The Importance of Important Things

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what’s actually important.
That hardly seems fair. You’d think you’d know if something was important, wouldn’t you? But not everything that seems important actually is. Some things are given importance because they are considered to be urgent, either by you or by somebody else. However, when you take a moment and think about them, you realize that they have no real importance at all.
A few years ago, I attended a seminar based on one of the Stephen Covey books. To help prioritize the obligations in our lives, we were told to categorize them based on whether we thought they were:
1. Both important and urgent

2. Important, but not urgent

3. Urgent, but not important

4. Neither important nor urgent
I have some problems with #2 and #3. If something is both important and urgent, it’s a no-brainer. That’s what gets done first. If something is neither important nor urgent, well, you’re lucky if I remember it even exists. But if one task is urgent – “needs” to be done NOW – and another is important – NEEDS to be done – then I can easily lose focus.
At the same seminar, the leader showed us a big canister he was going to fill with stones, gravel, and water. If he put the gravel in first, the stones would not fit. If he put the water in first, it would flood out when he put in the gravel or the stones. But if he put the stones in first, he could shake the gravel down around them, then add the water to fill small gaps. The point was, he said, to find the big stones in your life – your most important things. Make time for them first, then let everything else shift around them.
And I say, that’s fine in theory. But if the gravel is spitting you in the face, or the water is drowning you, then you tend to give them the priority. Or I do, anyway. It’s very easy to lose sight of importance in favor of urgency.
So this year, as I struggle to move forward in my life, I’m trying not to overlook things that are important just because they are not, at this moment, urgent. I’m trying to remember why the important things are important. I guess I’m trying to remember the importance of the important things.

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