Friday, February 04, 2011

Is this IMPORTANT? or just URGENT?

Our life is inevitably assaulted with urgent, important or both urgent & important requests. Nothing is no longer unimportant, almost nothing can wait until tomorrow, everything has to be done TODAY, NOW, IN THIS SECOND. Like reading this post :-) You just couldn't stop clicking on it.

And you did well, as I'm going to share you the secret of sorting out between all these concurrent requests, separating Urgent from Important, putting them in the right order and making everybody happy. And if there are still some guys mumbling, it's just because they did not know the most important thing: what's important FOR YOU.

Yes, it all starts with YOUR priorities, with what you want to achieve, and not with what others want from you. But how do you distinguish between the two?

You might want to classify as IMPORTANT what helps you reach your own goals, and as URGENT what helps others.
IMPORTANT is also something that has to be done at some point in time - maybe not right now, but you would better give it enough time or otherwise will fall under IMPORTANT & URGENT.

It happened to me just this week: I had to do an analysis to evaluate some options, and - while I knew it was IMPORTANT - I kept postponing it (due to more urgent requests), until my boss said it's becoming URGENT... not great, as I had to work longer hours just to finish it.

Also, IMPORTANT does not mean it will take a lot of time - but it might require some focus, and some careful thinking about the best approach to do it.

On the other hand, URGENT is something important for the others - just like the above IMPORTANT in my example was suddenly urgent for him.

URGENT is also when it has to be now or never, like a fire burning, or child crying, or a birthday you forgot about :-) and you need a present.

My suggestion for you on how to manage this delicate balance between URGENT and IMPORTANT:
- make sure you keep an eye on your priorities
- maybe the urgent can be: delayed, delegated, changed
- understand the why's behind every request - you might be solving the wrong problem
- put some deadlines (or intermediate milestones) on your IMPORTANT. When deadline is there, the IMPORTANT becomes both IMPORTANT and URGENT. With no deadlines, you might procrastinate, and never get it done.

I have also learned that no matter how well you plan your time, the unpredictable will happen, so save some time in your calendar for the unknowns.

What does your system look like?

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