In the search bar, I entered: “Time Management.” There were 17,400,000 results. (Who has time for that?) With over 17 million results to a search, the topic must be important.
Certainly, in a work-from-home environment and now as some transition back to an office environment, in varying degrees, we all struggle to manage our time more effectively. All-time management philosophies focus on the question of how we spend our time. We all have the same amount of time in the day, so it’s really not about time management much as it is activity management. In other words, how we use our time.
Author Seth Godin recently blogged about the difference between “urgent” and “important.” Godin defines “important” tasks as "long-term, foundational, coherent, in the interest of many, strategic, efficient, positive.”
Urgent, on the other hand, is often set by someone else's agenda without regard to the level of importance to you. Take notifications, for instance. I recently turned off my “breaking news” notifications because I found that while they might have been “urgent” to the news director, they were largely unimportant to me. It was also helpful to turn off email notifications and many other notifications that were possibly urgent, but not important.
Godin suggests that if you focus your time and energy on the important items, the urgent matters will be dramatically reduced. “Mollifying an angry customer is urgent, building systems and promises that keep customers from getting angry are important.”
Effective time management is difficult. The evidence of this is the number of systems, books and advice about the subject. I found great value in thinking of items as either urgent or important. Next time you get a pop-up notification or distraction, ask yourself whether it’s urgent or important.
We all want to do important work, don’t we?