What is your No. 2 priority?

People often misuse words such as affect/effect, may/can, need/want, and urgent/important. Perhaps, the last example affects business people the most, especially this time of year.

Let’s look at the following list of tasks:

  • Important, urgent items
  • Important, non-urgent items
  • Urgent, unimportant items
  • Non-urgent, unimportant items

It is easy to prioritize items that are urgent and important, or not urgent and unimportant. But, how we prioritize the other two determines our effectiveness. Which is more valuable? Which will lead to long-term gain?  If something is urgent but not important, what is its value? Quite frankly, we all get consumed by what we consider “urgent” without analyzing its importance. This is compounded by the prevalence of smart phones and 24/7 accessibility. If it is not important, why do we feel the pressure to respond quickly?

Recently, I attended a two-day meeting with peers in the glass industry. Most of us own glass shops, and one owns a fabricating company. I really didn’t have time to go to the meeting because of the daily, urgent demands of my business. However, this meeting was important, even if it wasn’t urgent.  I always learn something at these meetings, and my employees ask me what I learn that is applicable to the business. They are excited about ways to improve. So although the meeting wasn’t urgent, I still chose to attend because it was important.

When we place urgent, unimportant items in the No. 2 slot on our priority list, we ease present situations. But it also keeps us forever focused on the short-term. Growth will be a result of working more hours, not smarter.

When we proactively plan, we place important, non-urgent items in the No. 2 slot. This allows us to look to the future, strategize, and implement plans for growth and survival. The fourth quarter of the calendar year is a great time to work on important, non-urgent items. Use this time to plan for the next year, five years, and 10 years. Do not be consumed by the urgent, non-important. Success is dependent upon having a priority list that looks like this:

  1. Important, urgent items
  2. Important, non-urgent items
  3. Urgent, unimportant items
  4. Non-urgent, unimportant items

Bill Evans