One of the watershed moments in my career was the day I learned the difference between urgent and important.
Today my work email filled up with messages from customers and bosses (yes, I have multiple) about tasks they want me to deal with ASAP. They’re brush fires, and I could run around all day putting them out. It’s exhausting work…but at the end of the day, what would I have really accomplished?
If you’re always putting out fires, you’ll never have time to do the work that really matters.
Nowadays, I try to only do things that are important. They may be urgent too, but usually that’s not the case. Exercise is important, but it’s not urgent. Working on my book is important, but it’s not urgent. Eating well, keeping in touch with friends and family, and learning for the joy of learning are all important, but they’re not urgent.
It’s easy to put the important off, to promise to do them another day. Then you wake up and realize months have passed, and you haven’t made any progress on the only things that truly matter.
Instead, ignore the urgent. If it’s not important, don’t do it. Those tasks have a way of taking care of themselves, but even if they don’t, who cares?
After all, they weren’t that important anyway.
P.S. Make sure to forgive yourself the occasional lapse. I spent this entire weekend dealing with the urgent rather than the important, and didn’t even get to write once. I’ll just have to do better, starting now.