In our most recent strategic planning meeting, our team discussed some principles of time management. I introduced the Eisenhower method that categorizes tasks as important or unimportant and urgent or not urgent. I put the matrix on the blackboard, and we looked for examples for the different quadrants. Urgent/important: A phone call with news that someone is very sick. Not urgent/important: Spending time with family. Regular meals. Enough sleep.
When we got to the urgent/unimportant quadrant, we got stuck. My coworkers couldn’t think of any examples. I suggested, “You are working on a very difficult task that requires all your concentration, and you need to get it done. Then someone comes to your door just to say hi. This is an interruption that is urgent, but not important.” They looked at me blankly. They didn’t seem to understand. “You are heading out for a Bible study. Someone stops you on your way for some small talk and makes you late for your appointment.” I could tell from their faces that they still didn’t see this as being unimportant. After some discussion I realized that “urgent but unimportant” simply doesn’t exist in my brothers’ worldview. Whatever example I brought up, they disagreed. For them there was no such thing as an unimportant visit, phone call or encounter. I saw an interruption, but they saw a person, and no matter what this person had to say, it was important. Even if he had nothing to say at all! I had to admit that even after so many years in this culture, some aspects were still challenging for me.
By the way, at the end we agreed that there are tasks that are less important than others. So we turned “unimportant” into “less important” and moved on with our meeting.