Urgent vs Important (and quieting the urgent drumbeat)

Urgent vs Important (and quieting the urgent drumbeat)

urgent vs important sI’m listening to a new book during my “Car University” time (which is me driving 45 minutes back and forth to Asheville or two hours back and forth to Charlotte – both bigger cities where my clients tend live).

I’m only a couple of chapters in and already a theme is jumping out at me.

Urgent vs Important

This urgent vs. important theme is something I discuss a lot – with my time management clients, with my process and systems clients, and with every single business owner I’ve ever worked with.

I’m also talking about it with the folks who are interested in my and my husband’s journey to radically downsize our belongings in order to travel the country in a few years.

Dwight Eisenhower once said, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.

While I don’t agree with that statement 100 percent for every situation, I generally agree it’s true.

Last week, I met with a promising young business owner. He was asking me how I got started writing.

Trying not to sound too sarcastic, I said, “Well, I sat down and started writing.”

I know that,” he retorted, “but how do you find the time?”


The very nature of his question presses the important vs. urgent button, doesn’t it?

Got time for a quick exercise?

Think of something you wish you could do if only you had more time.

When you think about that thing, ask yourself why you want to do it.

Will doing it:

  • Improve your business or your life?
  • Make you safer?
  • Happier?
  • Healthier?
  • More secure?
  • Bring more opportunity or visibility?
  • Improve your customers’ experience?
  • Make your employees happier, more secure, or better at their jobs?
  • Make your spouse, partner, kids, family better, happier, safer?
  • Fill in the blank ______________

Does it feel important?

If it does, and it’ll do any of the things listed above, why haven’t you done it yet?

What? What’s that?

Oh, you don’t have time.

You’ve just given yourself an example of something that is important but not urgent.

(Yes, I used the word refuse very deliberately.)

Time being what it is, you can spend your days putting out fire after fire in an endless cycle of urgency or you can choose a different path (knowing that everything can’t be important and that you can’t physically DO all the important stuff at once).

Choose now: urgent vs important

You can choose to create time for what’s important.

You might not be able to find a whole day, but certainly you can find an hour a day or even an hour a week. One hour a week is four hours a month. Four hours a month is 48 hours a year. That’s like giving yourself a full work week each year to make something happen. My bet is a LOT of important stuff can happen in those 48 hours.

  • Urgent = today, right now
  • Important = tomorrow, your future

Tony Robbins, the mega coach, says if something was that important to you, you’d already be doing it.

While that smacks soundly of the truth, I prefer to take a softer approach…

For instance, you might feel so overwhelmed with the urgent that you can’t even consider the important. There’s simply not time, energy, or attention leftover.

Or you might genuinely not understand the difference between your important work and the urgent drumbeat in your ear.

Or there might be some prep work and planning that needs happen with your team before you roll into said important work.

Let’s focus

Part of my role is to help you focus. To identify what the important things are, create a priority list, and then take action.

The first action(s) might be to reduce the number of urgent things. Or to create a shift in your thinking about what’s legitimately urgent versus what just feeeeels urgent (hello, email).

Another shift in thinking might be in your truly understanding the distinction between low risk and high risk activities (but that’s a conversation for a future blog post).

If you’re ready to start thinking about the important in your business and/or your life, let’s talk.

Make some room,


P.S. You can continue to choose to let the urgent kill you today. Please don’t let the important kill your (future, spirit, freedom, success, happiness)tomorrow.

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