If you’re like most people, you probably spend most of your time handling the urgent demands of life, and the rest of your time doing things that don’t really matter….trolling Facebook, Candy Crush, and bad TV come to mind. We hardly ever make the time for the kinds of activities that have the biggest impact on life satisfaction: the ones that are truly important.
But what are these?
Screen-free time alone to think and reflect. Connecting with loved ones you don’t see every day. Playing the guitar, painting, or creating something that serves no immediate purpose other than satisfaction in the creating. Regular exercise and good eating habits. Because these are not urgently needed – there are no immediate consequences if we don’t do them – we tend to push them to the back burner…where they often stay for weeks, months, or years.
Yet ignoring these important activities to address only urgent matters is a recipe for an unsatisfying existence. When daily activities are dictated primarily by external demands, we live in a constant state of reaction – disconnected from a sense of personal purpose or significance. Our lives feel empty and hectic at the same time.
Steven Covey broke down this urgent/important distinction in his well-known book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He broke life activities in four quadrants: Quadrant I is for urgent and important deadlines – the things we must do now, or terrible things will happen right away; Quadrant II is for non-urgent, but important longer-term projects; Quadrant III is for urgent tasks that aren’t important but still need to get done ASAP (lots of things we consider urgent actually fall into this category); and Quadrant IV is for non-urgent, non-important activities… the things we most often find ourselves doing during breaks from urgent and important obligations. Social media. Television. Puttering.
Sadly, most of us spend our lives in Quadrants I and III dealing with the urgent stuff, and waste the rest of our time in Quadrant IV. Yet Quadrant II – the non-urgent, important activities – is where the magic happens.
This is the core of authentic connection…making choices every day that help you achieve the goals and ideals you hold most important. Nurturing your relationships, volunteering for causes you believe in, spending time in nature, journaling, and writing that novel or screenplay you’ve always wanted to write. None of these types of things are blowing up our phones or beating down our doors – but they are the things that will bring us a profound and enduring sense of satisfaction.
The key to authentic connection is tending to these important activities regularly, despite the many urgent demands on our time.
How? By carving out the space in your schedule to do the things that make you feel alive and purposeful. Calendar alone time to figure out what those are! Nourish your soul by helping a stranger, walking in the woods, creating something with your hands, and listening to your heart’s secret desires. Get real about what is truly urgent and important, and push back on unimportant demands on your time.
Prioritizing what’s most important is the only way to cultivate true connection, and cultivate a life of profound satisfaction, joy and peace.