Outstanding Performers Focus on Important but Not Urgent Tasks

Today is Wednesday, so this post is on outstanding performance.

Outstanding performers are well organized.  They manage their time, life, space and stress well.  In 7 habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey shared is famous importance and urgency matrix for time management.

Urgent tasks are deadline based.  They are usually imposed by someone other than you.  The sooner the task needs to be completed, the more urgent it is.  Importance is independent of urgency.   Important tasks are those that you need to complete to achieve your goals. 

Dr. Covey’s matrix is conceptually simple.  There are tasks that are:

• Not Important and Not Urgent
• Not Important and Urgent
• Important and Urgent
• Important and Not Urgent

For me, writing this blog is an important and urgent task.  I have committed to posting every day, Monday through Friday.  That makes is urgent.  Also, this blog is my primary marketing vehicle.  That makes it important.  Life would be great if every task with which we are faced were this simple.

Not important and not urgent tasks are easy to forgo.  If they are neither important, nor urgent, I simply ignore them.

On the other hand, most of us are bombarded with tasks that are not important, but urgent.  Often these tasks come from our boss.  Just read “Dilbert” for a week to see what I mean.  It is difficult to refuse many of these tasks.  However, people who manage their time well have the ability to do so. 

When I am faced with such a task, I always say, “I was planning on doing this today.  I am happy to drop what I was doing and work on your request, but I want you to know that I will have to push back the completing of the other project.”  Sometimes, my bosses have said, “That’s fine.”  On other occasions, they have instructed me to focus on the urgent task that seems unimportant to me.

Here’s an example.  Many years ago, I was working for a large company.  I was in the Training and Development Department.  I was working on designing the curriculum for a sales manager workshop.  My boss’ boss came to me and said, “We have some important visitors from Japan here today.  I would like you to join them for lunch.”  I was zoned in on the training design.  I didn’t want to spend two and a half hours at lunch with guests.  So I told him that I was working on the sales manager curriculum design and asked to be excused from the lunch.  He told me that it was important for us to be good hosts and that I should make time for the lunch – so I did.  Urgent but not important won out that day.  And the reality of everyday life in most companies is that it often will.

However, rather than bemoan this fact, I’d like to focus on where you get the most bang for your time buck – important, but not urgent tasks.

Here’s an example.  Recently, I released my seventh book “Straight Talk for Success.”  Writing books is very important to me.  My books help me establish credibility with my current and prospective clients.  However, writing a book is a time consuming activity.  If I’m not careful and budget my time well, it is easy to let my book writing slip – because writing a book is an important but not urgent task.  I need to keep getting my thoughts out there – but I also have a business to run. 

If you’ve never done it, when you run a small business, you are faced with a series of important and urgent tasks.  You have to make the time for the important, but not urgent tasks.  Because if you don’t important but not urgent tasks have a way of becoming urgent – and still important.

Even though “Straight Talk for Success” has just been released and I am still marketing it very aggressively, I am beginning work on a follow up book tentatively called “The Official Guide to Success.”  You heard it here first. 

Cathy and several of my friends have said, “Give it a break, you just finished one, enjoy it.  Don’t get started on another book so soon.”  My response is that I want to keep the momentum I’ve gained – and I know that writing a book is an important but not urgent task that is all too easy to put off.

The common sense point here is simple.  Sometimes we’re forced into doing not important but urgent tasks.  Dispense with them as expeditiously as possible.  Make sure you keep up with your important and urgent tasks.  Most important, make time for the important, but not urgent tasks.  That’s where you’ll get the most out of your most precious and non renewable resource – your time.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Log on to my website www.BudBilanich.com for more common sense and to subscribe to my weekly newsletter “Common Sense.” 

I’ll see you around the web and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.

Bud   

PS: Speaking of Alex’s Lemonade Stand, my fundraising page is still open.  Please go to www.FirstGiving.com/TheCommonSenseGuy to read Alex’s inspiring story and to donate if you can.

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