Is it Urgent or is it Important?


"I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

`President Dwight D. Eisenhower


Author Stephen Covey popularized Eisenhower’s system for personal and business use. Covey’s Time Management Matrix is an efficient way of organizing your workday and everyday priorities. It contains four quadrants organized by urgency and importance. (Important and Urgent; Important But Not Urgent; Not Important But Urgent; Not Important, Not Urgent.)

Great time management means being effective as well as efficient. In other words, we must spend our time on things that are important, not just on things that are urgent. Important tasks are things that contribute to our long-term mission, values, and goals, whether professional or personal. Sometimes important tasks are also urgent, but typically they’re not. When we focus on important activities we operate in a responsive mode, which helps us remain calm, rational, and open to new opportunities. Translate...less stress.

Urgent tasks demand immediate attention. These are the to-do’s that shout “Now!” Urgent tasks put us in a reactive mode, marked by a hurried and narrowly-focused mindset. They are often the ones we concentrate on because the consequences of not dealing with them are immediate. They have to be done, of course, but they are not the tasks which will bring us the greatest satisfaction in life.

When we know which tasks are important and which are urgent, we can better manage our time to do what’s essential for our success.

The matrix represents the total time you have in any given day, week, month or even year.

  • Quadrant 1 -Important and Urgent -tasks that require immediate action and typically consist of crises, problems, or deadlines.

  • Quadrant 2- Important but not Urgent -tasks are typically centered on our long term goals like strengthening relationships, planning for the future, and self-improvement. Keeping in mind the distinction between urgent and important tasks, it’s easy to see that the tasks in quadrant two have the high priority but can be neglected.

  • Quadrant 3- Not Important but Urgent tasks might include meetings, interruptions, phone calls, and the like. Without a conscious effort to do otherwise, it is possible to spend most of the day on these items. Beware- unless you actively plan to complete tasks before the deadline you may constantly be putting out fires. And that is no fun!!

  • Quadrant 4- Not Important and not Urgent- Here is where “tasks” like watching TV, reading, and social media go. Because they are appealing projects or pleasant activities, there is great risk that one can devote time to these and ignore the important or urgent ones. They may not be urgent or important, but they’re essential to your happiness, and you need to schedule and set aside time for them.

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