Urgent vs Important: Why Choosing Wrong Can Derail Your Dreams

Urgent vs Important

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.

Busy, busy.

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?

Let’s discuss…

About Gary Korisko

Gary is a battle-tested sales and marketing pro, copywriter, coach, and business strategist who teaches how to create worthwhile work on Reboot Authentic. Connect with Gary on Google+ and Twitter.

15 Replies

  1. Hi Gary,
    Great post! You have made some very valuable points here, thank you! I would agree that you should be doing the most “important” things first……I am finding that I tend to work on those most important tasks first then if the “urgent” ones still pop up then I will pick and choose which ones I will do 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your valuable post!!

    Love all of your info, always find so much value 🙂

    Best,
    Joan
    Joan Harrington recently posted…The Secret To Better Conversions On Your About PageMy Profile

    1. Thank you, Joan!

      Always nice to see your smiling Avatar here in the comments 🙂

  2. Nice one, Gary. Alongside running my business and my blog, I’m busy organising a wedding (and reception, and honeymoon, and damn I wish we’d planned simpler from the start).

    Problem is I’m struggling to differentiate important from urgent, because everything now seems to be both. Any advice?
    Sophie Lizard recently posted…Freelance Blogging Productivity: The Only Guide You’ll Ever NeedMy Profile

    1. Hey there Sophie! It’s true that many things are both urgent and important – and those are the things to tackle first. Things that are important but not yet urgent need to be planned and scheduled. Things that are urgent but not as important can often be delegated… And things that are just urgent busy work can usually just be eliminated.

      But it sounds like most of your stuff is important, so I’d say recruit some competent help!

      And when’s the wedding? Let’s catch up!

  3. I was very good with balancing my time before. I work as an article writer during the day and an ESL teacher at night. Recently I have been taking Yoga classes and it has been tough balancing everything! For first few days I hardly had any sleep. It is still a struggle up to now. Your article has really given me great ideas on how to prioritize important vs. urgent. I really have to do this to keep my sanity.

    1. Good to hear, Marie.

      I bet I ask my self “is this urgent or important” a dozen times a day. At least for me, it takes a lot of focus – otherwise I backslide and start playing the urgent game.
      Gary Korisko recently posted…Urgent vs Important: Why Choosing Wrong Can Derail Your DreamsMy Profile

  4. What a good way to think about it: Important vs urgent. It is such an important distinction. I agree that it is all too easy to get caught up in the urgent and forget the truly important. The thing is that “urgent” feels important in a different way, so it is easy to get confused. Sometimes we have to simplify our life by choosing what is really a priority- we have to choose because we can’t do everything! I also find that, if we are not careful, we wind up letting other people’s priorities fill our schedules. Thanks for this timely reminder that we need to choose the important.
    Carina Spring recently posted…Saying Thank You.My Profile

    1. Great point about other people’s priorities, Carina. That’s for sure a significant cause of urgent, frantic tasks.
      Gary Korisko recently posted…Urgent vs Important: Why Choosing Wrong Can Derail Your DreamsMy Profile

  5. This post about me well i have few blog i always try to create new post everyday but its just kill me to think of new idea daily for every blog post i left importance behind i just go for urgency. but now after see the site traffic i am totally depress with my self i just give importance to content nothing else even if i write for one blog a day only
    bharat recently posted…How to Connect Android Wear Watch to Wi-FiMy Profile

    1. Good thinking, Bharat! See how easy it is to get off track? We all do it. Don’t be too critical of yourself! 🙂
      Gary Korisko recently posted…Urgent vs Important: Why Choosing Wrong Can Derail Your DreamsMy Profile

  6. Hi there Gary, awesome post. It makes me think and realize how bad I organize my worktime. Really helpful tips to differentiate whats really important and what not. Cheers.
    Isabel Raynaud recently posted…Hechizo para recuperar un amor perdidoMy Profile

  7. Hello Gary,

    I’m here visiting your blog via a link on twitter. Happy to have come across this thought provoking and informative post. I absolutely love this point “Five years from now none of those emails and phone calls would matter”. That’s real talk. I remember working in an office environment a year ago and I used to feel drained every single day. I could feel how I was working hard, attending to urgent matters that mattered to somebody else but MADE NO DIFFERENCE in my life. That feeling of not following my dreams, my purporse, my passion was debilitating. I have long given up on that job and now following my dreams starting my own business and working towards becoming a motivational speaker.

    You definitely made great points in this post and reminded me to keep doing what matters not just make a big list or schedule that hardly has any importance to us.

    Thank you so much Gary. Glad to connect with you on Twitter:) Wish you a good day
    Hema Unnoop recently posted…Top 6 Side Effects Of Constant ComplainingMy Profile

  8. Hi Gary.

    This is my first time here – found you on Twitter. This is a great article and really has gotten me to think a lot about priorities. Very rarely does an article affect me so much that it makes me stop and reevaluate what I am doing.

    Thank you. I’m looking forward to reading your other articles and connecting with you on Twitter.

    Mindy

  9. Heyya..This post about me well i have few blog i always try to create new post everyday but its just kill me to think of new idea daily for every blog post i left importance behind i just go for urgency. but now after see the site traffic i am totally depress with my self i just give importance to content nothing else even if i write for one blog a day only.I was very good with balancing my time before. I work as an article writer during the day and an ESL teacher at night. Recently I have been taking Yoga classes and it has been tough balancing everything..:)Thanks for this timely reminder that we need to choose the important.
    Sneha recently posted…Sinister 2 Movie Review (2015)My Profile

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