Do What’s Important First

“you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and you must do what’s important first.”— Steven Pressfield

For most of us, life moves at a break neck pace of multi-tasking days as we juggle the competing demands on our limited resources of time. IMG_0518A mobile device seems necessary to organize and plan the details. Being a bit of a Luddite myself, I still prefer to make written “To-Do” Lists. Mine look something like this:

  • -Today
    -The Week Ahead
    -Before the End of the Month
    -Long Term Projects for the Year
    -House Projects
    -Things to Shop for On-line   etc.etc.etc.

Despite our technological efficiency and our herculean efforts, we still say “I can’t find the time” to do this or that. A true statement. There is no more time to be “found” lying around unused somewhere. We cannot lengthen a day. The solution then, is not about finding more time, but about taking time. And if we take time for one thing, we take time away from something else. If we add here, we must subtract there, like it or not. This is simple math, but of course, it’s not easy to do!

How, and what do we subtract? How do we spend the time that we take?

About 2 or 3 times during the year I get to the point where I feel totally overwhelmed. Not only by my “To-Do” lists, but by all the new and interesting activities, people, and places that I want to incorporate into my life. Overrun by choices and the demands on my time, I quickly lose focus and catch myself spinning aimlessly, unable to accomplish anything.

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Me, trying to keep it all under control

Do you know the feeling?

 

When this happens I know that I need to sit down and re-read my “Life Priority List” to remind myself of what I consider to be my life’s over-arching essential goals and direction. It’s my personal vision statement so to speak. It’s my Big Picture “To-Do” List that helps me regain my perspective. It’s my compass to help me find my path when I can’t see the forest for the trees. Here is the gist of it:

-contemplative time to read and write in my journal
-maintain and build relationships with friends/family
-creative expression through song writing and blogging
-development of my piano/guitar/writing skills
-Mind/body wellness through exercise, meditation, etc.

In his motivational book, The War of Art, author Steven Pressfield talks about how, as a professional writer, he must continually discipline himself amidst the demands of the day in order to get his work done. He writes,” I’m keenly aware of the Principle of Priority, which states (a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and (b) you must do what’s important first.

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Me, when I can’t see the forest for the trees

I love the simple truth of this statement and have it taped to the wall in my studio. Like Pressfield, I must discipline myself each day to resist the siren call of the urgent, (basically everything on my “To-Do” Lists), and make my work my priority. I must first sit down and hammer out a set of lyrics, or practice chord progressions in the key of A flat, or flesh out a blog idea. I must take time to do what’s important or I will never find the time. I only feel overwhelmed when I lose sight of this. When I look at the map I’ve drawn for my life, suddenly it becomes clear what I need to subtract to regain my equilibrium.

 

Sometimes what’s urgent and what’s important are the same thing. Only you can decipher this. But if you know the difference between the two, and keep your priorities as Ground Zero, then you will not be subject to the relentless Tyranny of the Urgent with its insatiable appetite for your time. Funny thing, you may discover as I have that when I do my important work first, I feel more energized and I can let go of the stress of whether everything on those “To-Do” Lists actually gets Done.

Dear Readers, do you know what your big-picture life priorities are? How do you cope with the Important versus the Urgent in your daily life? Do share.

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When You Just Can’t Do Nothing

Chuckles is going to receive radiation treatments for his brain tumor. On Tuesday of next week, he will have another MRI and a CT scan to map the tumor for the radiation. If all goes well, they will begin treatment within 2 days. The protocol is for a total of 20 treatments,  given once daily, Monday through Friday for 4 weeks. Each one hits the tumor with a small dose of radiation. 

After the 2 hour consult on Monday with his radiation oncologist, I left feeling overwhelmed. So much to absorb and consider.  But by Wednesday I made the decision to go forward with treatment. When I looked at him lying in his bed, subdued but still so full of life, I knew that I could not do nothing. I realized that while there is risk, there is also a chance that he could have a good outcome. If I do nothing, there is no chance at all.

Chuckles at C.F.'s House

Who could say no to that face?

Even though it was a big relief just to make the decision, we’ve got a long way to go yet. The radiation could make the tumor bleed again. He could have a seisure. Each treatment requires him to be anesthetized, which is a risk in and of itself. But it’s like reading the side effects of your medication. If you worry about each one you’ll probably never take it! Once I stopped focusing on what could go wrong and started focusing on what could go right, the way became clear.

Then too, I know myself, and I know that I would regret not doing all that I could within reason. Living with regret is a lot tougher, and lingers longer, than accepting a loss. All of my friends have been so supportive of my decision and tell me that I am doing the right thing. And in my heart I know it’s true. IMG_2486