Issue 3 of First Things First
The former American president Dwight D Eisenhower held a speech in 1954 in Illinois during which he quoted the headmaster of a university as follows: ”I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”
This aphorism pinpoints a very common structure trap - that we confuse urgent and important. Or rather, that we consider them equal and hence see everything that is urgent as important, which means that we then prioritize anything that is urgent (regardless what it concerns).
Since there will always be something that is urgent, we tend to fill our days with urgent tasks and are always stressed and under pressure while working, and often weighed down by a feeling of inadequacy.
A key to making the correct prioritization is therefore to determine which tasks are important – regardless of their urgency. And a task can be considered important if it contributes to the attainment of the goals you are currently striving towards.
Tasks that are both urgent and important are the ones we ought to primarily prioritize.
It is equally correct to do fewer of the tasks that are urgent but not important, so that we get more time for tasks that are actually important (even if they are not urgent).
If you do not have any goals, continue the course anyway because in a few days we will address these as well.
Today’s task: determine what’s what
Look through your to-do-list and highlight the tasks that are important in relation to your goals – regardless if they are urgent or not.
Now skim through your tasks again and single out the tasks that are urgent, but actually aren’t very important.
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First Things First
I have noticed that many find it difficult to prioritize.
We have our to-do list, we have a decent overview of all the things we need to do, and we empty our inboxes (both physical and metaphorical) on a regular basis, but what is the right thing to do next? And if something lands on my desk, does it mean that I have to deal with it right away rather than continue doing what I was working on?
This course is for you if you are ambitious, have the best intentions, say “yes” to others more than what might be good for you in the long-run, and then have to suffer the consequences of doing so. It is also for all of you who want to prioritize consciously and be able to accept or decline offers and requests without regrets. Prioritization is more a skill than a talent, and we can all do a handful of things to make it easier for ourselves to prioritize deliberately and accurately – not only do what might feel good and seem appropriate at the moment, but what will be beneficial in the long-run as well.Subscribe now