When Important becomes Urgent
Posted by Claude Warner on Tuesday 27th April 2010 at 10:42:20
Two of my executive coaching clients are currently focusing on time and priority management using Covey’s 3rd Habit from his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which he calls “Put First Things First”.
Covey created a 4 quadrant model based on the two axes of Urgent and Important. Quadrant 1 is Important and Urgent (Top Left). The one I want to focus on is Quadrant Two (Top Right), which is “Important but Not Urgent”. Quadrant 3 (Bottom Left) is “Urgent but Not Important”, and Quadrant 4 (Bottom Right) is “Not Urgent and Not Important”.
Every person would want to be effective in life. We would want to achieve those things in life that are Important to us, that will give our lives meaning.
The first step here is to know what we want. We need to be clear on our values and principles, on our dreams and goals. If we are, then we have what it is the “Important” in our lives. This is our Quadrant 2, which is where we should be spending our time and energy.
The challenge here, and this is the very foundation for what for many of us is a vicious cycle, is that the Important activities tend to be longer term, and are therefore not Urgent. We end up focusing on the Urgent to the exclusion of what is Important.
Let’s take a real life example. Dealing with a very dissatisfied key account is a lot more Urgent than focusing on the reason why he became dissatisfied in the first place. If your delivery turnaround time is 48 hours, but goods are consistently only delivered within 72 and 84 hours, you are likely to spend all your time dealing with (and trying to keep) dissatisfied customers, rather than improving your order handling and delivery process.
In a sense, much of today’s Urgent is yesterday’s Important not dealt with, and today’s Important not dealt with becomes tomorrow’s Urgent. Instead of being proactive we become reactive. This is indeed a vicious cycle. How do we break out of it?
The very first thing is to realise the importance of the Important, to see the very negative consequences of not dealing with it until it becomes Urgent.
This awareness alone can motivate us to make changes in order to have the time to focus on the Important. Some changes are to:
By focusing on Quadrant 2 you start a virtuous cycle. By focusing on the Important at the right time, you reduce the chance of it become Urgent. You can never eliminate Urgent, but you can drastically reduce it.
A Quadrant 2 person is effective, and likely to feel more in control, less stressed and more fulfilled.
Do you put first things first?
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