Savage is the founder and Executive Director of Hearts
at Home, an organization designed to encourage, educate,
and equip women in the profession of motherhood.
Hearts at Home
Conquering The Urgent
in a solitaire playoff at the Savage household. I recently taught my
youngest two sons to play solitaire and now it is their card game of
choice. Last night they asked if we could play a couple of games before
bedtime. In the past I might have said, “Not tonight. Mom’s
got too much to do.” But not last night--last night my answer
was “Yes! Let’s play!”
What made the difference? It was a conscious decision to choose the
important over the urgent.
Everyday the urgent things in life scream for our attention: phone
calls, email, and household chores. At the same time the important things
wait quietly in the background: a date with our spouse, a story read
to a child, or a teenager who needs his parent’s full attention.
The urgent is usually task-oriented, while the important is people focused.
When we choose the urgent over the important we send a message that
tasks are more important than people and relationships.
Conquering the urgent requires that we identify the demands that steal
our focus and time. Once identified, we have to choose to manage the
demands but not be controlled by them. We also have to make conscious
decisions to choose the important over the urgent each and every day.
Evaluate how you are doing by answering these questions:
1. Do you think you need to answer the phone every time it rings?
2. Do you answer the phone during family meals?
3. Do you find yourself saying to your kids, “I’ll help
you in just a minute. Let me finish this email.” ?
4. Do you frequently say, “Not now. Maybe later.”?
5. Do you tell your spouse that you have too much to do to go out on
a date or spend time talking?
6. Are your favorite television shows robbing you of playing a game
with your children?
If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, you probably
need to take an honest look at your priorities and make a serious effort
to choose the important over the urgent.
Here are some suggestions for making some changes:
Phone: When talking with your spouse or children,
don’t answer the phone. If you are reading a story to your child
and the phone rings, let the voice mail or answering machine take a
message, then return the call at a time that is convenient for you.
Our family has taken this one step further by signing up for a “distinctive
ring” service through the phone company. When a family member
dials our distinctive ring number, the phone rings with a special ring.
When someone calls our regular phone number, the phone rings normally.
This way we know if the call is important or urgent by the sound of
the ring. It assures that if a spouse or children call, the phone will
Email: Do your best to answer email during a time
when you are needed by others the least. This might mean rising thirty
minutes earlier in the morning rather than sitting down at the computer
after dinner. If you absolutely must do email while the family is active,
be prepared to stop frequently and attend to the needs of your spouse
or children without telling them you’ll be with them in “just
Television: If at all possible, refrain from watching television unless
you can do so as a family or tape your favorite shows and watch them
at a time that the children are in bed. Don’t make the mistake
of counting television viewing as a valid option for quality time with
your spouse unless it is a choice you make together. Choose entertainment
options that include your spouse and children rather than exclude them.
To Do List: Rather than taking the martyr approach,
include the family in chores such as cooking, cleaning, and laundry.
This gives opportunity for team building in the family. When our list
drives us, we’re focused on the urgent. When our relationships
drive us, we’re focused on the important.
Life is a constant tug of war between the urgent and the important.
When we’re blind to it there will be consequences of broken or
strained relationships. Make a fresh start today by evaluating the urgent
things in your life and making them secondary to the important people
in your life.
Jill Savage (www.jillsavage.org)
is the founder and Executive Director of Hearts at Home (www.hearts-at-home.org),
an organization designed to encourage, educate, and equip women in the
profession of motherhood. She is the author of five books including Professionalizing Motherhood, Is There Really Sex After Kids?, and her
newest release My Heart’s At Home. Jill and her husband, Mark,
have five children and make their home in Central Illinois.
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