Three Steps to Getting the Important Things Done
There are two types of things that you have to get done today. The important things and the urgent things. The two are rarely the same.
What happens for most of us is that the urgent things crowd out the important ones. And our failure to address the important tasks in our lives invariably is what comes back to bite us down the track. Big time!!
So how do you make sure you don’t allow the urgent to crowd out the important? Here are three steps guaranteed to help you get the important things done in your life.
Step 1 – Decide on Your Priorities
Would it surprise you to know that since life is all about successfully juggling priorities (or not!) the Bible is replete with discussions about that very subject – our priorities?
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matt 6:33)
You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)
Those are just two of a few hundred. God’s Word even talks about management priorities:
For if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? (1 Tim 3:5)
The first reason some people don’t get the important things done in their day-to-day lives, is that they don’t decide what’s important.
Guess what. You may have 150 emails in your in-tray, but chances are that none of them are a matter of life or death. So, are you going to spend your evening answer emails, or doing some exercise; spending time with people that matter; praying and reading God’s Word? The emails may appear urgent, but those other things are important.
So, Step 1: sit down, quietly, prayerfully and decide what are the things in your life that are really important.
If you don’t exercise, your body is going to give up on you early. If you don’t spend time with your wife or husband, your marriage is going to come apart. If you don’t spend time with the Lord, your faith is going to fall by the wayside … and one day, you’ll stand before the Lord on that day of judgement and say what? Sorry Lord but I was too busy?
What are the two or three or four really, really important things in your life? Decide.
Step 2 – Allocate the Time
The biggest mistake we make is that we allocate time to the urgent things, but we don’t allocate time to the important things.
Here’s an example. Running a ministry like Christianityworks means that a lot of urgent tasks come my way. Several hundred emails a day. Technical issues. Radio station issues. In fact, I have enough urgent tasks out there to keep me going, quite literally, 24/7.
The problem is that I’m also the guy in the ministry who writes and records the radio messages; who writes these blog posts; who writes the books and booklets that we produce. Those are really important tasks, because unless I do them, there’s no ministry, right?
So – here is what I do. This is the key.
I take those tasks and put them in my diary first. So, if you could see my diary – several weeks out – I already have my research/writing and recording times blocked out . So now, as urgent tasks come, they have to fit in around the diary block entries that are already there for program production.
And (the other members of our team will attest to this) when those times come, nothing else is allowed to crowd them out. I don’t take phone calls. I don’t answer emails. I won’t let other priorities interrupt those important tasks unless (as happens in a very, very small percentage of cases) there is some other life or death issue that demands my attention. But that is very, very rare.
This is the key! We all have things on our to-do lists. The problem is, we don’t allocate time in our diaries, to the important things. And so as a result, the urgent things steal our time and the important things don’t get done.
Whether you use a diary to allocate your time or not, the key is allocating time to important, non-urgent tasks. When we do that, they get done.
It’s that simple.
Since I’m a very early starter (4 or 5 am!) I normally go for my daily walk (5 to 7 kms – 40 to 60 minutes) in the afternoons when I’m less mentally productive. But this afternoon I have a 4:00pm and a 6:00pm appointment in my diary. So, I’ve planned to walk to my 4:00pm appointment (30 minute walk) and walk back again (another 30 minutes) to make sure my exercise happens with plenty of time to shower and make my 6:00pm appointment.
Is the exercise urgent? No. Not at all.
Is it important? Absolutely – because I’m 54 years old and the single greatest predictor for premature death from heart disease, stroke and diabetes is …. no, not high cholesterol. It’s a lack of exercise.
Do I always get all of my important tasks done this way? No. But I get far more done than if I hadn’t planned on doing them, simply by allocating blocks of time to them in my diary.
Step 3 – Don’t Squib
Now – this is really important too. It’s really easy to squib on the important things, because they’re not urgent and other things are screaming at you saying that they’re far, far more pressing than this time you’d planned on spending with the Lord in prayer. Part of it is a physical reality. And part of it is spiritual.
Do you think that the devil wants you to spend quiet, unhurried time in prayer so that your relationship with Jesus is strong?
Do you think that the devil wants you to get out there and exercise so that you’re bright-eyed and bushy-tailed?
Do you think that the devil wants a husband and wife to have great time together, without the kids to make their marriage strong?
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out do you?
Sure, sometimes – very rarely – we need to juggle our diary because other things come up. But here’s what I’ve found. I am pretty brutal about not allowing the urgent things to squeeze out the important things, no matter how urgent they purport to be. And you know, getting on with the important things and letting the urgent things wait has never, ever caused me any harm or pain.
So – and you should expect this – when the hour draws near for you to do that important thing, there will be a strong temptation – physical and spiritual – to squib on the deal and yield to the urgent. To give in.
Don’t. You won’t regret it. And more and more, you’ll see the fruit of right priorities bursting forth in your life.