A friend of mine was narrating how he had gotten to the final stage in the selection process of an organization he so much wanted to work for but couldn’t make it through. What caught my interest was not the fact that he could not make the final stage of the interview. People fail interviews all the time, there’s nothing new there. What I was particularly interested in was the fact that about a year before this interview he had the opportunity to have enrolled for a course that would have helped him in answering the questions he was now being asked but he did not enroll for that course.
In Stephen Covey’s Time Matrix, he broke down all activities we engage in into four groups based on their urgency and importance. As a quick recap these were the four quadrants:
Quadrant 1: Urgent and Important (Necessity)
Quadrant one is full of crises; pressing problems demanding immediate attention e.g. a sick child, deadlines, very important meetings, etc.
Quadrant 3: Urgent but Not important (Deception)
Quadrant three is full of activities that are unnecessary but urgent. Like quadrant one they demand immediate attention but really add no value e.g. a ringing phone, a blackberry message, many emails, other people’s minor issues, interruptions.
Quadrant 2: Not urgent but Important (Preparation)
Quadrant two activities are where we are proactive because we have to deliberately do them e.g. building relationships, training, prevention, etc.
Quadrant 4: Not urgent and Not important (Waste)
Quadrant four is full of wastes and excess. Activities that are done to escape from quadrants one and three e.g. watching mindless TV, playing useless games, etc.
The reality is that we all engage in activities that lie in the four quadrants. Irrespective of your expertise in time and life management, there are still some things that are outside your control. Once in a while, events will turn out such that the only option you have is to fire-fight: when you just have to drop all the big plans you have already planned out and just fire-fight to put back on track something you never planned for. You suddenly get a call that your child got involved in an accident, every other thing has to wait. Something urgent and important has come up.
But such occurrences happen once in a while. Most times it is our laxity in tackling issues very early that leads to most of the fire-fighting that we do. And then, as is common with most of us in Africa, we start binding the bind-ables and loosing the loose-ables. But like I reiterated in my note The Hand of God; The Hand of Man, God will not do everything for you. You have a part to play.
Affirming your love for your spouse verbally may not be an urgent task but it is very important. Following your child to that activity in his school is a task that you can defer, after all it will happen again next year, but it is a very important task. Reading a book is not urgent, it is always in your room, you can read it anytime, but it is a very important task. If you don’t discipline yourself to do important things that are not urgent, then you better have enough water in your tank because soon there will be several fires to quench.
When your spouse says, "It is over between us," saying "I love you" at that time will no longer fix your marriage. When you sit face to face with that interviewer, the best you can do is wish you had taken that course 6months ago when you had the opportunity. You may pray as much as you want at that moment, speak in the tongues of angels and of men, but at that moment you have placed God in handcuffs, there is nothing he will do for you. When the anointing of God rests upon a man, it is what it finds in the head of that man that it will work with.
You may find this hard to believe but I have not read a single book this year that has to do with the areas I write on. While I write on personal leadership, I have not read a single book on personal leadership this year 2012. For my personal development this year my focus is on financial intelligence and spiritual growth and every single book I have bought this year has been on finance or spiritual growth. The last time I read Seven Habits of Highly Effective People was 2005. But that was where I learnt about the Time Matrix that I stated at the beginning. I learnt and started practicing what I write about today over five years ago. In the same way by 2014 my focus on writing will be financial intelligence so I am already studying in that area and practicing the principles I am learning.
What amazes me the most is that the same person who could not let a ringing phone just ring; the same person who would cut short an important discussion to receive a phone call; the same person who cannot hear her blackberry beep without halting every other thing just to respond to a ping, will defer truly important things like preparation, planning, studying, training, etc. because he or she feels it is not needed now. These people don’t yet know the difference between an interruption and an important thing.
Things which matter most must not be at the mercy of things which matter least. People who live their lives in quadrant one will always be in crisis mode because urgent things act on us. These people usually have a problem with time management. Most problems don’t show up as crises. It is poor time management skill that makes activities become crises.
People who live most of their lives in quadrant three, focusing on urgent but not important things usually have problems with their value system. They mistake urgent things for important things. A ringing phone might be calling for your attention now, but most calls are not important. Most mails are not important but the moment they get the notice, "You’ve got mail," they halt every other thing to read the mail instead of having a set time when they read mails. Because they spend their time on urgent things that are really not important, truly important things are left undone until they become crises. And at this time the hands of God are cuffed.
Truly effective people do what is needful even when there are no indications that they need to do it now. They spend most of their time planning, building relationships, participating in training, studying, preparing, they also value recreation and exercise. They spend time and money on these activities because they know that spending time on these activities is an investment in their future. They hardly get into crisis mode. Nor do they lead irresponsible lives by living engaging in quadrant three and four activities.
You place God in handcuffs when you think that because something is not urgent it means it is not important and when it finally degenerates into a crisis you begin to ask, "Where is God?" when the truth is you have placed God in handcuffs.
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