…urgent or important…

“Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value.” Jim Rohn
In the realm of life lessons,  we’ve all had at least a few experiences of being over or under committed.  We’re all a bit like Goldilocks here – trying to get our work levels “just right” and the task doesn’t taste anything like porridge.

One common strategy to use is to get a “read” on an issue – just to “figure out” how to proceed.  Most people start with the obvious.  “Is this urgent?” and if not, then “How important?”

Urgency implies an immediacy; action can’t be put off, we must do something right now.  Importance implies a degree of significance, but without the necessity of action, later can be an option.

Now this doesn’t sound all that confusing, but for most of us keeping the distinction clear is quite a challenge.  Its gets to the heart of our being proactive.  Can we get out in front of the game?

So when working with others, it is often good to ask: “Is this urgent or merely important?”  You can’t exercise initiative and responsibility without knowing as much as possible about a situation.  Other questions to try include:  “If this is urgent, what makes it urgent?,” or “What impact will this have and on whom?” Situational variables being what they are, urgency may be conflated with things outside your control.  Don’t be overzealous for control.

If the distinction is still unclear, you can often get more clarity by asking: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is this?”  Asking someone to quantify either urgency and importance goes a long way toward clarifying how to deal with a situation.  You can also test the depth of the other person’s understanding by getting a better sense of the variables at work.

Of course, your sense of desire plays a role here too.  Try not to be caught up in a specific result – it might turn out that the only source of urgency is your own investment.  And remember: a balance approach generates more flexibility than urgency.

Stephen Covey makes an important point about the “urgency-vs-importance” trade-off when describing the habit of “Putting First Things First.”  Look at the energy implied in your choice and be true to that. We cannot move forward with long-term plans if we only make room for our most urgent tasks.  Important tasks must have a place too.  Making the choice to visualize the things that matter most makes you a “first creator” – that is, a person who begins with the end in mind.    You can’t be “creative” if you can’t do that.

Urgency, by the way, does not increase the value of what we want.  It merely places it in time.  Time, value, and desire are part of what we bring to a situation and not the other way around.  

This last point is probably worth repeating … when we bring time, we ask:  “Can I give this the attention it needs?”   When we bring value, we ask:  “Is this a priority?” and with desire we ask: “Am I truly committed to making this work?” 

Thanks for listening!


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