In The 7 Habits of Highly-Effective People (doesn’t that title just scream “perfectionism”?), Steven Covey talks about dividing all our tasks and to-do list items into quadrants based on urgency and importance. He says that all tasks can fit into one of the following categories:
- Urgent and important
- Important but not urgent
- Urgent but not important
- Not urgent and not important
I talk to Evan about this all the time, as he has so many work projects going on at once, it can be hard for him to focus and prioritize. This became especially important this month, as we got ready for our big trip to Florida. He had a lot to get done before then, and it required some ruthless prioritizing. At it’s core, prioritizing is about ignoring everything that doesn’t fall in one of the “important” boxes. Throw in a time crunch, and it’s about ignoring everything that isn’t both urgent and important.
I think the Internet has skewed our perspective on these quadrants, elevating the wrong quadrants to the wrong priority levels.
I often find myself consumed by “urgent but not important” tasks throughout the day: dishes, laundry, a package on the front porch, a text from a friend, a library hold that came in, my toddler’s demands for a snack.
But even more concerning are the tasks that I have been duped into thinking are urgent, but are not. Slowly but surely, all those little red numbers on our iPhone screens have convinced us that more things demand immediate attention than actually do. It has skewed my sense of time, and I’ve become a slave to the tyranny of the urgent.
Moving to Michigan and leaving my full-time job exacerbates this situation, because there have been many days when I felt lonely and a little bit lost. Those little red numbers gave me a false and misplaced sense that my presence and attention was required somewhere, by someone other than my toddler. I was responding to questions and requests on social media all day long, which was fine, except it actually me feel scatterbrained and disconnected from all that was happening in my real, physical life and relationships.
The truth is, I allow the pull of notifications and the temptation to “refresh feed” to shape my identity and measure my worth in unhelpful ways. My days are dictated by pings and beeps, pulling my attention away from the slow but steady passage of time in front of me. So, I removed the Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest apps from my phone a few months ago. (I’m currently in the bad habit of just using the Internet browser to get to Facebook and Twitter, but I’m trying to stop that.)
Attending to the little red circles gives us a false sense of productivity, community, and influence. And the need to respond immediately is sometimes fueled by bad habits, but often by people-pleasing and a desire for approval. One of perfectionism’s greatest weapons is the threat of misplaced priorities. In my pursuit of approval, I allow other people’s needs and wants (and texts and messages and emails) to drive my decision-making. In my pursuit of productivity, I respond to each red circle as if it is both urgent and important.
Turning off my notifications is a great way to keep perfectionism at bay. It helps me stay present and grounded in my surroundings and to never let a false sense of urgency distract from my purpose.
“Because we understand our worth as image-bearers and our identity as children of God, we will not look to the internet to prove that we are important, valuable, and loved.” –Kevin DeYoung in Crazy Busy
I had more to say about this, but as I am already behind on this series, I’m going to send you over to read my friend Rebekah’s thoughts instead. (She and I were apparently on the same page and didn’t even realize it!) After reading her post, I immediately went and turned off the email notifications on my phone, which I had resisted for awhile.