The Most Important Things in Life Are Not Urgent

If we take the things we want or have to do and apply the dimension urgency and importance, we’ll end up with the following combinations:

  1. Not Urgent & Not Important
  2. Urgent & Not Important
  3. Urgent & Important
  4. Not Urgent & Important

Let’s use these combinations as categories for what we want or have to do. What is the impact of every category on our productivity and quality of life?

Things that are not urgent and not important clearly won’t benefit our life. They are nothing more than distractions. Still large parts of the population spend a lot of time with activities of this category.
Examples are watching television, playing video games, checking Facebook every 15 minutes. Basically everything we do to kill time and escape boredom.

Things that are urgent but not important won’t serve us either. They are delusional. Because of their urgency they seem to be important at the moment. But they are not if measured on the impact on our life.
An example is answering phone calls. What seems to be important and/or urgent for the caller becomes automatically urgent for you because you think you have to answer the call – even if the thing that’s important to the other person is not important to you. There is this tendency that those people who are the least organized, who often have problems with the least important things, will call the more organized people to help them see through their mess.

Now to the two important categories. It seems that you can’t top the urgent & important category, can’t you? That’s where the demand is. But let’s think about those things that have the highest positive impact in your life. Are they urgent?

What about eating healthy food and doing some exercise; Is it urgent? Usually not. You always can start your healthy diet and the gym training next week. But is it important?

Is spending time with your family and friends urgent? Usually not. But is it important?

Is having time for yourself, pursuing a hobby or passion urgent? No. Is it important?

Is personal and professional development urgent? Usually not. Is it important?

Is planning and settings goals urgent? No. Is it important?

Is reading, thinking and writing down your thoughts urgent? No. Is it important?

I think you’ve got the pattern. All the things that are really important, the ones that have the highest positive impact on our life, are not urgent. That are the things that lead to fulfillment. The problem is, that we ignore or postpone them all to often, because there is always something that is important and urgent. We recognize the importance when it gets urgent, but then it’s often too late.

The conclusion is that we have to do the non urgent but important things regardless of how many other important things are currently urgent. Also by doing the important things while they are not urgent, we can prevent that they’ll become urgent at some point in the future, which reducing our stress level and increases our quality of life.

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2 Responses to The Most Important Things in Life Are Not Urgent

  1. Heidi Helen says:

    This is a fantastic article. My case worker at my job agency was talking about this today. Often we get caught up in the “urgent” things – the things facing us right now, but we ignore the important things that need to be done. I need to spend more time on what’s important. An example is this – I was asked to create a poster (for free by the way), and once I said yes, there was a deadline to do it by. It seemed “urgent” because a demand was put on me, but what was actually necessary for me to be doing, was working on a lot of important things in my life, but I chose the urgent thing because of the pressure put on me.

  2. Nilah says:

    Thank you so much for this. This helped me with my college homework!

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