April 29

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Important vs Urgent to maintain focus

By Ralph Varcoe

April 29, 2020

productivity hacks

1.6   Important or Urgent

Productivity hack no.6 from '60 Ways to Hurray! by Ralph Varcoe.


In this productivity hack we'll look at Eisenhower's famous matrix of important vs urgent.


Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States. He served as a General in the second world war and was the first Supreme Commander of NATO. He knew a thing or two about what was important and what was urgent.

He came up with a simple model that enables you to determine if a task is important, urgent, both, or neither. He suggested how to handle each of the four categories.

  1. Important and Urgent: Do straight away
  2. Important but Not Urgent: Schedule (and spend most of your time here)
  3. Not Important but Urgent: Delegate
  4. Not Important and Not Urgent: Eliminate

The definition of Important is, well, important here. Something that goes into this category is one that moves you forward towards your goal. It’s something like ‘research the topic for my book’, or ‘run the 16km training run to build stamina’. These are what get you to where you want to be.

Urgent is something that has a time dependency and a consequence of not doing. Filing your tax return by 31st January (if you’ve not already done it) is urgent to avoid penalties. Someone telling you a report is needed as they have to brief their manager today is urgent.

Things that are not urgent include checking Facebook, chatting to your co-worker about their cat, or updating your Instagram feed. These are also almost definitely not important either.

Ideally nothing is in category 1 because you’re on top of what needs to get done so things have not become urgent. Work to get these under control first.

Category 2 is where you want to focus most of your energy - on the tasks that drive things forwards.

If it’s not important to you but it is urgent see if you can find someone else who could do it, for whom this may be important. Ideally you want to delegate as much of these items as possible. There will be some times when you can’t (your boss needs something urgently and you’re the only one with the information) and you’ll just need to go with it.

And if something is nether important to you, nor urgent, just bin it. Who cares if it is ever done? No-one. Eliminate these distractions.

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Ralph Varcoe

About the author

For over 20 years, Ralph has run sales and marketing teams across large enterprises and smaller start-ups, at companies such as Orange, Tata Communications, Virgin Media, Spirit Ai and others. He brings a wealth of experience in personal and professional development with a laser focus on enabling people to achieve more than they thought possible. He's a published author and musician with a passion for creating - be that change, the right solution, exciting campaigns, the right environment for customers to succeed, or podcasts, videos and written content.

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