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Your Better Self with Akanna: Knowing the Difference Between What’s Urgent and What’s Important



One thing I appreciated about a supervisor I once had, working in Lagos, was his aberration from the frenzy that often characterizes banking-related work.

The work we did together involved attending to requests from other colleagues within the bank who needed help with a newly introduced lending software. Their email requests often ended with the pseudo-polite command, “please treat as urgent.” But to my delight, he informed me on the first day working with him that “all requests are important but not all are urgent.” It was then up to me to decide which was which.

Well, it didn’t take me long to notice that almost all the requests that came with the “treat as urgent tag” were not at all urgent. Some weren’t even all that important to begin with. The feigned sense of urgency was only a reflection of the hustle and bustle attitude of the city in which we lived.

The sense of urgency displayed on Lagos roads leaves you wondering where everyone is always rushing to. It’s like a cluster of stranded ambulances that must each get to the hospital before the others. It’s chaos. If you don’t have a woman in labour or a dying patient in your vehicle then where exactly are you rushing to? Everyone has been pumped up to believe that their destination is the most urgent thereby shrinking their capacity for patience and selflessness.

The way we do one thing ultimately affects the way we do other things. Many have carried that sense of urgency into wanting to get-rich-quick; getting into trouble with the law both nationally and internationally because they couldn’t play the long game and earn their salt. They’d rather ‘hammer’ before their time, get rich, or die trying to do so. Making money sure is important but is it urgent?

Some carry it over to the business of getting married; it’s a do-or-die affair. Time is running out so they better find a partner and settle down quickly. ‘Settling’ is the last thing you want to do when choosing a life partner but it’s almost inevitable when coming from a place of desperation and urgency, and it often leads to a life of regrets. Even though every urgent thing is important, not every important thing is urgent. Into which category does getting married fall?

In terms of finances, getting out of debt, if you’re in one, is a matter of grave urgency. The sooner you stop digging a hole for yourself and climb out of it, the better for you and your future generations. In terms of marriage, it’s raising godly children. The sooner you can capture their hearts for God, the better for them, for you, and for society. Matters that could affect future generations are what should be treated with urgency today. But that’s not the case. Instead, we’re rushing to get our emails treated as urgent, so we can beat traffic and catch a soap opera.

We need to reconsider what we regard as urgent in our lives, what we regard as merely important, and what we don’t even consider at all. If we take a long, deliberate look, we would often find out that we’ve had it all backwards all along. We’ve followed the crowd around us to chase after what they chase after without asking ourselves if it means as much to us as it does to them. We might need someone to step in. A sort of supervisor to constantly remind us that it may be okay to treat everything as important, but it most certainly is not okay to treat everything as urgent.

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