Important versus Urgent - prioritize your life
The concept of what is important versus urgent is what helps us prioritize our lives. Sometimes it's difficult to distinguish between the two. That's why we have trouble sequencing things and prioritizing what we spend time and money on.
Things that are urgent and important can look similar in terms of priority, and arguments can be made to attend to activities that are important but not urgent, and urgent but not important.
The two are different and we need to recognize that.
Allow me to offer examples to show how sometimes we get into trouble by failure to distinguish between the two. Of the two, dealing with a sense of urgency is usually our biggest failing.
Let's look at important things. These are things that we must do and must have. The question is largely that of when. The idea of when helps us determine the urgency of the matter. Consider the following important items that have no degree of urgency:
- Gas is important when you're traveling by motor vehicle, but not urgent when your tank is full.
- Food and water are important to sustain life, but not an urgent matter right after a meal.
- Having money is important, but not urgent if you have everything you need at the moment, and don't foresee an immediate need for money.
So, we can plainly see that these things are important. When we make the "important versus urgent" decision, they end up maintaining their importance, but have no urgency.
Important and Urgent Matters
Let's take a look at the same items under different circumstances that heighten our sense of urgency. Then, let's see how we feel about them.
- Gas is important when you're traveling by motor vehicle. Our tank is full now, but we have no idea when we'll come upon the next gas station and we're out in the middle of nowhere with a long way to go.
- Food and water are important to sustain life, and we just ate a hearty meal, consuming the last food and water available to us.
- Having money is important. We have everything we need today, but bills are due at the end of the month and we have no income.
With the addition of different circumstances, what was once just important now becomes more urgent as well as important. The influence of circumstances can be addressed by our planning efforts and our sense of preparedness for unforeseen events.
Now let's look at urgency by itself.
It's Urgent - really?
When it comes to our "important versus urgent" thinking, we're most susceptible to thinking and acting with a sense of urgency on unimportant matters. Consider the following:
- Hurry, act now, don't delay, this is a limited time offer.
- Once in a Lifetime Sales Event, going on now!
These items promote a sense of urgency. Are they urgent for us? I don't think so. They're only urgent for those selling the products or offering the services. Taking advantage of sales isn't urgent for us - there will be other sales.
And, if we don't need what they're selling, then those offers aren't important either. And, that's where we need to be - making a good "important versus urgent" evaluations when we make decisions.
Urgent and Important - our top priority
I suggest that prioritization of our actions, be decided based on importance first and then urgency. It seems clear to me that something that isn't important at all, can never become an urgent matter, unless you make it so. Therefore, we should focus on importance first and then urgency.
If we look at the gas, food and water, and money from the examples of important matters, we can see that at some time in the future, all of these could become urgent. They become urgent if we fail to plan properly, waste our resources, do an inadequate job at replenishing our supply, or the unexpected occurs.
That's why sales are promoted as urgent matters, because the importance of what's being sold will vary so much. Instead of letting us make the "important versus urgent" evaluation, retail sales are often cloaked in a sense of urgency because that is the emotional trigger for us, whereas importance can usually be determined much easier and with less emotion.
This is also why it's important to identify our basic needs and sort out between need vs want. If we stay focused on our basic needs, then we're focused on what's important, and then all we have to do is manage the question of urgency.
Urgency is best managed by being prepared for the unexpected, and by making a plan of some sort for what we're doing.
Done with Important versus Urgent, back to Mindset of Frugality