- Chapter 6 -
DO THE IMPORTANT,
NOT JUST THE URGENT
Life is so active, and we are all involved in so many things, it is easy to concentrate on the urgent, or what we see as urgent, and to neglect the important. The problem is that the important does not clamor for attention, does not cry out.
What about a family picnic instead of another Saturday at the office? Or a special evening with your wife at Pierre's (or whatever your spot was) where you used to go to dinner, instead of another late night working at the office? These are the things that create memories and build relationships. Many regrets in life involve relationships that we neglect.
One of the most famous biographies was written by the Scotsman James Boswell about the colorful Dr. Johnson, of London, author of the first English dictionary. Both Boswell himself and Dr. Johnson referred to the fact that Boswell frequently mentioned a day he had gone fishing with his father and how much it had meant to him. Years later, the father's diary was found and the occasion identified. It stated, "Went fishing with son. Wasted day." The father was doing the important without realizing it.
Priorities for the use of time are not limited to family events. A neglected friend? A sick person? I thought many times about going to see my friend Von, who had been so helpful to us as Business Manager at our church and who was very sick and was not destined to live much longer. I just did not get around to it, and it became too late. A more disturbing case took place when I was counseling a disturbed young man. I was planning a meeting with him, which could have been moved up, to impart some good news, when he took his life. I can't say I could have saved him, but he did seem to relate to me. I feel remorseful about both of these situations, and I just have to question how many other opportunities like this I am missing.
It would be great if we would periodically ask ourselves, "What is really important in my life right now? WHO is really important? How can I modify my schedule?"
We have a tendency to believe that there is plenty of time left to do the important, but many people have looked back and found out that was not the case.
A suggestion is to sit down periodically and write a list of the priorities in your life, taking into account: 1) What must I do? 2) What should I do? and 3) What would I like to do? Give the matter sufficient thought to put down everything you can think of, and then prioritize the list. Evaluate and reevaluate. Is a given item really important, or is it just apparently urgent? When you are satisfied with your final set of priorities, work out a time schedule for accomplishing them.
As I write this book, I sometimes get convicted by my own advice. So, in thinking about what is important, I am going to ask my sister if she would like to join me and call on an old friend who is very sick.