Urgent vs. Important

By Christina Suter on Jun 01, 2019 at 09:30 AM in Business Issues
Urgent Vs Important

It happens every week-- you’re at your desk, or walking down the hallway at work and suddenly you’re stopped. Your time and work has been hijacked by someone else and now you will spend anywhere from the next 15 mins to 2 hours putting out a client or employee’s urgent fire.

Urgent is in the moment, it’s the thing that is up in front of you that you respond to because it has an immediate time pressure or the person presenting it to you needs a response right away. Things that are important have to be done, they just don’t have to be done right now, like going through your inventory, going to a networking event, and bookkeeping so that you can get paid.

The two things that make or break your business are your marketing and your cash flow management. Time management affects you and your business but does not immediately do so.

We’re wired, as human beings, to respond to urgent. We feel urgent things pull on us the minute they are presented to us. Within our day, if we allow all the urgent things to take us off course, we will never get to the important things. My mentor David Allen says that both urgent and important things present themselves. The quadrant pictured below shows the four areas that things can fall:

1-urgent and important, these are the first things to get done
2- important, but not urgent
3- urgent but not important 
4- not urgent and not important.

When you get into work each day, do a brain dump and write down all the things floating around in your head and then fit them into the matrix accordingly. What’s pressuring you and needs to get done today get circled, what’s urgent also gets highlighted and those get taken care of first. You can develop your own marking system, but make sure you can clearly and easily identify what needs to happen and needs to happen first. That step allows you to leverage your time.

After urgent and important are done, what’s next depends on exactly how urgent and how important your remaining to-do’s are. If it’s neither urgent nor important, consider just crossing it off your list. If it sounded like fun at the time, or takes you further from your goal, get rid of it or move it to a ‘someday, maybe’ list in a separate place.

What if I can’t get to everything?

Delegate. Not being able to get to all your tasks, that means you have more work that time or ability and therefore you need to hand tasks off to other people.

Diminishing Returns- the point where you have too much to do in the amount of time you have to do it.

If you don’t have enough people to get things done, it may be time to bring someone new onboard to help you get through the list. Free up your time so that you can handle more of the urgent and important while your employees handle the important but not urgent things.

As David Allen recommends, write down a mind dump of all the projects and to-do’s for your business model, the same as you do with the mini brain dump you do every morning when you get to work. Keep what’s urgent and important and assess the important things to ensure that they are actually important. Stop pretending that things are urgent and important if they really aren’t or if they aren’t anymore. 

For entrepreneurs and sole proprietors, like myself, I take my job description and write down all the reoccurring things I need to do and how much time those things are really going to take. Leave 50% of your time available for the hijacking, if you don’t you won’t be able to deal with the emergencies in your business.

If your recurring projects are more than 50% of your time, delegate. Yes, it's true that delegation sometimes means that it will take the other person more time to do it than it would take you. But say it takes you 3 hours to do it, plan on investing a few hours into helping them get it right and after that, allow them to do it. You pay them less per hour than you earn per hour, so you come out on top. 

Mind dump, delegate, and remove any part of your business model that doesn't bring in great revenue so that you can balance the urgent and important.