Day 8: Important versus Urgent

{This post is part of my 31 Day blog series Work Hard + Rest Well: Learning Obedience in the Rhythms of Work and Rest.} Have you noticed the phrase that seems to be everywhere right now? The phrase “all the things”. Maybe it’s just me, but I see it everywhere and have used it myself on occasion. And that phrase perfectly embodies my natural inclination towards work...

I want to do “all the things”. And I want to do “all the things” well. And I want to do “all the things” today. And I want to be the best at “all the things”.

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But we can’t. Doing “all the things” is a myth that somehow we all believe even when we see in ourselves and others that it is impossible. I’ve even surrounded myself with reminders and read blog posts frequently reminding me that no one can do it all, and yet I still find myself stressed out daily. And when I strip the stress down to the truth, I find that once again I’m trying to be perfect, to do “all the things”.

And I know that I can’t do it all, but somehow I still feel that I must do it all. And I sit down with my todo list that seems to grow longer by the minute and I can’t reason away any of the items.

And I came home from work ten days ago and dropped my head on my husbands shoulder overwhelmed, broken, discouraged. I had so much to do and I was completely trapped by the stress of it all. I knew what I needed to do but the mental walls of stress and anxiety were so tall that I couldn’t see past them.

So he pulled out a sheet of paper and divided it into four sections.

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1. Important and Urgent 2. Important but Not Urgent 3. Not Important but Urgent 4. Not Important and Not Urgent

And he made me write down everything on my mind. “All the things” taking up space in my brain. “All the things” that I needed to do. “All the things” I felt overwhelmed by.

Then he helped me move things around until only the very most important and urgent things were in box one. Then he said, “Everything in box one is your to do list tomorrow. Don’t worry about the rest of the boxes. Just focus on box one."

And the worry and anxiety were still building high walls in my mind and emotions, but I knew I couldn’t make it another hour trying to keep doing “all the things”. So the next day I clung hard to that list.

As I followed my list like an obedient child, I fought hard to ignore the other boxes and other things that kept popping into my head. I ignored the shower that I noticed needed to be scrubbed and the cabinet fronts that needed to be wiped. I ignored box three that kept shouting at me from every corner.

And the next day, I took a new blank sheet of paper and split it into four sections and did the same thing all over again.

Ten days later, I’m not using a blank white sheet of paper anymore. I’m now using a to do list on my phone, but I’m still organizing things according to importance versus urgency.

Because what was true on that white sheet of paper is true of every part of my life: There are things that are important and there are things that are urgent and they often aren’t the same things.

And the fight is to do the things that are important over the things that are urgent, because if we aren’t intentional with our time we’ll waste our lives on the urgent and never get the truly important things done.

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Because wiping the crumbs on the kitchen counter is urgent, but spending time in God’s Word is important. Because grocery shopping is urgent, but spending time with a friend in need is important. Because responding to that email is urgent, but taking time to read your child a story is important.

And the urgent and important look different for each person and often look different each day. But the goal isn’t to do “all the things”, the goal is to figure out what is most important and do those things.

Fight the urge to let the urgent dictate your time and instead choose to focus on the important. Because the important things are the ones that have lasting value and impact. The important things are the things that are truly important in light of eternity.

So what on your to do list is truly important? And what on your to do list is merely urgent? Will you choose to focus on the important over the urgent today?

Be blessed <3