Insights: The Most Important Thing

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Sitting at my table tonight, I was focused on what I was working on when I received a text from my daughter with a picture of the beautiful sunset we were experiencing.  It sure made me take a deep breath and stop what I was doing. I was absolutely oblivious to how beautiful it was outside.

I went for a short walk to enjoy the change of colors in the sky while the sun slowly sunk below the ocean.  That never gets old, yet it is easy to forget to take those moments because our head is too distracted with the must do’s, or at least the should do’s.

Stephen Covey, author of “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” said “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

Covey has a wonderful matrix that consists of four boxes where we can spend our time.

The first box is filled with important deadlines with high urgency. In this box we are dealing with the must do’s. This might be paying our bills, making dinner, or other activities that need immediate attention. The problem with this box is there seems to be too many items in it, and if we live mainly in this area of our lives we are not making time for this next key box.

The second box is long-term development. To me this is the most important box.  This is where our goals, our dreams come into play. This is what makes life rich, meaningful and fulfilling. We grow and become a better person by ensuring that we spent time in this box on a daily basis.

Box three is full of distractions that have high urgency. Those are the things that you would like to get done but they do not have much meaning. This might be getting the dishes done before the in-laws arrive. We have to be careful that these tasks do not take over all our time.

The last box is on activities that have little value, such as watching television. It is easy to get distracted by these activities.

Life obviously is full of all four boxes. What is essential in life is finding a sense of balance. With balance we will get done what we need to do but also make time for those dreams and goals that are so easy to put off.

Clients will often say to me “I do not have time.” My response is if it was important enough you would make the time. The real issue is that it is easy to skip the important/not urgent box because there is no urgency, but without taking time for our goals and dreams, we tend to just exist in life.

Now imagine if we took just 10 percent of our day and put it towards our goals and dreams. Even if you took five minutes a day, you will start having your brain focus on what is important and before you know it you are spending more time on your goals.

How much time do you spend in the not important, not urgent box? Now imagine if you just took that time and moved it to your dreams and goals. Not many people actually have extra time in their day, so we have to make it happen.

Let me leave you with a quote from Stephen Covey: “The key is taking responsibility and initiative, deciding what your life is about and prioritizing your life around the most important things.”

Contact Dr. Shelly Zavala at or [email protected].

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