Urgent vs. Important

I kicked butt today at work, in part, due to this concept. So, I thought I’d share.

Last week I spent three days in management skills training. My company actually values its employees and does a great job of providing development opportunities. Last week’s sessions were the middle three of a 9-class set designed to develop leaders out of managers. Great concept and, overall, great experience. (Practicing intentional positivity, I’m skipping over the antics of the insufferable loudmouth in my class.)

One of the key takeaways from last week was the concept of urgent vs. important. The theory goes that highly effective leaders only spend energy on those issues that are both urgent & important and know how to appropriately identify those issues and assign them to the right personnel to resolve.

A tool we used in class was a 2 x 2 matrix, with urgent/not urgent as column heads and important/not important as row heads. The tool urged immediate action for items that are both urgent and important, and to punt and run from the items that are both non-urgent and non-important. (For non-urgent/important, schedule the item to be dealt with later. For urgent/non-important, delegate to the person for whom it is both urgent and important.)

This quadrant graph was a good at-a-glance key to help prioritize tasks for a busy corporate leader.

I think it also lends itself to application in personal life issues.

How often have you found yourself in the middle of something and wondered, “Why am I doing this, again? Oh, yeah, because _____ asked me to.” Or found yourself spending time with someone you don’t really like or can’t relate to, just because?

Don’t get me wrong, please. I’m not advocating a clinical analysis of every person, relationship, activity and responsibility in your life. But, for me, time is a precious and rare commodity. Maximizing the hours I have for personal enjoyment is a must for me (both urgent and important).

I’ve wasted years of my youth and adulthood not understanding my own fundamental nature and not following my heart and soul to happiness. I can’t afford to waste any more of my days to apathy, fear, guilt, boredom, or unearned/unwanted obligation.

One way to sift the chaff, excise the unnecessary, is to define what “urgent” and “important” mean for my life and then spend the rest of my time focused on those people, things, emotions and events that fit both definitions simultaneously. Everything else is noise.

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3 comments so far

  1. Victoria Oldham on

    I’m going to try this. Thanks for sharing!

  2. FemOutLoud on

    Loved this! It’s a concept I use at work–funny how the buzzword concepts that actually work circulate through a variety of trainings like yours! I like your observation of the usefulness of applying it outside the workplace, too. Keep us posted on your success! 🙂


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