Urgent

How Can You Do the Really Important Stuff?

Today’s post is about how to get the really important stuff done. It is especially important for people who are involved in creative jobs.

Think over your day yesterday and what you did. Probably you finished a lot of tasks. The real question is: How many of those tasks were vitally important? The truth is, if you are like most people, you will have to admit not so many were actually that important.

Yet, we really do want to accomplish important things that really do matter.

But how?

By understanding the difference between the urgent and the important. One thing to remember: the urgent is rarely important and the important is rarely urgent.

The problem is that the urgent is almost always what grabs our attention. (For an in-depth look at this problem, please read Tyranny of the Urgent by Charles E. Hummel.

Definitions

The urgent tasks: short-term, functional items, arise daily, don’t take deep thought, quick to do. Examples include answering email, problems that pop up in daily work, daily questions from clients and co-workers, and paying bills.

The important tasks: long-term, almost never pressing, need deep thought, on your plate for a long time, take a long time to finish. Examples include strategic planning, goal-setting, and solving major problems.

Part of the problem is that it feels good to get things done and check them off our To-Do List, but that good feeling comes at the price of getting the really important things finished. It is impossible to solve a long-term goal when you are answering email.

How Do You Get The Really Important Stuff Done?

  • First, understand the problem and decide to defeat it.
  • Second, two lists. One list will be the important things and the other list will be the urgent things.
  • When urgent things come up each day, add them to your urgent list and forget about them until the proper time.
  • Figure out when your best time to work is, whether that is morning, noon, or in the afternoon. For me, it is the morning from about 7:00 until 10:00. I call this my “prime time.”
  • Set a side a nice block of time (maybe 2-4 hours, if possible) during your prime time. Make it a time of non-stimulation where you cannot be distracted by email or colleagues. If an urgent item pops into your mind (and it will!) just add it to the urgent list and forget it for a while. Spend this time in deep thought about things that are truly important.

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