Important vs Urgent and the Difference between the Two

It was Stephen Covey who first introduced the idea to me, of the fundamental difference between what is important and what is urgent. And this difference is what I feel so pointedly every day, as deadlines loom and as my project plate gets fuller.
When you do get beautiful nuggets of wisdom all bundled up in a nice hardcover, I believe it makes it harder at times, to see the individual value that each well-deserved nugget really brings to you. But this is really worth looking into.

I understand the differences as being :

1. You need to be centred. You need to know what it is that you are required to focus on and where your true work lies.
I have found myself, on many an occasion, fighting a battle of urgency as opposed to importance. When that happens, it is all about a race to the finish line. The outside world will bombard you with their issues, their priorities, their values.  If you fail to spend time thinking about this, then it will be far easier, in my mind, for you to be pulled and pushed along as each demand or priority takes centre stage in your life. Do we work hardest on what is most important or what screams for our attention the best? Should we attend to what demands our attention or should we attend to what is important?

2. You need to have a plan for this to work.
Without a plan, without a sense of direction, how do you move ahead in the path you seek?

3. Who makes more noise?
What is urgent can oftentime, make far more noise than what is important.

4. You can???t escape hard work.
What is important is oftentime, plain clear hard work. But it is hard work that can wait. The pain is bearable if you take it in small doses. It only hurts at the end of your life, as you sit and reflect on what has been, and what is too late. Why is that? It is the pain of remorse and the knowledge that nothing can be done now. We all have choice. The book you have been mulling about in your mind, with a few notes scribbled in your jotter ??? it???s there waiting to be written. But the pain of not having written it? We can excuse it away with a host of reasons ??? time, fatigue, lack of a muse, lowered passion, external commitments. Day by day, it is only another day that the book is not worked on until an entire life goes by and it is too late.

5. Baby steps
It is achievable if we look at it step by step and if approach it incrementally. What we are really looking at building here is ??? creating a habit.
What is it then, that Aristotle once said : Excellence is an art won by training and habituation: we do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have these because we have acted rightly; ‘these virtues are formed in man by his doing the actions’; we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit: ‘the good of man is a working of the soul in the way of excellence in a complete life… for as it is not one swallow or one fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy'”.


About rowena morais

Media Communications and Editorial Specialist. With my strong professional network of contacts, I help individuals and organisations, particularly those within Human Resource and Technology, strengthen their skill-base and brand through compelling writing, beautiful design, content marketing and publishing. Let's talk.

2 responses to “Important vs Urgent and the Difference between the Two

  1. Anonymous

    Hi TomSo good of you to share. You are so right and it is a daily effort to keep reminding myself of things that are urgent and things that are important. How do you use this matrix – would love to know more!rowena


  2. Tom Schafer

    Rowena, I find in my busyness it is so easy to get caught up in the Urgent and never get to the Important, that I made and now have a colorful Urgent-Important Matrix card above my office computer. Thanks for your reminder. Tom Schafer


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