Ever have those days where you get home and you’re completely exhausted because you ran around like a chicken with your head cut off putting out fires? But now that you think about it, you’re not even sure what you actually got DONE.
If you said yes, you’re not alone.
The way our society seems to spend its time is either in crisis mode or shut down mode. We are either living in URGENT or NOT important. And one is causing us to desperately crave the other.
What do we mean when we talk about urgent and important?
Urgent – a task that you feel must be done right this second. Whether getting it done will actually be meaningful doesn’t matter.
Important – a mission critical task that must be completed in order for a project to move forward. Whether that project needs to be done tomorrow or anytime in the next eon is irrelevant.
The partnership of these two concepts in various combinations of urgent or not, important or not, help us sift through the insanely long to do lists that we saddle ourselves with on a daily basis.
We can take this monstrous to do list and separate it into a table like you see below:
I know that it feels tempting to go ahead and copy/paste that whole to do list right into the urgent and important column. You figure if you don’t sleep and drink enough coffee, you can knock all that stuff out TODAY. But you’ve been saying that for how long now? Has it worked yet? Of course not. Because nearly every task we complete will always generate a new one. Even when you totally finish a project, another one will replace it immediately.
Take a long, hard look at that to do list and be TOTALLY honest with yourself about where everything goes. The definitions below will help you decide.
URGENT and IMPORTANT – MUST be done NOW. I mean it. Things that will get you fired if they aren’t completed immediately. Tasks that if ignored will get your power turned off or your kids kicked out of school. That sort of thing. DO THESE FIRST.
NOT URGENT but IMPORTANT – oftentimes the importance here is personal. That’s why these things tend to languish. Like you’ve always wanted to get back into playing the flute, and it’s important to you, but you just keep putting it off for other peoples urgencies. However, the problem with avoiding these is that this is where the urgent/important items tend to start. But then you get distracted by other things and all the time you had to work on them is gone. And now you’re in crisis mode. Prevent alllll that from happening by getting the urgent/important off the list and then head straight for these.
URGENT but NOT IMPORTANT – Consider how urgent these items actually are. Who is imposing the urgency here? Is this someone else’s need that is being placed upon you? If that’s the case, see what you can do about delegating those items. For example, if your partner is frustrated by how messy the house is, but it’s not a priority for you – get a cleaning service.
Alternatively, is this something you’ve created an urgency around that isn’t really there? For example, texting, social media, phone notifications, and anything else that triggers your FOMO. These are the things that are KILLING your productivity. AVOID these. And if you are really struggling then turn off all the notifications for an hour, get stuff done, then give yourself a 5 minute (with an actual timer!) break to check everything.
NOT URGENT and NOT IMPORTANT – Can you say Netflix and chill? I’m not saying that we don’t all deserve a break BUT the problem comes when we stop using these as a break and start using them as procrastination. We spend so much time in crisis mode that when the day is over we have no energy to do anything that will help us make tomorrow easier. Binge watching it is! But that won’t break the cycle. In order to break free you need to do this exercise so that you can get on top of the actually important things and get back in balance. If you ever hope to get side projects completed for what YOU find important, you’re going to need to avoid these for awhile – or at the very least keep it to just one episode.
If you would like a more in depth article about the Eisenhower Matrix, check out this guest post I wrote for It’s All You, Boo.
If this helped you figure out what’s important to you and you’d like some help with how to make those things a reality, click here and fill out the form.