“I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”
Can you relate to this quote? Though President Eisenhower shared this quite a while ago (in 1954!), I think it highlights the very current struggle that many people have: managing the seemingly never-ending, competing responsibilities in their lives. By using an important versus urgent grid, you can effectively and efficiently prioritize all your tasks.
Important activities help you achieve your personal or professional goals. Urgent activities are time-sensitive.
Now imagine a 2×2 grid (like the one below)— I bet you can immediately think of activities that fall into each of those categories, and I’m sure you now see why I’m always suggesting clients use this grid!
In general, you always want to prioritize the important activities. These are the tasks that will keep you progressing professionally and personally. If they’re urgent, those are the activities you prioritize above everything else. The non-urgent matters are still important, so you need to carve time out in your schedule so you can attend to them later.
The non-important activities are where people usually get tripped up. If something is urgent but not important, the urgency of the task will suck people into trying to get it done immediately. I would encourage you to pause and ask yourself, “Am I the right person to do this task?” or “Will avoiding doing this task have detrimental professional and personal consequences?” The answer will be no, and you can move on accordingly.
There are many people who say to never engage in the non-important, non-urgent activities. I don’t take such a hardline on this because I understand that, in this day and age, it’s useful to connect with people over Facebook or relax with a good television show. I just stress that these activities should be at the bottom of your to-do list; only indulge these activities if you have the free time or need a short break from all the work you’ve been doing.
I encourage you to create one of these 2×2 grids for yourself when you’re feeling overwhelmed with competing responsibilities. As you practice doing this, you’ll eventually be able to internalize the process and prioritize your life with ease.
Love the grid but having difficulty putting it into practice? Contact Dr. Crystal I. Lee to see how she can help you build long-lasting time management skills.