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RAB Research Archive

Urgent or Important?

Last week in our new Leadership MasterClass, the subject of interruptions, time management and important work came up. Managing is tough work, and it requires so many different skills. Balancing your time and attention is among the top skills required.

In a search engine search bar, enter “time management.” You’ll find over 17,400,000 results (Who has time for that?). With over 17 million results to a search, the topic must be important.

To 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.

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 and positive.”

Urgent, on the other hand, is often set by someone else's agenda without regard to the level of importance to you. 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 if it’s urgent or important.

We all want to do important work, don’t we?

Jeff Schmidt is SVP-Professional Development at the Radio Advertising Bureau. You can reach Jeff at Jeff.Schmidt@RAB.com. or follow him on social media: Twitter and LinkedIn.

Source: Jeff Schmidt, RAB