Do you ever find yourself losing control over your time, energy and agenda for the day? You have thought through your plans and priorities, but somehow when it’s all said and done, you didn’t move the needle very far. Instead of ending the day with a sense of joy and peace, you are left with tasks on the to-do list and very little creativity and enthusiasm.
How does this happen? It usually starts with someone coming to you about, what they would describe as an urgent matter. They need you and they are expecting you to expend precious amounts of your limited time, energy and focus. You feel their anxiety, so you rearrange your schedule. Before you know it, the time you had saved for some critical matters is gone. You are now squeezed to get things done. You find yourself running around and you start to ask yourself…is this really urgent?
If we want to live and lead radially different, we need to protect ourselves from catering to the tyranny of someone else’s urgent. Don’t get me wrong, we need to be loving. God may be asking us to yield our schedules to Him. There are clear and present issues. Problems need to be solved. Tensions need to be managed. And no doubt, these issues are critical to the ones intimately involved and rightly so. But as I have exhausted my time and energy on some of those urgent matters, I’ve realized they are not urgent for me!
This is a common place to find ourselves. We can so easily take on someone else’s urgent. Often time we do so from a place of confusion, guilt or inability to set boundaries and keep them. How do we figure out if this is something that really needs our attention? Here are five things you can easily put into practice to avoid the tyranny of someone else’s urgent.
*Stop…Many times we get ourselves into situations because we jump right into action. This has been my biggest mistake. Hit the pause button. The gift of time, whether it is a few minutes or overnight, helps to give us a great deal of perspective. You don’t have to answer someone right away. Delay sending that email in response. Tell someone you need to look at your schedule and then you’ll get back to them. In fact, I’ve found that some “urgent” things have taken care of themselves in those spaces of time.
*Listen…Asking a few good questions not only can give you clarity but can reveal issues that are beneath the surface. When you hit the pause button, consider some questions to ask so that you can really know what this is all about. This helps you to survey the scene and see the full picture.
*Pray…Ask God to help you decide if this is something that needs your attention. Remember, there will be times when issues and problems are present but you may not need to be the person solving them. On the other hand, there will be occasions when we need to get involved. The Holy Spirit can give us the wisdom to know the difference!
*Look…Chances are you have some critical things that need to happen this week in order for you to move things forward in your life, work, and family. What are the non-negotiables? Identify the time needed and protect it…no apologies.
*Respond…If this is something that requires your attention then jump into the urgent. That may be exactly where God wants you to be, and now that you have taken some time to access the situation and pray, you probably have a better idea on what type of response would be most effective. If there are still critical things that must be done, think about how you can rearrange those non-essential things to another week so that your critical items don’t take a hit. And finally, if you have come to realize this is the tyranny of someone else’s urgent, don’t get swallowed up. Acknowledge them. Validate the issues that are there. Point people to resources. Love them and hold the boundary. You may disappointment them but that’s ok. You’ll always disappoint someone (I know, it stinks) but what is even more distressing is letting the time, energy and focus God has given you to slip away into the tyranny of someone else’s urgent when He has called you to pour it into something different.
Maintaining control over your time, energy and agenda doesn’t just happen. Don’t become complacent around this all too real threat. It will only lead to chaos, burnout, and bitterness. Live and lead radically different. Use this plan to avoid the tyranny of someone else’s urgent. Stop…Listen…Pray…Look…Respond. Practicing this rhythm will not only protect your time, but it will also give you wisdom, help you be effective, and give you peace.