Priorities: Important versus Urgent

Recently, an acquaintance sent me a note in which he referred to “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey. One habit he thought was particularly useful was: “Doing ‘Important, Non-Urgent’ things ahead of ‘Non-important, Urgent’ things”. This prompted me to think more about this suggestion. I think it is a good one, and it appears in different guises in different places.

We are all guilty of doing the “urgent” but ignoring the “important”.

Different people live their lives in different ways. Some people, procrastinate to such a degree that they never do anything, important or un-important, until it has become extremely (maybe even, frighteningly, urgent). Then, galvanised by fear, they race  to complete whatever it is. Once they have done the task they heave a sigh of relief and subside into inactivity again, until the next crisis. These poor souls exist in states of worry (about what they should be doing), fear (about what they haven’t done), and exhaustion (having forced themselves to do it). Very rarely do they enjoy peace, or the satisfaction of a job well done. I do not recommend this as a way of living.

The difference between “Important” and “Urgent” is crucial. Importance may come from within, or without. Most urgency comes from the outside. It is important to establish ones own priorities. We may not always get our way and we may sometimes choose to do things which we do not consider important, but if we have priorities, we can always return to them.

A final thought is to look for activities which create more options for the future. Which make us stronger, which allow us to deal with everyday tasks more effectively and allow us more energy and time to deal with the important things.