Do you sometimes feel like you spend all your time managing crises or chasing deadlines? Is your to-do list stressing you out?
At the end of the day, do you feel drained of energy or wonder if you accomplished anything of real significance? And if you feel this way, how must your team feel?
These are signs that you may be confusing the urgent with the important.
The important vs. urgent dilemma
If you don’t have any idea what values and goals matter most to your business, you obviously won’t know what things you should be spending your time on to reach those aims. Instead, you’ll latch on to whatever stimuli and to-dos are most urgent.
When businesses spend a lot of time chasing after crises they fail to thrive, miss important goals and leave leaders and team members burnt and stressed out.
Using the grid provided here, we can help define your goals and determine what tasks are the most important to moving you toward those goals.
As a growing business working with limited resources, we know you can’t just focus on getting lots of work done; you need to focus on getting the RIGHT things done.
Related reading: How to slow down (to speed business growth)
Important vs. urgent exercise
It is likely you may have heard of this tool before because variations on this method have been used by successful business leaders for decades. This grid is a powerful productivity tool that can 10x your effectiveness. It consists of 4 quadrants that classify your daily activities according to two parameters: level of urgency and level of importance.
This analysis helps you rapidly identify activities you should focus on or ignore.
To evaluate your business, take a look at your typical week and estimate the % of your time you spend in each quadrant based on how urgent vs. important they are. By minimizing “busy work” activities that provide minimal value to long term goals, you free up time for things that truly matter.
After this exercise you'll have the chance to:
- Consciously give priority to the most important tasks and to plan and delegate so that we deal with problems BEFORE they become urgent crises and
- Be aware of our interruptions and distractions so that we can reduce or eliminate them. This empowers people to manage their limited time resources so that they get their priority tasks done in a more enjoyable and less stressful way.
How to use the Important vs. Urgent Grid
- Have SMART* business goals defined and in front of you
- Make a list of common and specific activities as they relate to your goals
- Assign each activity to a quadrant on the chart and how much time you spend in each section
- The number of activities in a quadrant help to determine the amount of time you'll need to spend completing those activities.
- Look for ways to minimize time spent on quadrants 1, 3 and 4 activities – and also ways to spend more time on activities listed in quadrant 2.
After reviewing the grid, consider what your business - and YOU - can do differently?
In order to break away from this inherent bias of being restricted from focusing on the non-urgent, important tasks, leaders must proactively lead with intention that is correlated to their vision. Once the leaders on your team create this behavior for themselves, the same behaviors will filter down to all strategy, teams and individuals in the organization.
When we spend a lot of time on important tasks (quadrant 2), we deal with most issues before they arise and are likely to have solid support from others. All of this means feeling a better sense of control and fewer crises to manage later.
*A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Let's connect if you need help define your goals in that way