Saturday, February 5, 2011

Important vs Urgent

Simple tools can provide lots of help. Here is a simple tool than can help us prioritize.

Leadership is about doing what is important, avoiding the things that are not important, managing crises and delegating what others can do for us.

How much of your time do you spend on tasks that are URGENT, but not IMPORTANT?
(By “important” here I mean: What is important for YOU to do.)

How much time do you have left to spend on tasks that are really IMPORTANT, but you don’t take time to do it because it is not urgent? These are usually the leadership tasks like planning and prevention, reflecting, developing your people, building relationships, exercising, etc.

The matrix (figure) can help you sort your task into the 4 quadrants. Ask yourself what is really important for you. What is not important? What is urgent and what is not urgent? Keep doing this on a regular basis. Include your team. All task can be put into one of these 4 quadrants, and then ask yourself:
Do I really want to waste time on tasks that are not important?

Here’s a way of dealing with the tasks in each quadrant:
  1. Avoid them.
    Tell your surroundings that these will not be done. Only when NO OTHER tasks needs attention will these be addressed. These are the distractions like reading emails every 5 minutes, saying yes to “nice-to-have’s”, etc etc
  2. Delegate these.
    It is not important that you do these. It may be important for others to learn from these. Note: These may seem important, but are just urgent. Lots of stuff that are popular to do belong here.
  3. Manage these.
    If your life is mostly consisting of tasks that are urgent and important, you should seek help in prioritizing AND looking at the goals of your job.
  4. Spend more time here.
    I believe that if you spend more time to plan, reflect, prevent, build your team and other tasks that are important – but not urgent, you will probably get MORE time to spend here, not less.
Make this quadrant public – discuss it with your team, update it regularly (constantly) and spend time on what’s important.

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