The Tyranny of the Urgent

urgentThe Dictionary defines “tyranny” as “cruel and oppressive power.” When you consider the context of the title of this post, it makes sense.

Here’s the situation: You’ve got several plates spinning. Among them there are some legitimate deadlines, but you also have some things that, while they need to get done, don’t have the same sense of professional urgency attached to them.  And while that might be plain when you step back and really evaluate your to-do list, it isn’t always obvious when you’re just in your “zone,” trying to get things done.

But in order for your day to be truly productive, you have to step back and collect your thoughts enough to ensure that your efforts are being deployed in the wisest manner possible. Otherwise, the “tyranny of the urgent” takes over and those things that are authentic priorities are usurped by what poses as “urgent.”

And I’ve come to discover that it’s not always obvious…

A Hierarchy of “Things”

In addition to that scenario where you’ve got a hierarchy of things that need to get done based on deadlines, commitments and such, you’ve also got that situation where you’re given the opportunity to spend some time with a family member or a close friend. At the time, it may not look like an opportunity as much as it’s processed as an interruption because of the angst surrounding what needs to get done. But there will always be a deadline and in the end our lives are measured in terms of the relationships we’ve been entrusted with more so than the tasks we’ve been assigned. That’s not a license to be less than diligent as much as it’s our cue to be discerning when it comes to the way we spend our time and the ever present tyranny of the urgent.

Three Years to Change the World

No One had more cause to be exasperated given the allotted timeframe and the amount of things that needed to be accomplished than Christ.  He had three years to change the world and initiate a missionary movement that would transform man’s approach to God. I can easily envision a host of intense administrative assistants laboring to keep Jesus on task and on time. But Jesus was never flustered and I think it’s because He personified the counsel He gave Martha when He said “You are worried about a great many things, but only thing is needed.” (Lk 10:41 [emphasis added]). He knew what was “needed” at any given point and I’m confident therein lies the secret to ensure that every day is productive in the most utilitarian as well as in the most profound sense –  to remember that while everything can potentially be categorized as urgent, there’s only one thing that’s “needed” right now.

That’s the thing that needs to be done now and that’s how one conquers the tyranny of the urgent.

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