Eisenhower’s Principle

In modern culture, everyone seems to be ‘time poor’; not having enough time to do what matters. In 1954, in his speech to the World Council of Churches, Dwight Eisenhower said,

“I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

Important things are those which enable us to fulfil our goals whereas urgent things tend to fulfil other people’s goals.

If we only respond to the urgent we become a reactionary fire-fighter whose energies are being depleted and goals frustrated resulting in resentment. The only way to conquer the urgent is to be clear on what issues, activities etc are important and order their priority. This clarity may even require us to politely say ‘no’ to others whilst encouraging them to solve their own problem.

Eisenhower went further! He classified all tasks (in order of priority) into one of four groups:

  1. Important and Urgent
  2. Important but not Urgent
  3. Not Important but Urgent
  4. Not Important and not Urgent

His groupings made me ask, ‘What does my diary tell me about where I place God and the things important to him? Have I been politely saying ‘no’ to God while bowing to the urgency of my demands or those of others?’

The Bible tells us that God and his commandments must be in Groups 1 and 2. Anything that pushes these out is the idol we are worshipping.

3 Do not worship any god except me.  4 Do not make idols…5 Don’t bow down and worship idols. I am the Lord your God, and I demand all your love.  (Exodus 19)

Denis Oliver