Sometimes I feel like I’m living a lifelong riddle of how to coordinate my energy with what really matters. There are so many contradictions at work in society that it seems nearly impossible to live both simply and involved. The volumes of paperwork, emails, calls, texts, are just some of the ways we can get bogged down in “participation.” It seems we have to buy into some measure of the rat race if we want to live in the modern world today. Before long all the extra “stuff” ends up center stage as we entertain a false sense of what’s important, of what’s really our responsibility, thus missing the point of being present to the most treasured, meaningful, beautiful parts of living.
So how do we get rid of the clutter — the material, digital, scheduling, ruminating clutter that takes on a life of its own, stealing our time and joy? How can we beak free from needless attachments and the useless guilt trips imposed by self or others? Stephen Covey’s matrix from his book, First Things First, has resurfaced in my mind to point me in the right direction. It basically helps one realize where they are putting their time and energy, using four quadrants:
1) Important and Urgent (e.g. actual crises, pressing problems, true deadlines). As you might imagine, these are things we have to manage out of necessity.
2) Important and NOT urgent (e.g. planning for things you care about, relationship-building time, relaxation and recreation). This is the golden zone where we want to focus most of our time for quality living.
3) NOT important and urgent (e.g. most emails, some calls, other people’s expectations, etc.). This is where urgency is disguised as importance and we have to avoid spending time here.
4) NOT important and NOT urgent (e.g. junk mail, busywork, mindless tv watching, etc.). This quadrant is where time is wasted the most and the best option is to skip it altogether.
Using the above guide I can stop and ask myself where does a particular task fall. Just pausing to pray and order my day can help tremendously. As I try to live mostly in the spaces of the first two quadrants, I have to be aware of the lure of the bottom two, especially the false sense of responsibility that bubbles up to challenge healthy boundaries.
Covey’s matrix is just one tool in service of prioritizing what really matters in life. Whatever the method, the goal is worthwhile for our time here is precious. How might you break free to enjoy your life force more fully?
May you be inspired!