The Tyranny of the Urgent

“The tyranny of the urgent frustrates every goal we hold.” - Mike Porter, The Time of Your Life

It’s surprising how easy I can get off track. How about you?

I have a goal for the day and then the urgent pokes at me screaming, “Do me first!” And I follow the command, do all those things first. When I get to the end of the day, I sometimes find I didn’t do what I intended to do at all. I end up frustrated and cranky. 

Does this ever happen to you? 

Does this quote from Marlene Bagnull, author of Write His Answer, hit home?

“Clutter greeted me everywhere I looked. Crumpled homework papers, crayons, toys, dirty socks. My husband didn’t mind the way the house looked. I did. It was a reflection of me! I resented my children for being so sloppy and accused myself of failing as a homemaker and a mother.”

This isn’t an article containing three steps to decluttering your home, or how to organize your house, or the best schedule for you. I do love all of the aforementioned topics. I think those topics are important. It’s not what I want to talk about though.

The Importance of a good attitude

More important these all of those practices – decluttering, organization, and schedule, is putting first things first. What’s more important than having a perfectly clean house and schedule, friends? Our attitude. Yep.

I’ve had my share of angry cleaning sessions. You know the kind when you vacuum vehemently? Or scrub the toilet while muttering under your breath about you’re the only one who cleans, no one else helps, or fill in the blank. I once asked a counselor what I could do about the angry feeling that sometimes came over me while I was cleaning. I wanted her to dig deep, maybe find some event in my past triggering my feelings. I wanted an excuse for my anger so I could blame someone other than myself. She didn’t give me one. She simply told me to change my attitude and think about something else while cleaning. Durn. It was on me. I had to do something.

The point is – a clean house doesn’t produce a peaceful feeling unless you have a great attitude. In the culture of our country, we women are told to create a picture perfect home. Just turn on HGTV ( I will, thank you) and you will find the best colors, counters, centerpieces, you name it for a gorgeous home. I love home design. I love to paint, decorate, make book wreaths, etc… As long as I keep in mind those are the fruit of my purpose, not my purpose. Then it’s okay. It’s better than okay. It’s amazing. Keeping my home to bless my families and others is a great use of my time.

Here are three tips I need to be reminded of in my life. They may seem elementary but sometimes I need the basics! 

  1. Put Christ first. I can get off track when I just plow into my day without taking some time to acknowledge God. I need to ask Him every day what He would like me to do. I’m a list maker. I make one every day. Sometimes the list becomes an idol. Instead of listening to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit to slow down, I look to the list. Guess what happens if the list doesn’t get finished? I feel as if I am a failure. I am frustrated. Peace is not being my umpire. As I have said before – You don’t have to work all the time. I need the reminder. Maybe there is something you need reminded of daily. Put Christ first and ask Him.
  2. Put your purpose second. If you are a wife and mother, obviously this comes next. What does that look like? I mean we quote it as our theology. We say “Family first” and similar sayings. We need to ask, what does it mean for my family? If you’re single, widowed, or an empty nester, the same guideline applies. Figure out what your purpose looks like lived out on a daily basis. For instance, in Marlene’s quote, she says her husband doesn’t care if the house is messy. Mine does. He likes things neat and orderly. So, I should try my best to keep it that way. Not because he dictated it to me, but because we are to consider the needs of others before ourselves. If your husband considers you the home administrator, then you have some liberty to make decisions like, let’s go hiking this afternoon and let the lunch dishes wait. Let’s have pancakes for dinner. Let’s clean first and then pull out the games on this rainy day. Amerey and I did a great podcast on this topic – Moms you are the boss and the employee. Which leads me right into tip number three.
  3. Add in some creativity to your day. As I’ve said many times before, hubby and I were both raised in work oriented families. It’s hard to break the mold and do something different. It’s as if we were both hardwired to work, work, work, eat, and then collapse. There’s no question about the work needing to be done. The way we do the work and the amount of time we set aside for the work is something we can have control over. Here’s a few examples, when we first moved into our new house in March, I was working all day. Literally. Unpacking, painting, cleaning, and repeat. After a few weeks I had a bit of a CFS crash. My body just shut down. One day, when my body felt as if I was in quicksand up to my neck, I took the time to evaluate the time I had spent working. Turns out, with packing and moving, I had spent six weeks without any real breaks or fun. Not good. So, I did something different after my recovery. First of all, I set a timer while I was working. I pre-determined how long I could work.  Second. I picked one fun thing to do a day – a walk, a swim, sauna time, reading time, or sitting down by the lake with my journal. My newest creative thing? I take my typewriter out on the porch in the evenings and work on some writing. Love it. Here’s another thought, work can be fun. I do love to work. Maybe I’m weird. I’m okay with that. How can work be fun? Turn on some music – my fave – Opera for People who Hate Opera. Make chores a contest. I used to have timed challenges for my kids getting dressed. Not only did it make getting dressed fun, it sped up the process. Add your personality to your work and make it fun!

Urgent poke

As far as the urgent poking you -there will always be dishes to wash, clothes to wash, smudges on the windows, and fill in the blank. It’s up to you to decide what to do when (to a point). When you make a choice -whether it is to leave the dishes while you play outside, when the urgent screams, remind your brain you chose this instead for now and it’s okay. 

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