Wednesday, January 24, 2018

3.31- The Tuning Slide: Time for the Important

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

… whenever our affairs seem to be in crisis, we are almost compelled to give our first attention to the urgent present rather than to the important future.
-Dwight D. Eisenhower
Okay, time to get going here. It is getting to be urgent. Here is the thought from last year’s Trumpet Workshop for this week:
✓ Have to schedule the not urgent/important or it gets lost
I am not joking when I say it is getting urgent. It is now Monday night as I am writing this and it has to be ready by Wednesday morning with other things happening in-between. Yes, these posts are important, but they don’t get urgent until the deadline nears. I have always been a person who works at deadline. That doesn’t mean I work better at deadline, I just tend to get sidetracked. That does not usually mean procrastinate, although sometimes it does. In general I just find too many things interesting. Once in a while the “urgent” do take over and push the other important things out of the way.

President and World War II commanding general Dwight D. Eisenhower is given credit for this whole idea picked up by many over the past 75 years including Stephen Covey who wrote the iconic book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The whole idea is often presented this way:
What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.
This can be illustrated with this 2 x 2 matrix, often called the Eisenhower Matrix.

It is easy to figure this out. Many of us, myself included, spend way too much time on the urgent, or what we think is urgent. As shown in this next illustration, things we often call urgent are truly just interruptions, things that get in the way and we can’t avoid them. How often do we truly have something urgent AND important? Sure they happen, but are they all that common? Probably not as much as we think.

Simple illustration that has happened over the years with the advent of cell phones and other personal media devices is the urgency of the phone call. It occurs every time that device buzzes. Even my Garmin Fitness Tracker had a buzz that would tell me when to move. I turned it off, not because I wasn’t going to move, but it became a serious distraction. The buzz said, in essence: “Urgent! Urgent! Urgent!” Think about the next time your phone buzzes with a text message, or your computer beeps with a friend’s Facebook post.

Think back on the past couple of days. How many of the things that happened were “urgent” but far from important? In reality, how many of those “urgent” things could probably be moved into the bottom right corner of neither important nor urgent? Most likely more than we care to admit.

The box that gets missed more often than not is the upper right, highlighted below.

These things in this box are important, but they may not have a deadline attached to them, they don’t interrupt us and call out for our attention. In fact many of them easily get missed as we go through the day. We say things like “I’ll get to that later” or “Gee, I wish I had more time for that.” A few weeks or so ago someone posted on the Shell Lake Trumpet Workshop Facebook page a remembrance of a conversation with Bill Bergren a number of years ago. In essence it was,
“I don’t have time to practice two hours a day.”
      “Oh really? Do you have 15 minutes from time to time?”
“Sure, but…”
      “Well, every time you have 15 minutes, use it to practice. By the end of the day you will have your two hours of practice.”
Is daily, significant practice important? You bet it is.
Is daily, significant practice urgent? No. If it’s urgent, it’s too late.

Goal setting, planning, scheduling, and active doing are important things that fall into that upper right quadrant. Exercise, vocation and planning are what’s in the box above as examples. Doing things for your health and growth, doing things for your meaning and direction, setting your goals and the ways to carry them out. This puts the important in a place where it is less likely to get interrupted as often. It becomes part of your schedule.

Another way of describing what you need to do with the items is in the next matrix.
First is always the “Urgent/Important.” Do those things. Do them as soon as you can. Make sure they are given proper attention and management. But be careful. I know people for whom every event or situation escalates into an immediate “Crisis!” which means “Emergency!” and therefore takes precedence over everything. These people are living in a perpetual crisis mode and never get to the long-term issues until they, too, become “urgent”.

At the bottom left are the interruptions and distractions. These are not important but seem urgent. These can be the leftovers of the crisis mode above, or they can just be the things that pop up with all too frequent regularity. Learn to avoid them, let others handle them, or put them in their proper place.

Bottom right issues are, for me, the biggest problem. I easily have way too many “Oh, look at the squirrel over there” moments. I stop typing here and think, “Oh, I’ll just go check my email. Might as well look at what’s happening in the news. Hmmm, maybe somebody on Facebook….” That happened a couple times this past weekend and it got in the way of me practicing my trumpet as much as I wanted to- and it pushed off writing this post until now.

Which brings me to what may be the most important quadrant for our growth and future, the top right. The word there to really catch is “Focus.” That’s the purpose of goals, and the reason we write down our goals, and why I keep a journal of my daily practice as well as the James Blackwell-inspired daily checklist. I can plan and decide; I can focus; I can adjust and make sure I am dealing with what’s important. It may be a small thing I discover, but chances are it will help me reach my goal. For example, I noticed on Saturday that I had not been working on the “interval” exercises. Nothing urgent about them, but they are important. I had been sidetracked by other important things, but I wasn’t finding a balance. When we work in that upper right quadrant we are finding ways to expand our horizons, accomplish our goals, and balancing our lives.

Here is one more matrix with other issues added:

I love the titles given in this one.
#1 is necessity. It’s got to happen. (Do it now!)
#2 is quality. It makes life interesting and meaningful. (Schedule and do ASAP!)
#3 is deception. It looks bigger than it is. (Delegate or delete.)
#4 is waste. It eats up your time with little benefit. (Ignore.)
In the best of all possible worlds, the Eisenhower Matrix sized to time spent on these should look like this:

Maybe take some time this week to work on that upper right quadrant. Take a look at your goals and how you are managing and planning. Then go for it.

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