Important over Urgent

This week we are reflecting on the challenge of prioritizing what is important over what is urgent. Accountability is a potent tool for many things – getting clear and organized, setting your priorities, and sticking to what you say you are going to do, but no human being is going to escape the urgent creeping in to sabotage our best laid plans.

What is Important is Usually Clear

When we work with people to help them set their goals for the quarter or for the year, the majority of what we talk about is what’s important. Most people are very clear on what’s important to them. Growing professionally. That could mean generating more business, acquiring new skills or education, creating systems so that there is more efficiency and capacity. On the home front it could be anything from moving, renovating, tidying, decluttering etc. On the personal side it could be eating better, exercising more, being proactive with stress, anxiety, sleep. Being intentional about your relationships. There are so many areas of life that we can focus on but the point is that what is up for you right now is likely not a big question mark. You know. 

When Urgent and Important Overlap

What is urgent is the stuff that needs to be taken care of right now. Occasionally what is important and what is urgent can overlap. For instance, a relationship that you are struggling with or perhaps you’ve known you want to take better care of yourself and suddenly you start experiencing health issues you didn’t have before. The cross section of something that is both urgent and important are typically the things we take care of first and take all our focus. 

Why Urgent Creeps In

As accountability coaches, where we see the most conflict is when urgent takes the place of what is important. This is when you have to make a choice between doing something that is important to you and doing something that is urgent. 

Urgent: (of a state or situation) requiring immediate action or attention.

The nature of something that is urgent is that it is time bound. And since many of the things that are most important, that would make the most impact on our lives for the better, that mean the most to us, are not. 

And that is how for so many, it is confusing to want something so badly and not understand why it alludes us, or remains on the back burner, or we can’t act on it consistently even though we know if we did it would be life-changing. 

That is where accountability comes in. It provides urgency where none exists. Because you made a commitment and you put a timeline around something that has no natural timeline, you are more apt to do it. You are apt to feel an urgency that otherwise would not exist. And when you do that you start to find there was time after all to address both the urgent and the important. 

Maybe that might seem like a trick, and maybe it is, but I like to think of it as a useful tool. 

If you had that tool, where could you use more accountability in your life? What important things are falling to the wayside in the face of something more pressing?