I read this quote today when I started looking for more information on an old method that I learn some time ago, it consisted of learning to distinguish the urgent tasks from the important ones. Once you would learn to distinguish the difference, you will be able to take decisions on what to do next, and tackle your to do lists, your projects and also advance, move forward and advance your life.
This will also help you to stop procrastinating. It turns out that there is one principle called the Eisenhower decision principle where you can learn to separate the important from the urgent tasks, but what are these anyway?
So, Urgent means an action or a task that requires immediate attention, something that you can’t leave the office or go to bed without doing. They usually fall into the category of having to do them “right now”.
Important are the tasks that will help you advance towards your final goals or short term goals. These can also be urgent, but usually require us to be attentive and thoughtful about what we are doing and how we will do it.
Eisenhower developed a matrix where he actually showed how we can learn to distinguish both tasks and take decisions based on that information. This is the matrix
This matrix became very popular when Stephen Covey talked about it in his book Getting things done. But it is really attributed to ex-president Eisenhower. Here is how the matrix works.
Urgent and important tasks, first quadrant: Are those that need to get done, now. They can’t wait and require your attention so you should plan on inserting them onto your planner as a top priority for the day. They can also go on a post-it note if you need to have them present and at hand but they need to be done.
Not urgent but important, second quadrant: I find that most tasks fall into this category. Usually here’s where we will place a lot of the things that help us get closer to our goals, they are actionable steps that will add value to your achieving something. For example, writing in your planner that at 6am you need to get up to work out. It is important if you are planning on losing some pounds but it is not urgent because nothing happens if you don’t get it done – you will just take a lot longer losing the weight and reaching your goal, or not reaching your goal at all. You want to plan for these tasks in your planner.
Urgent but not important, third quadrant: These are probably things that might not be necessarily important to do because they don’t directly affect you but that you need to do. For example, making a call to schedule your dog’s grooming, texting your friend to ask how they are, making favors, emails, etc. Usually, they are also emerging tasks which you can write down on your daily plan as they emerge, get them done and cross them out. You can also migrate them but then you will only be procrastinating!
Not important and not urgent: Are the tasks that don’t add anything to your life, usually they hinder your progress and distract you from getting anywhere or getting things done. You want to either delegate them or avoid them for example: Watching TV, staying too long on Facebook, gossiping, talking about other people’s lives, being negative or simply wasting time.
Remember that some of these tasks can also be delegated which means that you can ask someone else to do them – e.g. a colleague, a friend, your spouse, etc – and this is totally fine because you can then focus on the things that matter and are important.
These tasks can be planned among your top three, your weekly priorities – or even your monthly – your running list or to-dos, or simply add them to your brain dump to allocate them to particular days and times when you do your weekly planning.
It is easy once you learn to distinguish one task from another, but once you get the hang of this matrix, it will be super easy and you will be a productivity ninja!
“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”
Thanks for stopping by and until next time!