Important vs Urgent: The Difference That is Holding You Back

Do you ever feel like you spend all your time completing the same old tasks each week? And that the important projects never seem to get done or see any progression? Instead they get thrown onto next week’s to-do list, and then the next week’s…and the next’s…


Well, it may be because you aren’t differentiating between urgent tasks and important ones. First, let’s understand how the two differ… Urgent tasks are ones that need to be completed ASAP — that much you’ve gathered. They are the ones that have deadlines, are time-sensitive and ones that I have noticed, often have to be completed on a regular basis. They are the jobs that despite accomplishing, they don’t seem to bring about any sense of progression or make any difference to your overall goals. Maybe it’s admin or maybe it’s preparing for a weekly team meeting or getting something done for a client.


On the contrary, important tasks are ones that seldom have time restrictions. They are the big dreams and the projects you’ll get to only when you’ve just achieved x,y and z.They are writing the book proposal, launching the e-course and opening up your first shop. They are the things that don’t currently have any urgency about them because you are yet to put their wheels in motion — they are the things that would be nice in the future.


Because of the immediate attention we must give urgent tasks, they tend feel like a burden because they are the only tasks we ever have any time for. And important tasks, because of their romanticised long-term mission, they are always reserved for the future. And therefore never spending time on the things that are important to us leaves us feeling burnt-out, unmotivated and resentful. Especially when you realise you haven’t made any real movement towards your goals in the last month despite working so hard. 


So just focus more on the important and less on the urgent, right? Well, yes. But what’s in the way of this, is that we so often confuse the urgent as important. Missing a deadline or causing a delay because you haven’t done an urgent task means you’ll likely face consequences. Which of course isn’t something you want — but the fear of being reprimanded makes us believe these urgent tasks are important ones. Ones that have real meaning in our lives and make a difference to our longterm goals. And of course they are important to some degree. Without completing these urgent tasks, our businesses are likely to fall apart. We can’t sack them off completely. But we do need to positively identify between urgent and important to claim back our time spent on making real progression…


We can do this by using the Eisenhower Decision Matrix. This is a system by which splits your tasks up into a quadrant of important and not important and urgent and not urgent. By seeing all of our tasks and goals written down in front of us, divided into four separate boxes that represent their longevity and immediacy, we can begin to redistribute our time and focus accordingly. For example, if you have 5 things written under ‘urgent but not important’ you could spend one day completing those tasks and then the rest of the week focused solely on the ‘not urgent but important’ jobs. 


Once you clearly distinguish between the urgent and the important, and realise how much time you spend on jobs that aren’t contributing towards the progression of your business, you’ll be able to make the changes necessary to regain momentum and finally get to crossing those bigger goals off your to-do list.


In the resources area, you’ll find an Eisenhower Decision Matrixtemplate which will help you divide up your tasks into important and not important and urgent and not urgent. Let’s claim back our momentum, witches.