I caught this shot last month while on vacation with my family in Haliburton, Ontario.  Everyone else was asleep that morning.  I slipped out of our cabin and saw the sunrise.

I used to feel guilty about doing things like this.  Why?  Well,  if you have my wiring, getting up early might mean taking a nap later in the day.  That would mean not being available when others were awake – a bit selfish, I thought.  In fact, there was a part of me for years that resisted doing anything that resembled a personal hobby, like photography.  I thought of it this way: every moment I stole for myself I took from my wife, my kids, or the church I led. It wasn’t right to be selfish.

I just don’t see it that way anymore.  Here’s why: as your family grows and your life gets more complicated, there are so many urgent demands on your time that you can end up neglecting what’s truly important.

Think of it this way: there are really only two categories of demands on your time:  the urgent and the important.

Making lunches, soccer practice, answering email, getting homework wrapped up, returning phone calls, laundry, grocery shopping, cutting the lawn – all of these are urgent.  Strangely, in many homes, urgent things are all we do.  In fact, there are so many urgent things that they crowd out the important.

Building your marriage is important.  It’s just not urgent.  Neither is time with God, deep friendship, eating well, exercise or personal hobbies that give you energy and passion.

Date night with your spouse will always fall victim to a cranky baby with a dirty diaper.  One is important.  The other is urgent.  Unless you break the pattern, the urgent always wins.

So break the pattern.  Become intentional.  The only way I’ve learned to keep my life from being overwhelmed by the urgent is to schedule the important.  Struggle with that?  Do what I do: book it in. Seriously.  Take your calendar and book something that’s actually important. You’ll get over the guilt.  When your time with God becomes rich, your marriage gets healed and you enjoy better health, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do this earlier.

There’s more: ultimately, prioritizing the important clarifies the urgent.  Fifteen years from now, you will not regret having a stronger relationship with Christ, a richer marriage, or better health.  You will be so thankful you took up biking or photography or origami.  Plus your kids will have more to admire and to emulate. And what seems so urgent now will seem trivial then.

Still not convinced?  Think about it this way:  what did you do one month ago?  Exactly.  You can’t remember.  Because it was urgent.  It just wasn’t important.

So this week, be selfish.  Get up early or take some prime time in your day or week, and book something important. Years from now, the people you love the most will thank you for it.