Before I get started on this Tip, I want to give you a heads up. This is one of the most important truths I have ever learned in my entire life. It affects me daily and I am guessing it does you, too. I have not mastered it yet, but I am aware that it exists!
We often create “to-do lists” of all the tasks we need to do on a daily basis. The truth is that we do not have to look for things to do; tasks will look for us. The grass lets us know that it needs to be cut. Bills need to be paid. Schedules need to be kept. Children have places they need to be. Clothes need to be picked up and washed. The refrigerator will tell us when it is time for groceries to be bought. Cars need attention and even the dog has to be fed! The list never ends. And, I am not saying any of this in a negative way. I am so grateful that I live in a free country where I have access to do all of those things. But, there is one issue that always comes with them and that is the fact that daily chores will never go away. They will hang over our heads until we get them done and then we will have to do them again the next time we turn around. Responsibility does not simply evaporate with time.
The reality is that none of those tasks have feelings intrinsically associated with them. They are all just “things” that need to be done. In the process of doing all of those activities, you will encounter people, and people have feelings. Just because you have a lot to do does not give you the right to be unkind to another person. It is important that you remember that people have feelings and tasks do not. All of the other tasks and activities that you do each day, for the most part, are feeling-less.
Let me give you a personal example that happens to me weekly. My desk accumulates tasks that need to be done. I can leave my office for just a few minute and when I come back there will be mail or notes on my desk or in my chair that need my attention. I honestly think that I could lock myself inside my office and live there for five years and still not get caught up. The tasks on my desk are always yelling at me, demanding attention RIGHT NOW! Occasionally I take a moment to look at all of them and speak to them out loud. I usually say something like, “I know all of you want me to work on you and I promise you that I am planning to do so, but, right now I am dealing with a situation that involves a person and that person has feelings. You do not. You will just have to sit on my desk and wait until it is your turn!” It always makes me feel so much better to have that conversation.
How many times have you, as a mom or a dad, been right in the middle of something very important when one of your children interrupted you at a very inappropriate time? Children should not be rude, but I noticed when raising four children of my own, that some of the most important, teachable moments in a child’s life come at the most inopportune times. That is just the way it works. You must ask yourself the question, “Am I more interested in building a relationship with someone in my family that I care about and love, or am I more interested in checking something else off my to-do list?” Ouch – that hurt! It seems to me that there is a constant conflict between relationships with people and tasks that need to be done.
I can just hear some of you saying, “But the tasks on my list have to do with relationships with other people,” and I want you to know that I certainly understand. I am not saying your list is not important. I am just saying that at any point in time, when you are in the middle of doing something important, simply ask yourself if someone’s feelings are involved. If they are, always adjust what you are doing toward the feelings of that person. It is never a good idea to put someone down, to be short with someone, or to be unkind with someone simply because you are busy.
Believe me; my plate stays so full that I am constantly looking for ways to get things off of it, but not at the expense of hurting someone unnecessarily. This may mean that you have to rearrange your schedule, start a little bit earlier, or perhaps make yourself unavailable at times so that you can complete important tasks without being around a lot of people you know. I begin almost every day early, alone and quiet where I can focus on my work for some uninterrupted time. In that manner, I find myself “freed up” to interact with others the rest of the day without as much pressure to get things accomplished.
Looking back in my life I wish I had realized this sooner. Many times when I was spending an evening with my family, I would have a big pile of paperwork in my lap so I could get caught up. I now understand how foolish that was. I recognize the power of relationships and how vitally important they are to my life. It has been a wonderful truth for me to learn that if I am dealing with a situation that involves someone else’s feelings then that situation should come first. Non-feeling activities can wait!
In the final analysis, you will have to be the one to determine how you are going to live your life. Tasks will eventually get done and, even if they don’t, it may not matter if you destroy another person or a relationship in the process of accomplishing your tasks! I have come to see that in the end, things usually have a way of getting done eventually if they are important.
Take a good hard look at your situation. It may save you a lot of heartache and bring blessings into your daily life.
Tip: Remember that paperwork has no feelings, but people do!
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm