Over the last week or so, I’ve challenged you, based on concepts championed by Stephen Covey in his books The 7 Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and First Things First, to focus on the important and urgent in how you manage your time. The urgent will always be around and nagging at you, and some urgent matters are important and necessary to tend to. It is valuable to remember that the unimportant urgent matters are only distractions. While it’s fine to spend time on unimportant things, it’s not really productive time. If you’re trying to maximize your time management, you should attempt to limit your time spent on unimportant matters, no matter how urgent they seem.
An urgent free pass is an exception to the rules of urgent and important
Sometimes matters that would normally be considered unimportant in a business or work context take on a whole other meaning when a special or important person is involved. The unimportant can suddenly become important when the right person, such as your spouse or child, asks for an urgent free pass. The same is true in an office context when you’re dealing with your boss or other people in the company whose input or needs matter more than others. Don’t be so rigid in your focusing on what you consider important that you lose track of important people. Put relationship first by giving important people in your life an urgent free pass to bump their urgent matters to the top of your list.
Who in your life gets an urgent free pass?
Who is an important person to you who is worthy of an urgent free pass? Most people would give their spouse and children an urgent free pass most of the time, and as I mentioned above, you would probably give your boss and other influential coworkers a pass to place their urgent matter high on your list. It can sometimes be very hard to stop what you are doing and sacrifice your productivity and your view of important things when someone else’s day blows up, but relationships are worth making sure you are taking care of other people with the occasional urgent free pass, even when it’s hard to let go of your own task list.
Here is a case in point: while I was writing this article, my wife’s laptop shut down spontaneously. She was in the midst of working on an important document, and in shutting down, her laptop didn’t give her any opportunity to save her work. And after the computer rebooted, it appeared that there was no recovered or autosaved version of her two hours of work. She brought her laptop to me as both an urgent and important matter to her, and because I love my wife and want the best for her, she is one of the people in this world who has an urgent free pass to make something both urgent and important to me. In that particular moment, she was pounding on my “urgent” button to get my immediate help. After I worked through a few moments of frustration that I had to put aside my writing, I commandeered her laptop to try to retrieve her hours of work (and ultimately failed at that task).
Put relationships first as you create functional but flexible boundaries to get things done
The reality is that in some moments, it is the right thing to let someone else’s urgent and important concern override your own. The key is keeping your list of free passes short while keeping relationship on the forefront. Of course, make sure you’re accomplishing what you personally need to be completing. But if you’re setting good boundaries with people and technology, limiting your open door and the access of immediate notification from email, texts and phones, hopefully you’ll have enough margin in time and energy to help out the people around you who are important to you and also need help on an urgent matter.
To whom (besides your spouse, kids and boss) do you give an urgent free pass?