Urgent vs. Important

20 09 2012

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” `-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Some of you haven’t heard my “Urgent vs. Important matrix” speech.  I wish I could say I thought it up myself, but I have tweaked it since the concept was introduced.  It’s all about time management, delegation and empowerment.  Picture a 2 x 2 box, with Urgent & Not Urgent at the top, and Important & Unimportant on the side.  When you have to do a task, this will help you prioritize and help you delegate (something I used to be terrible at). 


  1. Obviously, the Urgent and Important tasks you do now.  If there are more than 1, prioritize them by urgency (i.e. deadline)
  2. The Urgent and Unimportant cell is the one that you can use to let a subordinate know that you trust them.  Delegate it and follow-up.  You’re telling them that you trust them to do this very urgent task (but be sure to ensure that they got it done by the deadline!)
  3. The Not-Urgent, but Important task is a little trickier.  For this one, having someone mess it up might have important consequences. In this case, you delegate it, but REVIEW it before it is submitted.  You have time, obviously, because it’s not urgent.  So, give them the job and a deadline, review their work, give THEM feedback on how you would have done it differently (and why) and ensure it’s turned in on time.  They’ve learned that you care, that you communicate, and that you trusted them to do a very important task.
  4. Not Urgent & Unimportant???  You decide.  Ignore it, delete it, or delegate it.  If it’s neither urgent nor important, you can give the task permanently to a subordinate (i.e. Now you’re going to be in charge of this task, and I trust you to get it done right).  On the other hand, if it’s in this bucket, why are you still getting these tasks?  It may be time to talk to your boss (“why are you asking me for this information”), maybe you need to unsubscribe to the SPAM list (SPAM is one definition of non-urgent and unimportant), etc.  Sometimes things in this bucket DO need to be done by you (i.e. red tape), so how you tackle this task depends. 

Caution: In some cases, staff may see delegation as “I’m doing my bosses work because he/she is lazy”.  Those aren’t the ones you want to delegate to and develop.  Stay away from the “Debbie Downers” in this exercise. 


For Today’s tenuous comic tie-in…

One of these guys is going to decide that TO RUN is both urgent and important before the other.  As the Chief says… “You don’t have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun your buddy”. 


Rubes cartoons used with permission. (rubescartoons.com)




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: