Urgent isn’t the same as important

May 27, 2013

One of the watershed moments in my career was the day I learned the difference between urgent and important.

Today my work email filled up with messages from customers and bosses (yes, I have multiple) about tasks they want me to deal with ASAP. They’re brush fires, and I could run around all day putting them out. It’s exhausting work…but at the end of the day, what would I have really accomplished?

If you’re always putting out fires, you’ll never have time to do the work that really matters.

Nowadays, I try to only do things that are important. They may be urgent too, but usually that’s not the case. Exercise is important, but it’s not urgent. Working on my book is important, but it’s not urgent. Eating well, keeping in touch with friends and family, and learning for the joy of learning are all important, but they’re not urgent.

It’s easy to put the important off, to promise to do them another day. Then you wake up and realize months have passed, and you haven’t made any progress on the only things that truly matter.

Instead, ignore the urgent. If it’s not important, don’t do it. Those tasks have a way of taking care of themselves, but even if they don’t, who cares?

After all, they weren’t that important anyway.

P.S. Make sure to forgive yourself the occasional lapse. I spent this entire weekend dealing with the urgent rather than the important, and didn’t even get to write once. I’ll just have to do better, starting now.

As always, thank you for using my Amazon Affiliate link (info).

By Stephen W. Gee

Author of Wage Slave Rebellion, Freelance Heroics, and about two good blog posts out of a hundred.

5 Comments

  1. Reply

    Zen

    Instead, ignore the urgent. If it’s not important, don’t do it.

    That’s what I do all the time- been doing it for years and people call me a procrastinator for it. I do the bare minimum for the urgent and put all my effort into the important because I realize that lots of folks waste their entire lives working on the urgent (workaholics, etc.) and never get to the important. And before they know it their lives are over and they’re buried under a whole six feet of dirt and regret. In the end I think the important things are the things that would bring the most happiness and fulfillment to you in life (Different for every individual)- these are the things that one should prioritize pursuing- for most people their health, dreams or family. The urgent on the other hand are simply things that are time sensitive but do little to give your life meaning- school and work-related matters often fall within this category, unless of course your job actually happens to be your dream job.

    The balance between the urgent and the important for me has always been to do the portion of the urgent that is necessary to enable you to do the important (because that portion of the urgent is also by projection necessarily important) and to dedicate all the rest of my time to what is truly important in of itself. In the short term you’ll get labelled a procrastinator for doing things this way because unlike us dreamers most folks focus on the “here and now”- maintaining the status-quo and if you make that necessary (calculated) sacrifice of the present, of maintained security for the dream of a brighter tomorrow, to them you’re just deluded or lazy. But in the long run when the important finally bears its golden fruit, outshining the meager produce that the urgent has yielded to the masses, you will be vindicated. That’s how I see it… ; )

    1. Reply

      Stilts

      unless of course your job actually happens to be your dream job.

      Still a good idea to keep in mind even then. I can imagine a great many things that are urgent but not important about my dream job…which is probably why I oughta stop responding to comments and go write. Whoops!

      1. Reply

        Zen

        Lol…XP

      2. Reply

        Kioku from Laptop

        Hakuna Matata!

  2. Reply

    KoroshiyaKi

    Problem is I spend most of my day putting out fires that are urgent, important, and also someones fuck up.

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