You're sitting in the dining room eating a bowl of soup, your cat jumps on the table and is moments from spilling your dinner all over your new jacket. Three feet away your phone rings. You can tell by the ring tone that it's your best friend calling from the concert he's attending to let you know how cool the opening band is. In the next room a rerun of your favorite television show is starting.
On the couch sits your term paper assignment. It's worth 50 percent of your grade, and you haven't started it yet… but it's not due for another 10 weeks.
What to do? Odds are, you'll take each task in the order it was presented: prevent your cat from spilling your soup, answer the phone, chat for a while, watch your favorite show and then, well, you'll get to the term paper some other time.
Time management experts like to sort all the activities in life into four categories. They are:
- Things that are important and urgent.
- Things that are important but not urgent.
- Things that are urgent but not important.
- Things that are neither important nor urgent.
People generally make category 1 the highest priority because the consequences can be serious and immediate (like staining your jacket). But the problem comes when they skip category 2 and move directly to categories 3 and 4. Whenever someone calls, even for unimportant reasons, that persistent ringing begs to be answered. When it comes to kicking back and relaxing vs. digging into an important assignment weeks ahead of schedule—most people rest first and maybe work later.
The unique thing about category 2 activities is that they often move to category 1. Most students in college don't finish a term paper until the night before it's due—when it becomes urgent and they become panic-stricken.
A great key to reduce stress and increase your happiness is to spend more time in category 2. This means more time doing important things like prayer, studying the Bible and spending time with your family and loved ones.
Many parents procrastinate about spending time with their young children because "urgent" work calls them away. When they realize that they want a close relationship with their children, they've grown up, and it's too late.
Likewise people continuously put off prayer and Bible study due to the urgency of day-to-day life. They think that they'll "get around to it someday," but they rarely do. Suddenly a crisis hits, and they're offering an extremely awkward prayer—asking God for help while explaining why they haven't kept in touch.
Those who prioritize life in category 2, putting important things first, must make certain sacrifices. They see fewer movies and less television, play fewer video games and attend fewer parties, but their lives are richer and happier. They have a greater sense of control. As Brian Tracy, a popular time management expert, said in his book Eat That Frog: "There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important things."
"To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1 Ecclesiastes 3:1To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
American King James Version×). Every purpose includes taking time to learn the real purpose for your life. Be sure to download or order your free copy of What Is Your Destiny? VT