5 Ways to Choose Important Over Urgent

People tend to choose urgent tasks they can complete quickly and put off important tasks that take longer to complete. (The Mere Urgency Effect)

Important tasks take longer and are more demanding than unimportant urgencies. 

The Mere Urgency Effect:

You tend to delay important tasks by saying, “Just let me finish this and I’ll do that later.” But we all know that ‘later’ seldom comes.

The Mere Urgency Effect indicates …

  1. We choose unimportant tasks with lower payoffs over important tasks with better payoffs.
  2. We let artificial deadlines drive us to choose unimportant tasks.

You didn’t change the oil in your car because you had more urgent things to do. One day the car starts making scary noises. You neglected the important – scheduled maintenance. Now you have an urgency.

The same can be said for relationship building. You just don’t have time! But skillful leaders build and strengthen relationships before they need them.

In an age when running around with your hair on fire is desired and admired, important work gets pushed aside.

5 ways to choose important over urgent:

  1. Put important work on your calendar.
  2. Expect important work to take longer than expected.*
  3. Use values to guide decisions.
  4. Establish short-term goals for long-term projects. Suppose you have an important task due at the end of the week. Create effective urgency by setting a goal to be completed by 3:00 p.m. today. (Set short-term daily goals for important long-term work.)
  5. Turn off social media. Check email at scheduled intervals. Turn off email alerts. (Yes, not everyone can do this.)

Bonus: Identify important work with your team or boss. Ask, “What’s important this week?” It helps to know what’s important if you plan to do what’s important.

How might leaders choose important over urgent?

How might leaders distinguish between important work and unimportant urgencies?

*Dear Dan: I Can’t Stop Helping People.