Years ago as a new Christian, my mentor introduced me to a short pamphlet titled Tyranny of the Urgent! by Charles E. Hummel. This small book had a big impact on my life, so much so that I have purchased multiple copies of this book and passed them out to friends and clients.
According to Hummel:
Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important…the problem is that the important task rarely must be done today or even this week. The momentary appeal of these (urgent) tasks seems irresistible and important, and they devour our energy. But in the light of time’s perspective their deceptive prominence fades; with a sense of loss we recall the important task pushed aside. We realize we’ve become slaves to the tyranny of the urgent.”
What about you? Do you allow the urgent to crowd out the important?
As Christians, our role model is Jesus, who on the night before He died said, “I have finished the work You (God) gave me to do” (John 17:4, NKJV). How could he say THAT? During his three-year ministry, he healed many. Still, others remained to be healed. He cast out demons. Yet, others remained in bondage. He raised Lazarus from the dead, but how many remained dead?
Jesus differentiated between the urgent and the important. Sure He had hectic days, but He always had time to talk with people. He PRIORITIZED his life around His Heavenly Father’s will, and He checked in with His Father often.
Eliminate the Tyranny of the Urgent with the Four D’s of Decision-Making
To help you avoid the tyranny of the urgent and decide what to tackle daily, consider this “Four D” checklist:
When facing a task, ask yourself, “Is this something only I could do?” If not, consider delegating this task to someone else. Don’t assume you’re the only way who could do a task. Jesus, with His limited time, trained a dozen apostles and quite a few other disciples to carry out His mission on earth.
If you don’t have anyone to whom you can delegate, you are guaranteeing that you will always be at the mercy of the urgent. Perhaps it’s time to consider an executive assistant. (Check out Michael Hyatt’s post on this topic.)
Sometimes it’s best to defer a task or decision until you’ve had time to discern if it is something the Father is calling you to do. At other times, that’s not the case and common sense should prevail. Obviously, if your boss tells you something is urgent, then follow through and complete the task.
If you feel the request is unreasonable, it may be time to ask yourself, “Is this job really God’s will for me?” Questions like these are best discerned within the context of community, starting with your spouse.
Sometimes a task is clearly important and urgent, and you just have to do it. Or you might look at scheduling the task for a time that is more convenient to you. Again, use common sense about what you need to tackle immediately and what can wait until later or be delegated to someone else.
For tasks that are important but not urgent, such as reading your Bible, spending time with family members, exercising, etc., be sure to add them to your calendar. If you don’t carve out time to tend to the important, it simply won’t happen. Be intentional and purposeful in keeping your calendar. The key to making it work is determining beforehand that these appointments are non-negotiable so some urgent task doesn’t displace them.
What about those tasks that are non-urgent? Non-important? Ask yourself these questions, “Does this really need to be done or am I making unnecessary work for myself? Or, “Am I taking on work that is someone else’s responsibility to complete?” Or perhaps the deadline has passed or that survey has closed. Don’t let it clutter up your inbox. Instead, delete it.
Of course, this is a very simplistic model, and there will be grey areas that don’t fit neatly into this model — that’s life. But even just taking a few minutes to run down the “Four D” checklist should help you be more like Jesus — and to say, with integrity, “I have finished the work God has called me to do.”