Is it important, or just urgent?

Marianne Slotboom
Dec 16, 2021

Is your work organized how you imagined it to be, or is the reality more stressful than you planned? Do you put yourself under too much pressure to succeed? It’s so easy to work reactively, bouncing from one activity to the next until you can barely remember what you wanted to do, to begin with.

It doesn’t have to be this way! Anything is possible when you stop trying to do everything at the same time. By figuring out what’s really important, you can keep yourself on track even when urgent things come up.

In her book: “Do less, get more” (2015) Sháá Wasmund gives you some interesting tips and exercises to help you with this. Below are some of her suggestions.

To keep on track with everything you want to do, ask yourself regularly:

1. What’s my end goal right now?

Her advice is not to overthink this. If you want to write a post, then the end goal is: ‘Write a post’. If you want to do prepare a presentation, the end goal is: ‘Get the presentation prepared’.

Bearing that in mind, you can ask yourself whether this urgent task get you closer to that goal, or does it take you further away from it? The things that get you closer to your goal always take precedence over those that don’t directly further your progress. It’s as simple as that. By pulling out and getting a little perspective on what you really want to happen, you can step away from distracting and the so-called ‘urgent’ tasks.

2. What are the consequences if I don’t do this right now?

We often bounce like pinballs from one thing to the other – answering emails, answering texts, set up appointments, respond to questions from colleagues, answer more emails! – It means you’re just reacting to what comes up, which totally kills the momentum and makes it really hard to get anything meaningful done that takes deeper concentration.

When you get something coming up at you, think about the consequences of not getting it done. Chances are, almost everything that feels really urgent can wait until you’ve finished your more important tasks. Don’t become dependent on the dopamine of urgency.

3. What’s my biggest distraction?

Did you know that when you see a new notification on your phone, a new email, or a new message on your social media, checking that out gives you a big rush of dopamine, the same substance that is associated with many types of addiction? It’s no wonder that we have so much trouble distinguishing between important and urgent!

‍Is it important, or just urgent?

Take a minute to think about your biggest distraction. For most people is the cell phone, but for you, it might be something else. What distraction will you need to consciously turn off or isolate from yourself in order to get things done?

A native American saying is: “If you chase two rabbits, both will escape”. To feel more satisfied at the end of the day, make space for the things that really matter and concentrate on your goals. Enjoy!

Marianne Slotboom
The author
Marianne Slotboom

Marianne is a strategic partner and practical developer of human behavior that helps leaders, teams and organizations become more focused and effective, elevating their value to customers. In 2015, Marianne founded Yellow Training to answer the call for more inspirational and creative leadership in the modern workplace.

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