5 Tips to Help You Do What’s Important Instead of What’s Urgent

Are you spending most of your time in crisis mode? Do you often find yourself running in circles, trying to tackle multiple tasks at once? Do you feel drained of energy at the end of the day, and yet can’t point to anything you accomplished of real significance? If you answered yes to any of the above, then you may be confusing the urgent with the important.

Take a look at the tasks you have on your list today and ask yourself which tasks are most important. You’ll quickly realize that while the important tasks trump the urgent (unimportant) tasks, we often give urgency priority over importance. The truth is that most tasks we tell ourselves we need to do – don’t need to be done right now.

Here are 5 tips to help you prioritize the “important” instead of the “urgent”:

  1. Set a Priority – Make sure you assign each of your to-dos a priority. Most people do not take the time needed to do this and then everything appears equally important on their list, but not everything can be a priority. Mark your highest impact tasks so that they stand out.
  2. Add It to Your List – Just because you thought of a task now doesn’t mean you need to do it now. Add it to your list, so that you can deal with it at the appropriate time.
  3. Make an Appointment – If a task needs to be done at or by a certain time, add it to your calendar. Make an appointment for that task so you know you’ll have time to get it done.
  4. Deal with Interruptions – Most interruptions “seem” like important things. After all, they stopped you from doing something else, right? Yet, whether it is a ringing phone or someone walking into your office, you need to put interruptions in their place. Avoid them if possible, (you can turn off that phone!), or say no until you are finished with your important work.
  5. Urgent vs. Important – The most important question you can always ask yourself when dealing with a task is, “Is this important or just urgent?” It’s amazing how few tasks are actually important in a day’s work.

Urgent items love to masquerade as important ones. A random interruption becomes your number one task, or a forgotten task suddenly takes your attention away from what you should be doing. As you work through your day, make sure to stop and weigh the urgent vs. the important tasks. And of course, always do the important ones first.

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