Diver jumping into the water Important and urgent are words talked about as important for time management. But what is “important and urgent“? This article examines the difference and how it can help your time management and productivity. 

Important and Urgent, a personal story.

It was a stunning day on the south coast the sea glittered in the sunlight, with barely a ripple on it. Our small boat skimmed across the sea; then, James Bond style, we tipped into the water and sunk to the wreck below.

I was mesmerised by the shimmering shoal of cod, multicoloured jewel anemones and atmospheric wreck. I was jerked back into reality when I realised I’d been under the water too long and needed to head up, or face having “the bends”.

We headed up to the surface then hovered 5 metres down for 3 minutes. 3 minutes passed and my buddy signaled to me, let’s go. I couldn’t! I had had to wait another seven minutes; I had too much nitrogen in my blood stream (a diving hazard). It was important that I don’t go up before that seven minutes, or I’d need a helicopter ride to the nearest decompression chamber!

2 minutes passed before I signaled to my buddy that I was out of air! Now it was urgent that I got air (for obvious reasons). Suppressing every urge in my body (and there were several) to shoot up to the surface and gasp clean fresh air, I waited and delegated the air supply to my buddy, then we finished the dive safely and all was well.

That’s how I remember the difference between important and urgent, how do you remember it? Important – must do (or not do). Urgent – can wait or be delegated.

Important and Urgent examples

A friend of mine had a discussion with his new business development team. They were complaining about all the things they had to do.

If somebody wants it done and it doesn’t relate to increased fee earning it’s urgent. If it’s urgent it never has a priority over important (generating more fees)

You may think his view may be simplistic, but it’s clear! How will you define the difference between important and urgent, for your team?

Important and urgent can help you prioritise more effectively; but only when you consider the difference and what you’ll do about it.

The Important and Urgent matrix

The important and urgent matrix It’s said that Eisenhower created the Important Urgent Matrix; where, if something is:

  • Important not urgent: Schedule it and do it yourself.
  • Urgent, not important: It’s probably urgent to somebody else – not important to you! You can probably delegate it, or find a way round it (like my breathing problem).
  • Not important or urgent: Why are you even thinking about it?
  • Important and urgent: Do it, yourself, now.

Time Management is impossible.

Time Management” just isn’t possible. You can’t manage time, so stop trying, you can only manage yourself. Then you’ll be focusing on the right thing. The important urgent distinction is one way of helping create that focus and helps to prioritise how you tackle tasks.

If you want to improve your time management, try:

So, I’m off for another dive, where I won’t run out of air or be in the situation where I need to know the difference between important and urgent.

How do you remember the difference between important and urgent, and what use do you make of the concept?

Written by Jon Baker The 5-50 Coach. I help professionals grow their firms from 5 to 50 employees, sustainably, profitably and still have fun. Have you got your "next step kitbag yet"? It's stuffed with guides, reports & templates helping you grow from 5 to 50 employees Click here for immediate access