Urgent and Important

August 05, 2018

What should you do right now? Obviously the thing that has to get done right now. But how do you know what that is.. and then what?

I found this chart a little while back and immediately learned a ton about how I do things wrong.

What's the order?

I had never distinguished the ideas of urgent and important. They were jumbled up together in a tangled web of stress, but we can split them out fairly easily. Urgency has a sense of time while importance has a sense of value.

Two of these quadrants are also very obvious. Of course the top of my list should be the thing that both has a lot of value and has to be done right now. And the things on the bottom of my list are clearly going to be things of little value with no time limit.

But it’s the other two that I think we all get backwards quite a lot. After hitting the top-left square, I think most people drop right below it and hit all their urgent unimportant matters first. We do this naturally because we’re so used to things like deadlines feeling important. How often is this completely artificial? A lot. What we should do is jump over to the important non-urgent tasks.

Think about the differences in these two modes of operation too. When you’re working on urgent stuff, you’re probably multitasking and a bit stressed. After all, you’re under the gun. On the other hand, if you’re working on something important and valuable, you’ll generally be more focused on getting it right. And without an immediate time limit, you’ll have the resources and space to make it right.

I heard this quote recently that imparts the same ideas:

Optimize for actual success, instead of optimizing for the feeling that you’re trying really hard. Do just one thing. -Saron Yitbarek.

Urgency makes us feel busy while importance provides value. Which is better: looking busy or getting things done?

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