Don’t let the “urgent” outweigh the “important”

The difference between the two is the key to better manage your time and is vital to grow your business

The opinions expressed by collaborators are personal.

Recently, our consultancy was scheduled to start doing strategic work with a new client. But, one night before our session, the client wrote to us asking us to postpone the meeting until the following week. Something last minute had come up and it was impossible for him not to attend to it.

Don’t let the “urgent” outweigh the “important”
Don’t let the “urgent” outweigh the “important”

We were able to accommodate your request, but we suggested that we only cover the meeting for a few hours, not days. We caution you not to let the urgent outweigh the important , a concept Stephen Covey popularized with his Time Management Matrix .

We had previously written about the urgent versus the important relating to decision-making, but we wanted to return to the subject because it affects priorities and time management. The difference between the two concepts is key to improving time management and vital to growing a business.

First, we need to define the two concepts. Something “urgent” is a task that needs immediate attention, something that demands your attention. The “important” tasks are those that, once completed, will add value to your organization. These are the tasks that move you forward. Tasks can be one or the other, or neither. Let's look at each one in detail:

Neither urgent nor important

Some tasks are neither urgent nor important. They are the kind of things that take time away from you but do not add value to our organizations or our personal lives and nobody is begging us to do them.

However, most of us spend at least part of the day in these activities that waste your time such as browsing social networks, reading articles that are useless to us or playing games or in applications that distract us from other more valuable activities.

According to Statista, Americans spend about an hour a day playing video games, and the Telegraph reports that browsing your social media can take up to 2 hours a day. Obviously, if you spend your precious time on things that are neither urgent nor important, it is time to stop. Delete that application from your phone. Reduce your time on social media to a few minutes a day after working. We truly believe that you won't miss those distractions.

The urgent

“Urgent” tasks are those that beg for your attention, but don't necessarily add value. Calls, emails, messages, employees who ask you the same questions or meetings that do not produce results. We generally believe that we have to fix these things, clear the agenda to move on to something more important. This is just the wrong strategy. He always tackles important tasks first and comes to the urgent, which is not important, at the end. It is easy to waste time on tasks that are not important.

The urgent and important

Many tasks fall into the category of “urgent and important.” Remember, these are the things that need your immediate attention and that do add value to your company. This includes problems related to your clients, complaints and financial, banking and legal matters.

Many people recognize these tasks as important and act accordingly. To make sure you do your urgent and important tasks every day, make sure you have a to-do list. Review the points on the list and place a star on the 3 most critical tasks. Do those first. Once you complete them, place stars next to the next 3 most important ones and make them. Doing this will ensure that you focus on the things that require your attention and are most important to finish.

Important thing

This category is the least attended in this important but not urgent matrix. Important tasks include developing your employees or yourself to improve your skills, document and improve processes and systems, develop metrics, improve research methods, organize and plan. Although all these actions can improve you and your company, they are not urgent.

No one is crying out to you to document your processes. However, if you do, you will have a training tool for your employees and a way to improve the quality of what you do. As we say, the first step towards improving quality is to document the process. Being more organized can add productive hours to your week and developing metrics can alert you to problems before they get out of control.

“Important” tasks are critical to a company's success, but they are easy to postpone because there is no urgency to complete them. To make sure you don't fall into this trap, give each person an important task with a due date.

It is very easy to let the urgent outweigh the important. However, if you can prioritize your time and take care of those tasks that are both urgent and important and manage to accommodate some time and resources to deal with those important, but not urgent, things, you will create a much more successful organization.

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