in 1995, i read a book written in 1967 by charles hummel called tyranny of the urgent. a man ahead of his time, hummel describes the tension between two contestants which battle for our time: the urgent and the important. he argues that the urgent things–such as the demands at the office, the demands of other people, and even our own “inner compulsions”–typically trump the things which are important, like regular dates with our spouse, personal solitude, exercise, or meditation.
with incredible depth of insight, he notes that important things are polite; they don’t clamor for our attention. they just wait patiently for us to act. in the long run there’s a price to pay for this neglect of the important stuff. like a volcano, there comes a day when the neglected areas of our life explode and wreak havoc. ironically, we wonder how we missed the early warning signs.
our temptation is to say, “well, i just didn’t have enough time to do everything.” hummel suggests that the lack of time is ultimately a problem of setting appropriate priorities.
today i read an article from cnn titled, “drop that blackberry! multitasking may be harmful.” some recent studies are suggesting that technological multitasking actually lowers productivity. specifically, heavy multitaskers are more easily distracted by irrelevant information than those who aren’t constantly in a multimedia frenzy, according to the study in the proceedings of the national academy of sciences. david goodman, who is an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at johns hopkins university school of medicine said, “we are being flooded with too much information and you can’t selectively filter out quickly which is important and which is not important.”
which bring us back to the principles argued in tyranny of the urgent written over 40 years ago.
becoming minimalist has always been about more than removing physical belongings. for me, minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things that i most value. it is about deciding what is most important in my life and removing the things that distract me from it. it is about removing the urgent for the sake of the important.