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How Important Is Your Urgent?

Aug 17, 2007
How often do you hear the phone ringing and NOT answer it?

Because the phone ring is so intrusive, we tend to treat phone calls coming in as urgent and answer. In fact, the call may be of little or no importance and only serves to get us off tract from working on what really is important. With caller ID now available, it can give us more control of whether we want to answer the call depending who is calling.

Stephen Covey, author of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People", clarifies the distinctions of activities that are urgent-unimportant, urgent-important, not urgent-important, and not urgent-not important. He puts these into a grid that gives a clear visual of the four categories of tasks.

Urgent items are deadline based. They are often associated with the achievement of someone else's goals. The "squeaky wheel gets the grease" is an expression that describes urgent issues. Urgent matters can also be an uncomfortable problem or situation needing immediate resolution.

Most items in the urgent-important category are crises. Some of this intensity can be avoided by better planning and taking care of the important items before the timing puts them into the urgent category as well. Critical activities that support your goals and have a looming deadline certainly go into this category of urgent-important.

There can be activities that are very important that can be overlooked because there is no one pushing for their completion. Those problems relating to the business team or products/services being developed can be much more visible than the very important relationships with current or potential customers. Marketing efforts need to be consistent in order for there to be sales on a regular basis. These efforts definitely fall into that important category, but without a definite deadline, they can be overlooked.

For good time management and goal achievement, the focus must be on things that are important and not just urgent. In order to avoid the struggle of having too many critical deadlines, you must distinguish clearly between what is urgent and what is important.

Here's a real simplification of the difference:

IMPORTANT activities: the outcome leads to the achievement of your goals

URGENT activities: demand immediate attention

What can be a real time and energy saver is identifying the tasks that are NEITHER important nor urgent. These trivial activities need to be ignored or delegated. What happens too often is that we may use our valuable time and energy just to get them out of the way.

For our work to be effective as well as efficient, it is important that we determine the priority of the tasks before us. When we have a clear picture of this, there is much less struggle in our daily activities since we can avoid the push-pull of those urgent-unimportant tasks popping up in front of us, luring us away from our productive day!
About the Author
What's luring you away from your full engagement and outstanding achievement?
Are you ready to get yourself on track to your goals?
Resources are available at
Exuberant Productivity.com
Contact Suzanne Holman, MAEd, the Exuberant Productivity Coach.
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