Important vs. Urgent: Do the Right Work
Urgent tasks are tasks that have to be dealt with immediately.
Important tasks are tasks that contribute to long-term missions and goals.
Far too often urgent work consumes our days, jobs, and careers. It is worth investing in the important tasks at the sacrifice of the urgent. If you are doing important work then those emails can wait, so can the check-in meetings and the litany of unnecessary conference calls. Tell them, "I know this is urgent but please forgive me, I am in the middle of doing important work."
Former American President Dwight Eisenhower is quoted as saying, "What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important."
And James Clear offers the following, "Urgent tasks are things that you feel like you need to react to: emails, phone calls, texts, news stories. Meanwhile, in the words of Brett McKay, 'Important tasks are things that contribute to our long-term mission, values, and goals.'"
Dave Gray points out:
Time is finite. The more time you spend coordinating your efforts, the less time you have to do the actual work. Think about the amount of time spent in planning in most organizations.
And the bigger the project, the more people get involved, which in turn makes the project even larger and more complex. This results in more time spent on meetings and coordination activities, which usually means less time on the project itself.
And the ever witty Seth Godin sums things up nicely with a blog post from 2013, titled, Urgent, please read asap:
That's what gets done, of course. The urgent.
Not the article you haven't gotten around to writing, the trip to the gym that will pay off in the long run, the planning for your upcoming birthday party, dinner with your parents (who would love to see you), ten minutes to sit quietly, saying thank you to a friend for no real reason... no, we do the urgent first.
The problem, of course, is that the queue of urgent never ends, it merely changes its volume as it gets longer.
Yes, we've heard it said that it's the important, not the urgent, that deserves attention. But it understates just how much we've been manipulated by those that would make their important into our urgent.
Thanks for reading. I'm glad you're here. // jm