The Difference between Urgent and Important
In Stephen Covey’s book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” Stephen talks about the difference between Urgent and Important matters, and how dividing our time between these two types of activities or tasks can make us more effective or less effective.
It’s amazing how something that comes up can urgently demands our attention almost always seems to appear important. But is it really? Understanding how to distinguish the two as separate has really been an eye-opening experience for me and has helped me prioritize how I spend my time each day.
Urgent matters demand our immediate attention; we react to them urgently, drop everything now to deal with this matter. It could be something as simple as answering the phone when it ring while we are in the middle of working on and article that requires our focus and concentration.
If you have friends like me I’m sure you have one who’s permanently and constantly in crisis mode, constantly putting out fires, busy, busy, busy running around from one crisis to another. Now, have you noticed, that this person is frequently stuck somewhere falling short of their goals because they never have the time to get to the things they say really matter to them?
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that urgent matters are always not important. A true crisis must be given the attention it requires. But a task—something like checking and replying to emails every time one comes in to your inbox-must must wait so you can work on the actual important issues that will get you closer to your goals
Important activities or task are those that help us get closer to the goals we have set for ourselves. Important activities or tasks frequently are things we must do on our own initiative, without some kind outside condition creating a sense of importance. Important things or issues come in all sizes, but usually require planning and great effort, sometimes simply to prevent situations from becoming urgent. For example, taking care of your own finances now is important because it could help you avoid a future consumed by debit brought on my years of careless over spending. (I keep a monthly budget and I regularly track and update my monthly budget since having this epiphany!)
By ignoring these important Activities or tasks early in the day or early in life, they always have a way of escalating into urgent issues.
If you’ve read this far it’s probably become apparent that one thing that’s extremely important is to separate important activities or tasks from the urgent ones and to assign them the appropriate time to deal with them. Once you’ve decided that something is important, it is your responsibility to assign a sense of urgency to it and make sure you get it done. If you’re an entrepreneur like I am, think about all the aspects of your business that are urgent as opposed to important. Consider doing what is did by delegating urgent tasks an assistant. My effectiveness dramatically increased 100 folds because I start spending by far the greatest percentage of my time attending to the important activities or task that did two things, increase profit and grow my business. If you take care of the important activities or task you’ll keep them from becoming urgent and reduce the amount of time dedicated to crisis management in your business and personal life.
As a close friend once said to me, time for mortals is finite. In fact, we never really know when we’ll run out of it. To make matters more complicated, there turns out to be truth in the old saying that you never have enough time to do everything you’d like to do. So you really must decide what is important to you, and then take care of business!
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