As part of our Time Out series, JEMS founder Christine Ma-Lau 劉馬露明 reminds us that we need to refocus our priorities towards the important things in life.
I was trying to make plans with a friend the other day and realised that the first weekend day we had available was eight months away! To say life in Hong Kong is busy is an understatement. We have some of the longest work hours in the world, incredibly dense social lives and festivals every few weeks to celebrate. It’s exciting and part of what I love about living here but it can cloud our vision and has us focusing on what is urgent rather than what is important.
The difference between urgent and important matters
President Dwight Eisenhower got it right when he said, “what is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” In order to help people differentiate between the urgent and important, Eisenhower created what is now known as the Eisenhower Decision Matrix.
Urgent and important
Not urgent and important
Urgent and not important
Not urgent and not important
Time wasting activities
Our number one priority should be urgent and important things
It goes without saying that we should first attend to urgent and important items. When it comes to children, urgent and important could involve averting an accident. The problem is that we often also attend to the ‘urgent and not important’ – interruptions in what we’re doing like responding to emails within 2 seconds of receiving them. It’s important, but doesn’t require us to interrupt what we’re focusing on in the moment. It’s also easy to fall into the trap of spending time on the ‘not urgent and not important’ and I am guilty of that – watching too much TV and YouTube, checking Facebook every 5 minutes and shopping online.
We should invest more time in important and non-urgent matters
The quadrant we really miss out on is important but not urgent. Especially with our constantly-connected smartphones, it’s so easy to have our attention swept away by urgent things that demand immediate attention. We only have so much attention to give and hours in the day so it’s easy for the important things in life to get swept aside: investing in relationships, doing regular exercise, and taking time to reflect on our lives.
It’s important to step back once in a while and take time out to reflect on the things we prioritise. The things we choose to prioritise shape our lives. Sometimes we’re like hamsters on a wheel – we keep running and running but we don’t have a destination. In order to create the life we want, we need to take time out to sit down, take a step back and reflect on the big picture.
Some helpful questions to get you thinking about what’s important
1. What or who are the most important things and people in my life?
2. What have I done this year that I am proud of?
3. What am I passionate about?
4. Whom would I like to love on more this coming year?
5. What can I do better this coming year?
6. What/whom am I grateful for and how can I express it?
7. Where did I come from and where am I going?
I encourage you to join me and take time out to focus on where you want to prioritise your time. It might take a bit of work to shift some of your priorities at first, but I promise, it will be worth it.
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Christine Ma-Lau’s 劉馬露明 passion for educating children in character and values inspired her to establish the JEMS Learning House, a leading institution that provides Character Education to children up to the age of 12. Christine is the Principal of the JEMS Learning House, Adjunct Professor at the Education University of Hong Kong and Founding Chairperson of Character Education Foundation, an NGO that provides training and resources to schools & organisations in the area of character. As an expert in Character Education, Christine has hosted talks, workshops and trainings for students, teachers and social workers at prestigious institutions including The University of Hong Kong, The Education University of Hong Kong, St. Paul’s Co-Educational College, St. Stephen’s College and International Christian School to name a few.