Setting Better Priorities

Improve Productivity by Questioning your Urgency


We all are guilty of spinning our wheels, running in quicksand, feeling busy but just not getting anywhere. Quite often, it's because we are making the wrong choices as to where we devote our time.

Better productivity comes when we question the importance of tasks that we consider to be urgent.

Here are some examples of tasks one might face. As you read through the list try to decide how you might prioritize them:

- a project deadline at 3pm today
- a co-worker's request for help proofing an email
- a phone call from an upset customer
- reading random blog posts online
- driving to your daughter's dance recital by 6pm
- outlining a presentation for an upcoming sales meeting

What separates these urgent tasks is their relevance to what is important in your life. Very often, we mistake urgency for importance because the mere presence of a deadline or a time constrain puts us into a frenetic work mode. It becomes a pattern of chaos that is hard to break.

Here is how one might prioritize the above tasks, according to importance:

Urgent and important

- a project deadline at 3pm today
- driving to your daughter's dance recital by 6pm

The difference between urgent tasks is the extent to which they align with your goals. Meeting work, home and family commitments are goals that these tasks fall into. It's important to focus on items that are of high importance and high urgency, but if you become overloaded with deadline tasks you may have too much on your plate. That is when delegation becomes an important process.

This is an example of a task that may be better delegated to someone else who has equal or better knowledge of a solution.

- a phone call from an upset customer

Urgent but not important

- a co-worker's request for help proofing an email

A request is urgent, but it's important only if it belongs in your area of responsibility. Urgent items are often things you can, and should, say no to because they don't align with your goals. Typically, these types of tasks come at the request of others. Learning to say no is an important aspect of time management.

This is where questioning your urgency is crucial to your productivity. As you make decisions regarding your daily activities, you must have always consider whether a specific task or activity fits into what is important to you. In a sense, there is good urgent, and bad urgent.

Not urgent but important

On the far side of urgency exists tasks that can be completed without deadlines. Working on non-urgent tasks is the best-case scenario of your planning process. Having time to work tasks when you're not up against a deadline is a by-product of good planning. And, if you don't make progress on non-urgent tasks they'll eventually become urgent ones.

One task falls into the zone of non-urgent but important:

- outlining a presentation for an upcoming sales meeting

Not urgent and not important

This is the zone of low value activities with no deadlines -- diversions from what you really should be doing.

- reading random blog posts online

Through better prioritizing, planning, and a little bit of discipline you can diminish the impact of low value activities on your time.

Questioning your urgency is an important step toward increasing your productivity. The key for you is to understand the value of each task as they pertain to reaching your goals.




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