We often rush around – being busy and overwhelmed by events. We think there is no alternative. Urgent actions are required every minute of our waking lives, and we feel that there are fires that need to be put out immediately.
Especially at such times, we may benefit from the advice of Dr. Roopleen, who says, “Whatever phase of life you are in, make time to pause and reflect where you are heading to. It is a good time to insert a comma now and realign yourself to your inner self before your life ends in a full stop.”
Understanding the “Important” and the “Urgent”
The philosopher-writer Stephen Covey always advised that we pause between every stimulus and our response. Covey illustrated the difference between things that are merely urgent and those that are important. Covey categorized activities into four types:
Urgent – Not Important
Your mobile phone rings – you are primed to answer immediately. Your phone may notify you that a message has come in – you automatically look at this. These are all examples of how we succumb to urgency – even if the matter is not important.
Not Urgent and Not Important
Then some activities are neither urgent nor are they important. For example, surfing the Internet, browsing through the news for a long time, spending hours on your social media platform – these are all not urgent and not important activities.
Urgent – Important
There is a project deadline for tomorrow. The project is for a client who has trusted your company with this task. You and your team are meeting just now to ensure the project is completed. This is an activity that is both urgent and important.
Not Urgent – Important
Consider the same project described above. However, instead of having a deadline for tomorrow, imagine preparing and working on this a month in advance. The project is then not urgent, although it is important.
Covey urges us to spend most of our time in this last state, pursuing activities that are not urgent yet important.
Planning your week
In order to spend most of your time on important but not urgent activities, one has to first PAUSE and start THINKING. Covey recommends that we spend time reviewing our ultimate objectives once a week – what tasks are most important and required for the medium to long term. Then we fill in our weekly schedule with these important but not yet urgent activities.
We also need to work in teams to spread the workload. We have to learn to delegate – share responsibilities. None of us are so important that only we can complete a task. Working in teams is efficient and it also helps us prevent errors we might otherwise make as individuals. New ideas and fresh insights are brought into focus.
Pursuing our lives in this manner may seem impossible – some busy people feel it is impossible – yet the most effective and creative individuals are those that spend most of their time in important but not urgent work.
We should remember the “Eisenhower Principle.” President Eisenhower said, “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”