CORE PRINCIPLE: FIRST THINGS FIRST
If you want to accomplish important things focus on your internal compass of what matters most now, rather than a clock, a to do list, or trying to stuff everything into a jamb packed calendar.
This idea comes from my favorite book by productivity/meaning of life expert, Stephen Covey. It’s called First Things First.
He divides all of life’s activities into four quadrants, and I have found it very helpful, in avoiding other people ‘junk’ in both my work and personal life.
Are you immortal? If so, just add everything to a list, knowing that eventually you will get to each item.
But time is precious, so consider Covey’s Quadrants.
I used to feel like I had all the time in the world. No more. This is a simple model. The left column is filled with things that are URGENT, the right is NOT urgent.
Zoning out with TV, drugs, overuse of social media, etc. is quadrant 4. If you park there, the best you can hope for is to be entertained but idle.
Quadrants 1 & 3 are relative, in the sense that what’s urgent to one of my design clients, may not be urgent to me. I’m thinking of the time someone called my at 11pm on Saturday night do to a “Sofa Emergency.”
There are no Sofa Emergencies.
The interesting quadrant is #2, the realm of Planning & Prevention, both things I avoided until I was about 40. Planning a career move, rather than rashly quitting, getting to a skin doctor for an 5 minute annual check, instead of having your life destroyed by an easily treated disease. And, even if your life is hectic spending time on Quad 2, which will do more make your life better months or years in the future. If a brushfire is spreading toward your home, of course, switch into Quad 1, drop everything else, and evacuate.
But when we let our important stuff, #1 & #2 get shoved aside by other people’s priorities, we become victims of False Urgency. It rules many people work lives, and if you don’t make a change, you will wake up one day with regrets for all the deep accomplishments you missed.
When this compass guides your time and energy, you will not let the deep things in your life get extinguished by other people’s confusion. That old aphorism / shop sign, “Your poor planning is not my emergency,” is a good example.
We can’t LIVE DEEP every day, but there is always some room for planning and self-care.
If you entirely stop expressing yourself creatively because your kids need you, you have an 18 year + hiatus in store.
A well know truth is that our kids learn more from our deeds, than for our words. You art, craft, adventurous travel, writing, etc., matter. The can’t wait. As Eric Maisel, another favorite guide for me says, “It’s a fantasy to wait for that clear calm time. It’s a form of self delusion. What you have to do is learn to be creative in the midst of the things you must do.
That doesn’t mean daubing painting on a canvas with a brush in your mouth while you do the ironing. It means, sometimes it’s good to have wrinkled clothes for a few days, and savor the feeling of making something beautiful.
FIRST THINGS FIRST is really, really important.
The image of that chart with four quadrants got embedded in my head 15 years ago.
I still fall victim to urgency often, or shut down and watch reruns of my favorite sitcom, when it’s too stressful to work on the book I’m writing.
Once you have that image in your mind in a way similar to warning lights on your cars dashboard, you can realized that another person pseudo crisis, and instead listen to music that inspires you. You can spend 20 minutes, even in the most hectic day, stretching or exercising, turn off the TV after enjoying a good show for an hour, and then move to a quiet space and read a book like Deep Work, which can hone your skill at avoiding hooks of frantic/busy people.
I’ve been meeting lots of new people. It’s a time in my life where growing connection matters deeply. When I meet someone who’s 3rd sentence, is, “I’m so super busy,” I quickly excuse myself to chat with someone else, who might actually have time to share something interesting. Busy people are mostly just busy in my opinion. Like work-a-holics, they tend to not actually be that productive.
Why go out to a mixes, and talk about how nuts your life is, or focus on the things that aren’t working well.
Imperfect as I am, I can say making Quad 2 a priority every day guides me to put my energy into the big stuff. Growing older, I hope to spend more time in that realm.