Discerning the Urgent from the Important

Subject line: CRITICAL AND TIME SENSITIVE
Message body: Can someone cut on the coffee machine and start brewing a cup that will be hot when I walk in 30 minutes from now? I’m running late and need a cup before my first meeting. Please reply all.

Subject line: Conference Preparation
Message body: Hey team. Hope everyone had a great weekend. Let’s get together on Thursday and discuss how we want to proceed as relates to our organization’s presentation at the national conference. Please bring notes and come prepared to bounce ideas off others and to have them bounced off you. Thanks.

Which of these e-mails is urgent? Which is important?

We often get so caught up in the urgent that we miss out on the important. We get kept late at work for the immediate and don’t make it home in time to see the impactful. I heard a quote recently (unfortunately I can’t recall where from to cite the source) that said, in essence, “Urgent things shout. Important things whisper.” A traditional job is going to ride you until you get your work done. A traditional spouse is going to let things disengage slowly until the two of you are distant. The job’s shout drowned out the spouse’s whisper.

We have to start listening to and appreciating the whispers again. Everyone can hear the shouts but the whispers are meant for a select audience. When your instinct tells you something, that’s a whisper. When your spirit lights up when you see a job posting that speaks to your calling, that’s a whisper. When your spouse takes your plate to the sink, that’s a whisper. How often do we acknowledge the whispers?

I’m not saying that work isn’t important. It is. But, sometimes, before dropping everything, ask yourself, “Can it wait?” And, leaders, before asking people to drop everything for you, ask yourselves, “Can it wait? Is this thing that’s urgent in my eyes truly important or am I just being impatient?”

Oh, and don’t be afraid to tell folks that something can wait (respectfully, of course). Not only will it help you, but it will remind them that time is valuable and not something to be abused.

 

Make prioritization a priority. (Haha!)

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