Urgent is one of those powerful words. It ranks right up there with FIRE or DUCK (or FORE, if you are a golfer like me!). Unfortunately, I believe urgent may be a little overused. A lot of things get done because they scream urgent. This is a bigger problem than it was in years past because of advances in communication technology like email, cellphones and Instant Messenger. Anyone can scream urgent at any instant. So what’s so bad about urgent? … it seems to get things done. Yes, but at the expense of what other things? At the expense, probably, of the IMPORTANT things?
This is not to say you should not do urgent things. In fact, many urgent things are also important and these are the things you should do first. The problem is many important things are not urgent and they just don’t seem to ever get done—or not until they become urgent. An example: on January 5th, computing your taxes is important but not urgent. On April 14th, that has become urgent and also important. Had your tax return not become urgent, it would continue to be pushed back. For me, this blog is important but not urgent and I push it back on my busy schedule.
A good way to tell if something is urgent or important is to give it this test: if it does not get done, something bad will happen = URGENT. If it does not get done, something good will not happen = IMPORTANT. Spending too much time preventing bad things and too little time promoting good things leads to more urgent things happening, leaving less time for the important. What a loop! On the other hand, doing important things (the ones that will make good things happen) will have the effect of reducing the urgent things, leaving even more time for the important things … that is a good loop!
If you find this at all confusing, you should stop whatever urgent thing you were in the middle of and sit quietly and read it again. It is IMPORTANT, but not urgent.