my time], I cavalierly dismiss this suggestion, without taking the time to think about why I am dismissing it, and whether or not it’s a good idea to dismiss it.
I pretend like all I do is the important stuff. You probably have this picture of me washing walls with my left hand, while creating blog posts with my right hand, while moving the laundry from the washer to the dryer with my left foot, while cleaning out the car with my right foot, while listening to Kepler talk to me with my left ear, while listening to a podcast with my right ear, while speaking on the phone to the dentist, while eating a tictac. Pretty close, actually. But if I stop for a minute, I might also see myself watching shows on Netflix, surfing the web, visiting the Twitter [and I do love the Twitter. I also love calling it “the Twitter.” That makes me laugh.]
I guess I won’t list out everything I do to “waste” time. Sometimes those time wasters are part of me having some down time, so I’m not saying I’ll never again be unproductive. But if I treated time like I treat money, paying attention to where it goes, planning ahead for when I need some, I’ll just BET I can shift my internal state, which will in turn shift everything else.
Tell me in the comments if you’ve read the booklet, “The Tyranny of the Urgent.” Tell me in the comments if you haven’t read it, too! If you’re already here on my blog, I’d love to have your feedback — was this post helpful? Interesting? Did I read your mail? Whether or not you comment, thanks for reading!