If you haven’t read “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey, I highly recommend it. Some of the book’s concepts are nuanced and hard to pick up on during the first read, but if you are open to what Mr. Covey suggests, it can really improve your life.
On of the concepts touched on in the book is how to increase productivity in your day. The author suggests making of list of everything you have to do. Then, move each item into 1 of 4 categories:
Urgent and Important
Important, but not Urgent
Urgent, but not Important
Not Urgent and not Important
Once divided into these categories, you’ll have a better picture of what needs to be done now (Urgent and Important), what needs your focus (Important, but not Urgent), what needs to be delegated (Urgent, but not Important), and what needs to be forgotten about (not Urgent, not Important).
This concept is not new. It is commonly known as an Eisenhower Cube or Eisenhower Box and looks like this:
Mr. Covey suggests that highly effective people put important things first. As such, you should fill your day with Important, but not Urgent items. In business, these are often items that serve a long term benefit (advertising, marketing, money saving strategies, systemizing, etc.). In life, these are also items with long term benefits (learning to cook, buying heath insurance, exercising, creating lasting friendships, etc.).
The problem is that we are constantly bombarded with items that fit under Urgent and Important or Urgent and Not Important. Most of the time, items on our to do list are Urgent and Not Important, but someone (like your boss), makes them seem Urgent and Important. Our phones buzz and beep all day long giving us the sense of urgency. As such, we constantly push the Important, but not Urgent items to the back burner in order accomplish Urgent items throughout our day.
This is why people have a hard time starting and sticking with a fitness program.
How many of you miss your workouts because of work? How many of you run around all day and then say you are too tired to go to the gym? How many of you are too tired from the busy day before to wake up early to go to the gym? How often do you decide at the last minute to go out and drink instead of working out?
People prioritize their lives to put Urgent items first. Since Important items don’t have an immediate beneficial result, we tend to push them off so we can complete an Urgent task and get that little dopamine kick when we accomplish something. This is why we have members who cancel their membership for “Lack of Attendance.” It’s not because they can’t make it to the gym. It’s because they have decided not to prioritize their health and well being as an Important task in their life.
If you are wondering if you are putting Important items first, ask yourself how you will feel at the end of your life. Will you look back and say, “I am only 65 years old, I wish I would have spent more time being healthy instead of doing X (like working all the time)?” If so, then X is an Urgent item and not Important. Those Important items in your life also tend to be the most fulfilling ones that will bring you lasting happiness. I challenge you to go make your own Eisenhower Cube and see if you are spending more time on Important items or Urgent items.