As a mother, there are moments in life when your days are consumed with fighting fires—tearing apart feuding siblings, dealing with an unforeseen issue with your car, attending three children’s birthday parties in one day, paying bills you forgot about, responding to urgent projects at work, etc. The smoke from extinguishing these fires is suffocating and leaves little time for you to focus on your true priorities. By bedtime, you’re relieved the day is over and pray that God will bless you with more time tomorrow.
You can have more time tomorrow, but you must learn to become a real-life firefighter first.
That may sound strange, but would it surprise you to learn that real-life firefighters spend less than 5 percent of their work day actually fighting fires? The remainder of their time is spent on planning, preparation, and prevention. Firefighters have learned that when they focus on important activities—like planning, preparation, and prevention—they have far fewer urgent activities to address and when those urgent matters arise, they are equipped to handle them effectively.
When you focus on important activities, you’ll have fewer urgent matters, which tend to steal time from what matters most to you.
The first step toward reclaiming your time is to understand the difference between important and urgent. Important matters have high value to you and your family, while urgent matters are time sensitive and are typically about other people. Another way to look at it is like this—urgent matters press upon you while important matters contribute to what you value most.
Ideally, you’ll expand the amount of time you have by focusing on important, non-urgent activities such as planning, preparation, education & training, relationship-building, meditation, prayer, and exercise. For instance, exercise has many physical and physiological benefits that include increased energy, stamina and mental well-being. Spending more time in this area can prevent urgent issues from arising like sudden illnesses, perpetual exhaustion, and battles with depression (or even realizing at the last minute you can’t squeeze into a dress you intended to wear to an important event!).
You can follow a similar line of logic for most anything you would categorize as important and non-urgent. Write out your responses to the following three questions in your journal:
- Name an activity that is important, but not urgent in your life.
- Describe the benefits associated with this activity.
- Describe the urgent (time-stealing) matters that can be avoided by focusing on this activity.
Continue this process with the primary activities that tend to consume your work week, and then be sure to look out for Part II of this article in November where I’ll share the single most important key to time management and the three attitudes you must have to reclaim your time once and for all.
©2007 All Rights Reserved. Michele R. Dortch