Important vs urgent

Where you spend your time determines your success. Here’s how to make sure you’re working on the right things.


Success is about many small efforts compounding over time to produce something great. Too often, though, we fall into the trap of doing what’s urgent and not what’s important.

People are always going to want more of your time. And the more you give them, the more they’ll take. Remember — if you’re not working on your own plan, you’re most definitely part of someone else’s.

So, how can you achieve massive success without working 168 hours every week? The key is to shift your focus to spend more time on what’s important and less time on what’s urgent.

Important means anything that will get you closer to your next milestone or goal (you’ve got those worked out, right?).

Urgent means anything that has a perceived (note the emphasis) importance to you or someone else, when in reality the world won’t end if you don’t get to it now, or even at all.

Here’s the rub, though. Doing the urgent stuff makes you feel good. They are the things you can put a tick next to in Wunderlist, Basecamp or Asana and say to yourself “Wow, I got 18 things done today!”.

The important stuff takes longer, is harder and isn’t nearly as fun. But it’s the stuff that will drive you forward and get you closer to your goals.

How do you know if something is important or urgent? Simple — just ask this clarifying question:

“If I invest time to do this, which goal will it get me closer to completing and how?”

If the answer is “none” and “I’m not sure”, then it’s urgent — defer it. If the answer is a specific goal and you can measure the impact that task will have on getting you closer to your goal, it’s important — do it now.

Let’s look at a few examples of each so you get a better idea of what I’m talking about here.

Important:

  • Finish plan for next quarter
  • Start new content marketing campaign
  • Hire another Rails engineer
  • Create draft of pitch deck
  • Fire poor performing sales rep
  • Refine customer personas
  • Find business coach

Urgent:

  • Reply to 154 emails in my inbox
  • Get up to date on TechCrunch/Reddit/etc
  • Return calls from friends/family/etc
  • Decide on colors for office wall paint
  • Update my ToDo list
  • Re-arrange office to maximize space
  • Organize lunch with John

You get the idea. Now of COURSE sometimes you have to just get something done that’s urgent. I get it. But I’m talking about the other 95% of how you allocate your time.

If you want to sky rocket your progress, do nothing but more important tasks and less urgent tasks for the next 30 days.


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