Have you ever had a situation at work where you have to drop everything you are doing due to the urgency of the item at hand?
How about at home?
Do you feel like you are constantly taking care of the crises that arise on a daily basis?
I know there have been many times that the urgent items in my day overtake the important and it feels like I am constantly scrambling.
Take Sunday night for example.
The urgent items of getting everything ready for my child to start pre-k overtook the items that I deemed important. I had planned on writing that evening. Instead, I prepped lunches for the week and filled out registration paperwork for 45 minutes. In retrospect this was important for me to do, but it became urgent when I didn’t plan out my time appropriately. This was both important and urgent for me to complete.
Often we confuse what is important and what is urgent.
Urgent items require immediate attention. They have to be accomplished or taken care of within a certain timeframe.
Important items help you move towards accomplishing your goals and vision. When you schedule the important it creates a level of intentionality in your day and week.Schedule the Important and Urgent. This isn't an exact science, but an art. It will help you move in the right direction. Click To Tweet
President Eisenhower developed a decision matrix that was made popular by Steven Covey. It helps one distinguish the difference between what is urgent and what is important. There are four quadrants as listed below:
Important and Urgent: These items can be foreseen or unforeseen, as stated above. I had an important and urgent task to complete. In hindsight, it was so important that I should have scheduled it into this category to begin with.
These tasks can be deadline driven, crises, or problems.
Important and Non-urgent: These items help you further your goals and mission.
These tasks could include personal and professional development as well as recreation.
Non-important and Urgent: This area is what I like to refer to as the “fire drill” zone. It is a phone call or email that has to be taken care of immediately. If you do not have scheduled time to focus on the other areas, everything can begin to be lumped into the non-important and urgent.
These tasks include meetings, activities, and any interruptions.
Non-important and Non-urgent: The items that fall into this category are normally time wasters. It is ok to relax, watch tv, or play on your computer, but you can still be intentional about the time you spend doing such things.
These tasks include time wasters, trivial matters, and busy work.
How does this play out in real life? There are three ways you can approach this; your work life, your home life, or your whole life. The good news is, whichever approach you take, you can utilize these 3 steps to plan the urgent and important into your life.
1. Think Through Your Life in light of the Matrix
Think through your life. If you want to focus only on work, think through a typical day and week. If you want to focus on hours outside of work, think about your home life. I would suggest you think through this exercise in a whole life approach, especially if there are people and goals that are important for you to accomplish.
2. Place Items in the Appropriate Boxes
Now that you have thought through your specific areas, write them down in the corresponding quadrant.
The items that fall into the first quadrant, important and urgent, do those.
The items that fall into the second quadrant, important and non-urgent, plan to do those.
The items that fall into the third quadrant, not important and urgent, delegate those tasks (if possible).
The items that fall into the fourth quadrant, not important and not urgent, drop those tasks.
3. Schedule It
This is the most important step. Pull out your calendar and place the items on your calendar that fall into quadrant one and two. Those are the items that have to get done. You really want to schedule time for the important and non-urgent, as those are the items that are important but often are overlooked because of the urgent items that come up.
Life can seem like a giant fire drill. Knowing where your different responsibilities and priorities lands in regards to important vs urgent can help you plan out your day and week. It all starts with an understanding of the decision matrix, thinking through your life, and then planning according to the important and urgent, also known as your priorities. This isn’t an exact science, but an art. It will help you move in the right direction.
Have you ever completed this exercise? If not, what is stopping you? Share below!
Here’s to the Journey!