Published in Sin categoría at 14 May, 2020


Recognizing the difference between urgent vs. important: that is the question.

Millions of people are always attending to so-called urgent situations; However, what is truly important is usually neglected.

This article analyzes the methodology that will allow you to separate what’s urgent from what’s important. Accordingly, you will learn to prioritize and give relevance to what should prevail, to order your task flow and your personal and professional productivity.

To start, here are some simple definitions:

Something is important for its entity, for its interest, convenience or for the scope of its effects. Something urgent is recognized by its need, by the urgency that it implies or by the consequences that its lack can cause.

Separately, it’s easy to establish priorities between tasks when one is urgent or if, among the set of activities to be carried out, there’s one of greater importance. The difficulties begin to appear when the two concepts intersect. In such cases, it can be interesting to apply the following classification:

The interpretation of this table will depend on the circumstances of each organization, the policy of each department, the duration and complexity of each task, its effects, implications for oneself and for the rest, and, of course, common sense. In general terms, the order of action could be determined as follows:

Urgent and Important: it’s essential to dedicate time to these activities as a priority and without delay;

Urgent but NOT Important: tasks to be delegated, as far as possible;

Important but NOT Urgent, activities that will have to be postponed, but making sure that it’s not for a long time, always attending to their priority;

Neither Important nor Urgent: these activities must be ruled out.

How to recognize important tasks and differentiate them from urgent ones?

Sometimes this confusion is more common than we would like. The urgent almost always requires our immediate attention and manages to shift our focus of attention, pressing until it’s carried out. The risk is in postponing important activities due to this pressure, consuming resources in tasks that contribute little or nothing of value and / or exhausting energy, reducing our efficiency.

The negative effects related to urgent activities can be minimized by taking into account the following principles of action:

If two tasks involve the same temporary consumption, the one with the earlier deadline should be considered more urgent.

When there are two tasks with the same deadline, the most urgent is the one that requires the most time to complete.

Deferring the deadline of a task implies lowering its degree of urgency.

Discovering that a task is longer than expected involves increasing its degree of urgency.

A task that has no deadline will never be urgent.

Important activities can be distinguished from the rest because they produce tangible results and are consistent with individual goals and objectives, and also at an organizational level. They can be defined as key tasks. The main risk associated with these tasks is in postponing their achievement due to their lower degree of urgency compared to others, however, by acting in this way the value they provide is being ignored.