Ever notice how everything on your to-do list is calling your name demanding to be done right now? Isn’t it annoying that all those things feel important?
If that sounds all too familiar, then mama, it’s time to get clear about what’s urgent and what’s actually important. Because if everything is important then the truth is that nothing is important.
Urgent vs. Important
Urgent activities are those that cause our adrenaline to rise because the consequences of not doing them are immediate and negative. Things like a crying baby or a physical fight between siblings would be considered urgent.
Important things are those that add meaning to life. Activities that when done increase your vitality which results in an increased quality of life.
Activities that are important are easy to put off because no one, usually no one other than ourselves, is holding us accountable to them. They are the things that don’t have immediate consequences or immediate benefits. Important activities include meal preparation, moving your body, education, and long term planning.
As Stephen R. Covey says it’s important to remember that
“ What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.”
One way we can decide if something is important or not is by asking yourself if the activity helps you progress towards your goals. If it does not then it’s not important.
Categorizing Your Activities
Create a brain dump list and then categorize your activities so that you can schedule what actually matters first rather than trying to fit those things in later. The amount of time you’ll free up by categorizing your activities is mind-blowing.
Below are the categories, also knows as quadrants, from the Eisenhower Time Management Matrix
Category 1 (Q1): Urgent AND Important
These are the activities that require our immediate attention. Things that when not done as soon as possible result in immediate negative consequences. In other words, Q1 is crisis avoidance. Things like tending to a crying baby, last minute child care solutions, or a broken-down vehicle.
Certainly not always, but many times, we are able to avoid crises by planning ahead. Having a regular schedule for a baby, knowing your backup childcare solutions or regular maintenance on a vehicle can all be pre-planned. To avoid Q1 activities from becoming last-minute emergencies, think ahead.
Category 2 (Q2): Not Urgent BUT Important
The other name for this quadrant is “The Quadrant of Quality”. These activities you’ll put here are your priorities. Anything that brings meaning to your lives. And, all the self-care activities that are easy to put off but so essential to the quality of your life.
Doing these activities have some immediate benefits, but not doing these activities often have no immediate consequence and therefore are easy to put off.
Q2 are all the habit formation, healthy living, long-term planning, education, time taking activities that are necessary to create the life you’ve always dreamed of.
These are all the activities you need to be proactive with and patient about
Category 3 (Q3): Urgent BUT Not Important
Q3 is where your actual ‘to-do’ lists come into play. They are all the activities that are really good at making noise. These are the activities or tasks that give the illusion that they’re important. For example, the nagging mess or the buzzing of the laundry machine.
However, almost everything on your to-do list does not have to be done by you. You may prefer the way you do it, but they can essentially be done by anyone.
Take a look and see which tasks or activities in Q3 you can automate, delegate, or eliminate tasks. Examples include hiring someone to clean the house, asking for help with the laundry, or automating bill payments.
Category 4 (Q4): Not Urgent AND Not Important
These are the activities we do to zone out. Anything from gossip to mindless tv watching, social media scrolling, games on your phone, and so on.
Activities in this category are not bad! You cant always be expected to have brain available bandwidth to be doing something productive. You’re a busy mom who deserves a break and to spend time turned off and doing nothing.
These activities only become a problem when you find yourself mindlessly here as a distraction, escape, or a procrastination tool.
It’s not about never zoning out, it’s about zoning out on purpose for a specified amount of time.
Once you’ve categorized your to-do list it’s so much easier to make time for what’s matters most to you because you’ll have a much clearer picture of what is actually important and what is just posing as important.
When you schedule your Q2 activities first and everything else follows, all of a sudden your life will be filled with what adds meaning and you’ll feel like you just won the time lottery.