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The difference between Urgent and Important

Most of us are aware of the benefits of prioritising; doing what matters and achieving a level of productivity. We see that when we do this we achieve more results, we make more progress, and as a result, we feel more fulfilled.

What happens at times for many of us is we find ourselves asking what actions will achieve our desired results, or on occasion what are our desired results in this moment?

For some people, they will have heard of the Urgent/Important matrix.

It's proposed to be one of the simplest and effective ways to determine what to do with each task on our list. What I've found for many people the line between urgent and important is blurred which makes this cute matrix frustrating and confusing.

It sounds simple enough.

Urgent and Important - Do it.

Urgent and not important - Delegate it

Not Urgent and Important - Schedule it

Not Urgent and Not Important - Delete.

Great, now, what's the difference between urgent and important?

Let's start by defining Important.

Is it as black and white as something is or isn't important?

My answer - No, there is a scale of importance.

This scale is determined by consequences.

Consequences and the impact of consequences are determined by our desired outcome, and the steps that need to be taken to achieve the outcome.

There is a simple question to determine how important something is:

How much does this move me towards my desired outcome?

For example:

If our desired outcome is to lose weight, eating chocolate moves us further away from our outcome. Eating one piece of chocolate moves us away a little bit. Eating a block of chocolate moves us a LOT.

It's kind of like playing a game of snakes and ladders. Little snakes take us away from the end a little way, big snakes take us back a long way. Little ladders take us closer a little bit, big ladders take us a lot closer.

Just like in a game of snakes and ladders sometimes we will be going down the snakes, other times we will be going up the ladders. Unlike in the game of snakes and ladders we have choices about whether we go up or down. Sometimes we may still choose to go down a snake, that's okay. As long as we recognise that it was a choice.

Sometimes what we set as our desired goal, isn't the only goal. Just like I say to my kids,

it's not about winning or losing the game, it's about the game we play along the way. This is apt in our personal lives, choose snakes, go on detours, enjoy the journey. When it comes to business

if we keep choosing snakes we need to check our commitment to the outcome.

Note: This is only based on our Actions and our Responses. It is not based on external factors.

Snakes are not when a potential client says No to an opportunity, Snakes are when we don't make the phone call to make an offer.

Okay, back to the point, Importance is determined by how close (or not) an action takes us towards achieving our goal. It is a scale. We need to learn how to assess which actions are going to give us greater results for effort, these are the ones that are more important. The more effort it takes for fewer results are prioritised as less important.


The biggest obstacle around urgency is that what we see in front of us, the thing applying pressure is often deemed as urgent. We live in a world that is generally seeking instant gratification. This often means that tasks that feel urgent are given attention as completing them is more likely to give instant gratification. Tasks that are Important and not Urgent tend to need us to see the longer game.

Many people are lacking in boundaries and a willingness to Say No because of fear of being rude, unliked, not appearing super-woman-esq. This means many people experience urgency through the presence or appearance of a task in their mind or day.

Urgency is determined by immediate consequences.

Being liked does play a part in business, but not being liked by everyone. Being efficient plays a part, but efficiency doesn’t mean attempting to do everything at once. It means having priorities.

Learning to let go of the things that are urgent in our mind, but not important, by which I mean won’t contribute to our longer-term goals or desired results, is key.

This will require letting go of fears of not being liked, or not being enough, creating boundaries and identifying clearly the priorities that you have, the actions that move you towards your results, following the track towards success.

Applying this to a daily planning context I’ve found that hang-ups around the words Urgent and Important can impact the ability to use this matrix effectively.

The theory, the distinction of doing what matters, and doing what has deadlines or consequences played into the development of the DailyFROG matrix.

Particularly the Required and Outstanding frames. Required are those things that are both important (actions attached to our goals) and urgent (items attached to a time-frame).

Outstanding are those things that are important and will make a significant difference, a higher result for less energy.

By focusing on these two key areas Important and urgent (Required), important and not urgent (outstanding) as we plan our day, we are more able to follow through on priorities.

Adding ONE thing to the Outstanding list and ensuring we make the time to do it, irrespective of the interruptions (urgent or not) that arise throughout the day.

These words – Required and Outstanding - removes Non-Important (both urgent and not urgent) items from our focus. When we are clear on our priorities, focused and committed to success we will find a way to complete these tasks.

If you would like to learn more about DailyFROG and join a community of people striving for more fulfillment through a path of productivity join us here:

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