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WHAT IS ‘URGENT’ AND ‘IMPORTANT’?

The day has just begun. Before us are a seemingly endless number of tasks. The thought of all these may cause one to dread the day. From where should one begin?

Many would start by writing what is known as a ‘To Do’ List. One person, with many responsibilities in a large organisation notes how he stays on schedule. He states: “I keep a written list of things to be done. As new tasks come to mind, I add them to the list. Then I cross off each chore as it is completed.”

A similar written plan might help one to organize one’s daily activities. But some may respond, ‘That can help me get started, but I would never finish everything on my list.’ This can happen. So, it will be helpful to set priorities.

Priorities are set according to how important a task is. There will be times when one may choose to make an exception and not handle a matter in strict priority order, due to one’s circumstances and preferences. Being flexible is good. The objective is to stay in control so that what is done each day is by choice rather than by chance.

Rushing or worrying about doing everything, that one has listed, must be avoided. Rarely does one reach the bottom of a To Do List. It is not completing the list that counts, but making the best use of time in doing what is truly important.

The unfinished tasks can be delegated to others or transferred to tomorrow’s list. A task at the bottom of today’s list may have a higher priority tomorrow. But how can one be sure which activities on the list are of high priority? When looking at a long list of duties, many things may appear to be equally important. Discerning between urgent and important is required.

When looking over a list of duties, consider the results each one will bring. One can evaluate, “Will finishing the job produce significant benefits?” If not, it may not be a highpriority task.

Are urgent matters always important, deserving a major time investment? Important things are seldom urgent and urgent things are seldom important. Daily exercise for health maintenance is not urgent but it is important since it will yield major benefits. One will agree that it is more rewarding to work on something that yields results, than to simply be busy in doing what is on hand. We must try to put efforts, as much as possible, on works that gives true accomplishment.

Some have discovered that there are a number of situations in everyday life where Pareto’s principle applies. One can be eighty percent effective by doing two out of ten tasks listed.

Also, it is good to analyze a project before diving in. How much of it is truly important to one’s objective? Doing which things first will give the most output in the least amount of time? Breaking overwhelming tasks into smaller ones and doing them when one is most alert aids in better concentration.

Being in control of one’s time is not a matter of being preoccupied with ‘never wasting a minute’. Rather, effectivity comes by selecting the appropriate task to be done immediately. It means discerning which tasks yield the best results and spending time on them.

There are no fixed rules for personal investment of one’s time. By being flexible, adaptable and willing to experiment, one can discover what works best for oneself.

‘Time is the stuff life is made of,’ is a saying that holds true. If a person exchanges all his time for money by working day and night, the quality of one’s life goes down, relationships, also appreciation for higher spiritual values, suffers.

By getting better control of one’s time, what a sense of fulfilment one would have at the end of each day! One will, at last, be left with enough time and not feel as if one is a victim of circumstances. Life would then take on a deeper meaning and each task will be handled with increased effectiveness.

Our awareness of the past, present and future differentiates us from animals. Animals live in a continual present, but we, while living in the present, can also look into past experiences and anticipate future needs. And, as the years pass, one accumulates more of life’s experiences and time appears to move fast. While getting older, we painfully become aware of our own mortality. Should this not make one more considerate toward life and how one lives it?

THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY THE AUTHOR ARE PERSONAL

Rekha Kumar The writer is a work-life balance and leadership skills facilitator [email protected]

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