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First Things First – Determining What is Important in Your Life

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Why are some people so stressed up with so many things to do? It seems like 24 hours in a day is not sufficient for them. These people are very easy to identify. Their desks will be overflowing with documents, files, books, catalogs, and what-nots, so much so that there is hardly any space for actual work. To add to the clutter, you may even find a hastily written note stuck somewhere with these words, DO NOT DISTURB, GENIUS AT WORK!

You may even see someone who looks like a nutty professor too, slogging at his desk, bald headed with some wildly uncombed hair sticking out from his head, perspiration at the hands and armpits, nervous and easily agitated, rushing here, rushing there – and looking extremely pleased with himself for being so busy.

Sometimes, this may be a Hollywood show, put up for the benefit of all the people around him to highlight his busy-ness and importance. The dialog he makes: talking in loud voices so that everybody can hear also helps to bring this message across. For this type, I will say, Let the show go on.

But for the genuinely overloaded person, I would suggest that he needs some help with his time management.Time management is essentially doing things that matters most and avoiding those that are not important. Everybody has 24 hours a day. It’s just how a person uses his time that determines whether he is in control of time or time has control over him.

Learning how to Put First Things First can be a real challenge for many people. This principle is summed up as Habit 3 by Stephen Covey in his best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.In his follow-up book, First Things First – the definitive work on Time Management – Stephen Covey explains that most people are driven by the concept of urgency. But in order to be really effective, we need to reorganize the way we spend our time – based on the concept of importance – not urgency.

The author divided activities into 4 quadrants of time matrix: Quadrant 1 – Urgent and important Quadrant 2 – Not urgent but important Quadrant 3 – Urgent and not important Quadrant 4 – Not urgent and not importantWhat he proposes was that we should be doing more of Quadrant 2 activities and less of the others. Some examples of quadrant 2 activities are:Planning for long and short range Preparation Reading/expanding the mind Professional development Physical exercise Leisure/recreation Devising and implementing systems Prevention Envisioning the future Relation building.

The results of properly dedicating ourselves to Quadrant 2 activities are that we will gain control over what is happening in our lives: we will thereby reduce the time we spend in Quadrant 1, less time on other people’s agendas in Quadrant 3 and totally eliminate the time wasters in Quadrant 4. In order to carry out Quadrant 2 activities, a person has to take a deep look at himself to determine what is important to him as an individual in his role in the family, community, workplace and other aspects of his social life. His time management plan will therefore focus on activities that enhance those important roles on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis.

When he carries out that plan, knowing fully what his goals are, he will no longer waste time doing things that are not important to him. In the end he will have mastered his time because all Quadrant 2 activities are important but they are not urgent. There is no rush or deadlines to worry about if these activities are carried out consistently. All this is fine as long as one knows what is important. But be careful! This is a double-edged sword. It can work for good or for bad. Sometimes our thinking gets flawed. Sometimes, we cannot see the wood for the trees. We look at some important things, but we miss the most important. Do we really know what the most important thing in our lives is?

What happens when a person has evil desires and judgment? What happens when a person believes in selfish pursuits? What motivates him? Is it greed, or lust, or power, or hatred? Some people become super effective war mongers, dictators, pollution producing industrialists, slave drivers, destroyers of the earth who know exactly what their designs and planning will achieve. In the bible, when Job in his ignorance questions why a good man like him suffers so terribly, God essentially brings him back to his senses by showing him all the wonders of Mighty God and who he is in comparison. Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Job acknowledges that, ..Surely, I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. (Job 42:3) And God accepted Job’s repentance.

So what is important in our lives? Is it not the gift of life itself? And who is the one who gives us our lives? Why, it is God, the Almighty Himself. Can we control life and death? No, we cannot. When the time is up, we die and disappear from the earth. Nobody can escape that. Is that not important? Why, we can control our time so marvelously during our lifetime after we learn about time management techniques. We can control our time, our activities, but we cannot control our time on earth. So does that make God more important? Is it not better to give God the ultimate importance first and let Him be a master of your life? Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)

First things must come first.

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