See if this story sounds familiar.
You’re totally exhausted after a busy, action-packed day.
Throughout the day, you fielded dozens of emails, took and placed more phone calls than you can count, helped everyone who asked for help – and handled everything else that popped up.
You were crazy busy nearly every second.
As your day winds down and afternoon begins turning to evening, you finally pause long enough to take a deep breath, reflect upon your day, and think…
“Wait… The whole day is GONE and I didn’t accomplish a damn thing!”
Sure, you got some things off your plate and crossed a few items off your to-do list – but none of that frantic activity helped you accomplish anything truly important.
Another day wasted – without completing anything significant.
You consider that maybe that’s just how life works. Maybe we’re all just rudderless ships adrift on the ocean and this is just the way it’s going to be.
Rudderless ship adrift on the ocean? Wow. That sounds like a bad ballad by Air Supply. My sincere apologies.
But anyway… you’re not a rudderless ship. You’re not helpless, and your life doesn’t have to be consumed with juggling all these busy, urgent tasks that really don’t get you anywhere.
The Battle of Urgent vs Important
We live in an uber-connected world. And every blinking, buzzing, or ringing device we keep on our techie utility belts helps us stay even more connected day and night.
And do you know what that atmosphere creates?
The perfect environment for instantaneous communication and reaction. An entire society tethered to the question, “what’s happening right now?”
Our days are filled with spur-of-the-moment phone calls, pings, IM’s, emails that arrive in a steady stream all day long, and any number of other relentless interruptions.
But here’s the important question…
What about being busy actually helps you become a better person or furthers any of your big audacious ambitions?
Five years from now none of those emails or phone calls will matter. And yet those are exactly the types of things we devote most of our time to.
“What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.”
— Dwight D. Eisenhower
Urgent tasks pop up willy-nilly, grab you by the shoulders and demand your attention right this very second. These are things like daily deadlines, phone calls, emails, and impromptu conversations.
Getting these items off of your plate might feel satisfying temporarily, but they really don’t get you anywhere significant.
Important tasks, on the other hand, do contribute to your long-term goals and dreams. Things like growing your business, finally writing that book, staying healthy, raising a family, or getting your financial affairs in order.
Important tasks don’t normally do you the favor of demanding your attention right this second.
In fact, they’re downright easy to set aside. They loom quietly in the background waiting for you to attend to them – and for that reason you can easily fall into the habit of putting them off.
So while you spend most of your life paying attention to the little fires urgency creates, your big audacious goals go unconquered because you never seem to find the time for them.
The business never gets started, the novel never gets written… the dream never comes true.
What would happen if instead of dealing with the urgent items as they pop up, you chose to spend time on the important things first?
It’s a conscious effort I’ve been making in my personal life lately – and I can assure you that you’ll get more done and feel better about the direction of your work and life.
Which important things are you not paying enough attention to?
Which urgent things are keeping you from changing that?
What is this whole urgent vs important situation costing you?