Charles E. Hummel opens his book, Tyranny of the Urgent by asking a question many of us would undoubtedly answer yes to, “Have you ever wished for a thirty-hour day?” Though Parkinson’s Principle indicates that work expands to fill all available time, I nonetheless would treasure a few extra hours here or there. Most of us whether we are going to work, school, or running errands have some sort of “plan of attack” or a certain time frame for what we want to get done. Whether you receive an unexpected visit from a friend or a phone call from a relative, it goes without saying that things don’t always go according to plan. We don’t have foreknowledge of the future as God does, so we can hardly predict or prevent these unexpected events, even if our motto is to “expect the unexpected.” The fact of the matter is, time won’t stand still or expand for us so we must make good use of the time we have. This is where Hummel’s book, Tyranny of the Urgent comes in. The main concepts outlined throughout the book are that of managing your time by setting priorities based on what’s most important and also dependence on God for direction and peace. The most memorable quote of the book is found on page 5. Here Hummel recalls a conversation he had with a factory manager who told him “Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important.” It’s so easy to let the errands, chores or recreational activities of the day “crowd out” or begin to take for granted things that are important. This is especially true with setting time aside for God or family or even important tasks that require out attention. The question we must ask ourselves is; does what we consider our top priorities in our minds line up with the amount of time we spend doing them or does something less important take too much valuable time away from them? Hummel tells us of a college student named Paul who found that he didn’t have enough time to study and felt stressed and anxious when trying to complete his work. Paul was running down his activities, one of which was playing pool for about a half hour a day, to see where he could free up sometime. Paul decided to keep a timed record of all his activities throughout the week and found that he actually spent more like an hour or hour and a half a day playing pool. This shows how helpful keeping track of time can be to evaluating what your priorities are and how you can balance them out if you feel you need more time for something important. So what’s the secret to maintaining a correct order of priorities and peace of mind? Hummel shows us the key to these achievements is complete and utter dependence on God and following the example of Christ. Christ through his complete dependence on the Father and following the Holy Spirit was able to truly say he completed every task he was given to do. Hummel shows us that God has a plan for us to follow for His glory and the fulfillment of our every need, whether it is physical, mental, or spiritual. When it is all said and done, we want to hear God say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” It is said that some will enter heaven “as one escaping through the flames” (1 Cor. 3:10-15) These are those who have built a on the foundation of Christ using gold, silver, wood etc(worldly things) will experience loss as their works are “burnt up” and their reward is less than it could’ve been. I don’t know any Christians who would like to hear God say to them that there was so much more he wished to give them if only they had followed him more diligently.
I was taught at an early age the value of correct priorities and what correct priorities are: God, family, friends (who are fellow believers), others, and self. I think you can apply this order of relationship priorities to your activities as well. For me, Hummel’s book The Tyranny of the Urgent embodies more than just helpful suggestions on managing our time. I think the book shows us steps that must be taken to experience life the way it was meant to be. The key is maintaining a relationship with God and complete dependence upon Him for our every need. In a society as technologically advanced as ours, it’s easier than ever to get distracted and lose sight of what’s important, but this is something we must not do.
In earlier times people who were lost or needed direction would consult a compass and/or map to find their way. Nowadays, we have a device called a GPS to guide us. Sometimes you might feel like you know where you’re going and you don’t need to depend on a GPS. Here and there it can happen that you lose your way or take a wrong turn at a fork in the road somewhere and feel like you’re never going to get to your destination or find your way back. Then you could stop and ask for directions, but you could end up asking the wrong person and receive wrong directions too. If things like this can happen in everyday life, how much more can losing our way happen spiritually if we aren’t depending on God for direction! Sometimes we can think we know the right way and not consult God and so we end up going the wrong way. The devil is constantly trying to lead us the wrong way or give us bad directions, but if we are dependent on God we will be able to discern what is from Him and what is from Satan. I personally, through reading Hummel’s book have come to realize that I need to make some changes in my priorities and create more time to devote to prayer and seeking after God. In the coming weeks, I plan to implement the time keeping program Hummel speaks of in pages 19-30 and discover how I can better manage my time. By the grace of God alone all of us can become fully equipped to complete everything God has prepared for us to do and overcome the tyranny of the urgent.