Important But Not Urgent

After a couple of years worth of work as a solitary and lone soldier, following more than a couple of decades of more traditional executive life, yesterday was the one of these extremely rare days I stayed away from my daily world of emails, tweets, blogs and e-news. To a regular, non-wired person the statement may seem clearer than blue sky. To me and all of those who feel there is no such thing as information overload, it was something remarkable. But, all of a sudden, I woke up and wanted to do something else – something new, something different. I needed to disconnect, zonk out, clear my head and break my pattern.

I needed to remember the freedom to detach, step back and simply walk away and renew my thinking, so I could then re-focus. That was important (highly important) to me.

Those who know me, can attest to the fact that my energy level is usually higher than average high. And grit, perseverance and yes- stubbornness to a certain extent – make it easy for me to focus and dive deep into whatever it is I am doing.  The fact that I am in love with what I do and how I do it, having the freedom to just walk away for a short time to look at things from a different perspective also counts.

So, what do you do when you are in a similar situation? And please don’t talk to me about the luxury of being able to do it or not. Not tuning in and ignoring your inner eye may be more harmful than you think. As a matter of fact, not taking the crucially mandatory time-out will hamper whatever it is you are doing.

Legendary Steven Covey said it best: “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically, to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside.”

His acclaimed 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People is a great read – classic and for some hollier than the Bible. One of the more provocative concepts in the book is that of the four quadrants of activity management

The separation of urgent from important is not as simple or straightforward. Depending on the moment, the mood, the personality and the level of maturity and experience, we all have a tendency to focus on urgent stuff, mistaking crises, pressing problems or deadlines (quadrant I) and interruptions such as “unavoidable” meetings, phone calls, chit-chat (quadrant III) as important. You must recognize the pattern. You know instinctively exactly what Covey means.

So, take your own time-out. Ask yourself that critical question: How important and how critical is what you want to do/think/make/say? And don’t assume that just because something is urgent, that it is also important.

Knowing how to objectively tell which is which and act on what’s TRULY important may make all the difference in your world – and hopefully somebody else’s, too.

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