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Important but Not Urgent

May 20, 2014

Last week, I was following up with a tardy financial planning client and received a reply that they were working on too many urgent things and did not have time to review my recommendations.  My reply was that they need to treat their financial security as “urgent” or one day they might wake up and wish they had.

This got me thinking about working on urgent matters and I thought of a great book I reread every once in a while – Getting Things Done, the ABCs of Time Management, ©1976 by Edwin C. Bliss.  This is, without a doubt, the best I‘ve read on time management!

The author categorized work into five types.  If you recognize what group you are spending your time on, you will become more effective almost immediately.  These categories are:

1. Important and Urgent

                2. Important but Not Urgent

                3. Urgent but Not Important

                4. Busy Work

                5. Wasted Time

Before I read this book, my work was split primarily into categories 1 and 3.  The important and urgent always got done.  The next group I tackled was the “urgent but not important.”  Since I’ve become a disciple of Ed Bliss, I no longer spend any time on group 3 work, but rather, work on group 2 – the important but not urgent.

No one ever has to tell you what’s important and urgent.  By neglecting the “important but not urgent” and working on the “urgent but not important,” I was really waiting for the group 2 to become a group 1 item and then it got my care and attention.  I now work on the group 2, while pretty much ignoring the group 3 fires and crises.  I’ve removed a lot of stress and anxiety from my life, and find I am much more productive.  I also make more money because, by getting the important things done quicker and before they are urgent, I’ve reduced my backlog or “inventory” and made clients happier.

The tendency to do the “urgent but not important” has been overcome by realizing that it is not important to me or my role serving clients and so what if it’s not done?  Who cares?  Certainly not me!  I’ve also acquired more free time for myself.  Groups 4 and 5 never need be done (except sometimes as a form of therapy.)

Also covered in the book are: Clutter (clearing or organizing your “desk” before you go home at night gets you a running start the next morning); making better use of your Commuting Time; Concentrating on a project and reducing interruptions; Delegating (which we all can always do better); Goal setting (which should make you sure that what you do brings you closer to your long term goal); if it doesn’t, consider not doing it if you have a choice;  Eliminating Procrastination; Protecting Prime Time; and the Pareto Principle which states that the significant items in a given group constitute a relatively small portion of the total items in the group, i.e. the 80/20 Rule.

Bottom line: Be more aware of and more effective with your time.  Do what’s important, but not urgent, instead of what’s urgent but not important.

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