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It’s URGENT, Urgent I say… but is it?

By Marques • Sep 14th, 2007 • Category: Daily Planning, Productivity, Project Management, Time Management

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photo by Yukon White Light

On the past September 3rd, Vivien at the Inspiration Bit started a group writing project dedicated to Time Management. In it she asks bloggers (and non-bloggers) to share tips on how to improve time management and achieve the ultimate goal of juggling all our life tasks together.

I’ve decided to take the bait.

This is what I have to “find the time for” on a daily basis, and if sometimes it seems just too overwhelming, the rewards are fulfilling:

  1. I’m a PhD student (8 to 12 hours a day spent in a lab);
  2. I have a “offline” personal life (personal relationships, leisure activities, etc);
  3. I’m the founder and team leader of the Digital-Folders Network, a new blogging network (you can’t imagine the time and effort it takes to keep everything running smoothly);
  4. I write for 4 different blogs (and sometimes guest post in a few more)

Each of these occupations require different amounts of time and have different degrees of importance, but all need to be addressed in a proper manner.

One of the most valuable “tricks” I’ve found to help me decide how to invest my time next (yes, time is a commodity that is not to be wasted, but invested) is being able to decide the urgency and importance of each task and separate them accordingly.

If you have read Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People  (which I highly recommend) you know what I’m taking about.

Urgency and Importance

The Urgency of a task is defined by the time frame available until that task needs to be completed. The shorter the time frame, the more urgent the task.

On the other hand, the Importance of a task is defined by the positive or negative consequences of having completed or not having completed the task, respectively. The more positive or the more negative consequences, the more important the task is.

If you mix up both together, you end up with tasks that fall into one of four categories: Urgent and Important, Not Urgent but Important, Urgent but not Important and Not Urgent and Not Important. Every single one of your tasks can be thus categorized. Every single one…

Applying the method – defining how important a task is

According to Mr. Covey’s book, a person should invest the more time in tasks that fall into the first and second categories. And I completely agree. But the real secret, and one that I’ve discovered along the way, is not only in attributing one of the categories to each task. For this time management technique to work defining the degree of importance of a certain task is the key.  

Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by how Urgent a task seems in attributing it’s real Importance. Of course that it helps to have you need to have a set of Goals in your mind. Only then you can ask yourself the question “How important is this task for my Goals, to get me closer to the objective?”. They can be the goals for your day, for your year of for your life but if you don’t have any goals set (and preferentially written down), anything urgent will always seem too important. But Goal setting is a subject for another day…

As I mentioned above, the four categories are enough to divide all your tasks, the ones you have on your to-do list and any other that comes as a surprise. For the first ones, you probably have already properly categorized them (at least you should do that before you even consider making a to-do list). For the latter ones, the ones that just pop on your life unexpected, it’s worth to invest a little amount of time to just stop and think and ponder on the Importance of a task. Let the initial urgency shock thin and only then categorize your tasks. Although it might be hard in the beginning (it’s so urgent, how come it’s not important?), with time you’ll see a certain degree in productivity increase and you’ll stop wasting time in things that actually are not so important. Remember, time is valuable. Invest it well.

In case you are interested, bellow are three of my favorite references for time and project management, besides the one I mentioned above,  that I recommend to everyone slightly interested in increasing their productivity.

 And for you, what is the most important characteristic of your time management exercise? Share it with us bellow, on the comments.

 

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Categorized as   Daily Planning, Productivity, Project Management, Time Management   |   Trackback URI   |  

18 Responses »

  1. Thanks so much for your entry, Marques. Lots of useful tips. I’m yet to find time to read 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, it’s on my desk, btw.

  2. You are welcome. I appreciate your effort in gathering what I’m sure will be a huge amount of useful tips.

    As for the book, take that time, make it a more important task. You’ll see how it will change your view of time management.

    And thanks for stopping by.

  3. [...] It’s URGENT, Urgent I say… but is it? by Marques Divide your tasks into four essential categories, and define them as Urgent and Important, Not Urgent but Important, Urgent but not Important, and Not Urgent and Not Important, add to it a “set of Goals in your mind” and you’re on your way to a better time management. [...]

  4. [...] It’s URGENT, Urgent I say… but is it? by Marques [...]

  5. [...] It’s URGENT, Urgent I say… but is it? [...]

  6. [...] It’s URGENT, Urgent I say… but is it? by Marques [...]

  7. [...] It’s URGENT, Urgent I say… but is it? – Better Living Today [...]

  8. [...] It’s URGENT, Urgent I say… but is it? by Marques [...]

  9. [...] It’s URGENT, Urgent I say… but is it? by Marques [...]

  10. [...] It’s URGENT, Urgent I say… but is it? by Marques Decide what really matters. [...]

  11. [...] It’s URGENT, Urgent I say… but is it? by Marques Decide what really matters. [...]

  12. [...] troubles with time management always make me wonder if it’s URGENT, urgent I say… but is it? As I cannot find myself an appropriate answer, I’ thank God I don’t sweat the small stuff [...]

  13. [...] It’s URGENT, Urgent I say… but is it? by Marques Decide what really matters. [...]

  14. [...] It’s URGENT, Urgent I say… but is it? by Marques 简介: 将你所有的任务进行分类,按照紧急程度和重要程度分成四种,如果你这么做了,那么在时间管理上你已经开始上路了。 [...]

  15. Which reminds me, it’s not enough to know what it takes to manage time. It needs a will to make it happen.

    Love & Gratitude,
    Tina
    Think Simple. Be Decisive.

  16. [...] It’s URGENT, Urgent I say… but is it? by Marques 简介: 将你所有的任务进行分类,按照紧急程度和重要程度分成四种,如果你这么做了,那么在时间管理上你已经开始上路了。 [...]

  17. [...] It’s URGENT, Urgent I say… but is it? by Marques Decide what really matters. [...]

  18. I would like to see a continuation of the topic

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