FOCUS on the important stuff too, not just the urgent

FOCUS on the important stuff too, not just the urgent

Have you ever experienced a day where you find yourself constantly sidetracked by unimportant tasks, which I call "shiny rabbits", despite having a lengthy list of to-do's filled with urgent and important matters? Just know, you're not alone. This is called "The Urgency Effect,". This effect refers to our inclination to prioritise tasks based on their level of urgency rather than their importance.

Let me illustrate this for you: 

My primary focus today was to complete this blog—it's a task of utmost importance. However, instead of dedicating my time to it, here's what ended up happening:

  • I fed the cats. An urgent chore.
  • I made an urgent list of shopping so I could make a trip to the store later.
  • I found myself doing a load of laundry, which was somewhat urgent.
  • I cleaned out the cat litter, an activity that demanded immediate attention.
  • I got caught up in a series of unimportant phone calls and deleting old emails that could have been postponed.
  • I threw some clothes into the dryer, again somewhat urgent.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Granted, some of these tasks were unavoidable and required completion. However, none of them held the same level of importance as finishing this blog. Well, maybe feeding the cats did. A 1-minute task. 

Now, the question arises: how can we effectively counteract the urgency effect, particularly in a professional setting? This blog will provide valuable insights and guidance to help you tackle this challenge. Read on!

Did you know that research suggests we only have about three hours of productive time each day? Given energy and focus levels and the ability to sustain it over a period of time. Given this information, it's crucial to use our high energy time wisely and on tasks that require it, prioritising their level on our importance scale. The less critical can be postponed or assigned to other people, yes delegation or a virtual assistant even!

Here's a very practical approach, called the 'Eisenhower Matrix'. You can categorise them into 4 groups:

  1. Urgent and Important: These tasks should be tackled promptly.
  2. Urgent, but Not Important: Delegate these tasks to capable individuals.
  3. Important, but Not Urgent: Schedule these tasks for a later time.
  4. Neither Urgent nor Important: Remove these tasks from your schedule as soon as possible.

This is one tool you can use to manage your time and make sure you are giving time to the tasks that actually matter, as categorised by yours truly (yourself).


Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash

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