There IS Enough Time: The Urgent/Important Priority System

How often do you feel overwhelmed?

Have you ever said, “I don’t have enough time.”?

What if you had a clear system for organizing priorities so that you can be even more intentional with your time and have plenty of it? You can and will… read on!

Ancient Chinese Philosopher, Lao Tzu, once said:

“Time is a created thing. To say you don’t have time is like saying you don’t want to.”

Lap Tzu There is enough time

Some of us might want to ball up our overloaded agenda and chunk it right at Lao Tzu. What does he know about us busy folks living 2,500 busy years later, right?

Americans today are bombarded with more physical, chemical and emotional stress in 30 days than our great-grandparents experienced in a lifetime! We have so much on our hands and in our brains nowadays. A huge part of this is information overload from the communications boom. In 2011, a USC Ph.D. student calculated that with today’s technology, each of us is exposed to the equivalent of 174 newspapers worth of information a day!

Our time is so valuable and yet so easily slips through our fingertips! Even in this day and age, Lao is right though. “I don’t have enough time” is just a thought. And guess who has power over your thoughts? Yep. You. What if you instead thought:

“There is enough time! What am I going to do with the time I have?”

In fact, what if you had more than enough time? What would you do then? Wow. Just take a moment to think of the possibilities.

Easier said than done, right?

Thankfully, we have another guru who not only talked the talk, but showed us how to make “enough time” despite having the busiest job in modern America. President Dwight Eisenhower was brilliant at minimizing distractions and staying focused on the important things. His press secretary said, “The President makes every minute count.”  How did Ike manage all those important and urgent demands for his time? The Important/Urgent Priority System. Through this system, Eisenhower made an amazing discovery:

Eisenhower Urgent Important

Here is the tool that will help you make the same discovery in your own life. It will empower you to find more time to spend on things that are important to you. In simple terms, the system is a way to prioritize your actions so that you spend more time and energy on things that are important and not just things that are (or seem) urgent.

Important/Urgent Priority Matrix

Important/Urgent Priority Matrix

STEP 1

While it may seem obvious, most of us lose a lot of precious time simply because we mistake “Urgent” for “Important.” So our first step in utilizing the tool is: Make the distinction between important and urgent:

Important Urgent
Long term impact on your goals. Short-term (immediate) impact

STEP 2

Now it’s time to categorize your activities, tasks, and urges. Go ahead. Grab some paper and list the activities/tasks/urges you give or would like to give your time to. For each item in the list, put a plus sign under each category that describes it, and a minus sign under each category that does not apply:

Activities/Tasks/Urges Important Urgent
Facebook
Exercising +
(…and many more…)

STEP 3

List your activities/tasks/urges in each category of the Priority System. Pick a word or two from each activity and move your list into the Important/Urgent diamond.” You can draw the diamond yourself or print this document: Urgent-Important. The document also has more detailed explanations of each area.

STEP 4

Which activities can be eliminated from your schedule and which activities would you like to spend more time in?

Cross through the items in your lists that you are going to commit to reducing or eliminating and highlight (or place a star by) the activities you want to spend more time on.

Now, what are you going to commit to changing? Committing and follow through are very important.

STEP 5

Start with baby steps and week by week, day by day, commit to making (and sticking with) small changes in your habits.

Work toward the goal of freeing yourself from the “Time Wasters” and minimizing “Distractions.” This is the key to living your purpose and achieving your big dreams and goals.

What is it worth to you to achieve your goals and live your purpose?

I’ll leave you with one more quote from Soren Kierkegaard:

“Our life always expresses the result of our dominant thoughts.”

What if the statement below was your dominate thought?

“There is enough time! What am I going to do, today, with the time I have?”

Take a moment and think it right now…

“There is enough time! What am I going to do, today, with the time I have?”

Post it in your office, on your refrigerator, your phone or anywhere else you will see it often. See it, think it, live it!

How would your life change if this thought became a part of your daily life? It is your choice. Take control and make the decision every day on what you are going to do with your time.

Bonus: Here is a very useful app that takes you through a 1 week exercise that will help you get a grip on your information overload… and here is a NPR article with some more details on the app and the ideas behind it.

Until the next Revolution……

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