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« Beeminder.com for keeping your goals going | Main | How Do We Tell How Urgent A Task Is? »
Saturday
Jan282012

Urgency and Importance

In my last two posts I introduced the concept that urgency is superior to importance as a method of prioritizing. I then pointed out that although many tasks are obviously urgent or come with an external deadline, there are a whole raft of tasks which come without a built-in degree of urgency. We have to provide that ourselves.

So how do we decide what urgency to give a task?

By its importance to us of course.

But note that this importance isn’t a direct relationship. We have to give it the degree of urgency that is appropriate to the task. We can’t just say “Task X is more important than Task Y: therefore I’ll do Task X first”. That is where prioritizing by importance falls down. No doubt saving the world is more important than eating breakfast, but it still makes sense to eat breakfast before we set out on our work for saving the world.

You’ll see from the above example that urgency is very sensitive to time. Particularly when we are dealing with minor but necessary tasks there are times of day when they are urgent and times of day when they are not. Eating breakfast is not urgent in the evening, but can be very urgent in the morning.

Let’s have a look at the processes involved in prioritizing by importance and contrast them with prioritizing by urgency:

Prioritizing by importance

Make commitment to a task or project

Decide on its importance

Do it as soon as more important tasks have been done

Prioritizing by urgency

Make commitment to a task or project

Decide on its importance

Allocate urgency appropriate to the type of project/task in accordance with its importance

Do it as soon as more urgent tasks have been done

 

Next article: How do we tell how important a task is?

Reader Comments (2)

Would a "Soon" list and a "Neglect" list do it? Moving items between the two daily perhaps.
January 29, 2012 at 15:35 | Registered Commentermichael
I guess that hardest thing is to understand a difference between urgent and important.
February 2, 2012 at 12:29 | Unregistered Commenteremail archiving

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