When everything you do feels urgent, it’s important to know what to do.
It does not matter if you are working on an idea, a product or a service, or if you run a big or a small company, either way you really need to have a clear understanding on what’s important, and what’s urgent.
The IMPORTANT things are those that make you, your idea, and your team stronger and bring you forward in the long run. The URGENT matters are the day-to-day tasks that absolutely need to be done, but often are driven by tight deadlines. Also, they often demand so much attention that they clutter your ability to look at the structure and scalability aspects.
(If you want another perspective on what’s important vs. urgent, we highly recommend Marie Forleos take on this. She’s one of our favorite entrepreneurs’ and cover the topic in this episode of Marie TV).
What’s Important is More Urgent Than What’s Urgent
At Brainwells we work with many leaders who can show amazing results – these are really, really clever people who have done their best to be where they’re at right now. They have worked really hard. They have done a lot of things right: Some have ideas that can blow anyone’s mind. Others have experienced growth that would turn most business people green with envy. Some have gathered teams of skilled people on a level you did not know was possible.
But still – when they approach us – they all have the same questions:
How can we refine the idea even more, how can we grow faster, how can we make sure that the team has the energy to keep on working, how can we be more ambitious, how can we create a culture where people thrive and know how they can contribute, how can we secure better/bigger/more success? And – how can I do this and also have time to see my family – or travel – or live a life …
Because now these questions are both urgent and important.
The thing is that in their pursuit for launching the ‘BIG IDEA’ they have spent so much time working on urgent matters, that they have neglected the need for continuously improving the important things, like:
- Communicating the purpose of what they are trying to achieve so every one in the organization knows what direction they are heading.
- Building a strong and positive culture that foster engagement and enthusiasm.
- Making sure that the leaders and managers in their organization is fit for the future and knows how to lead in a way that suits the company, not the individual leader.
- Creating a scalable organization by implementing a system and attitude that can handle further growth.
Yup. Things like that. Not always so urgent, but extremely important.
This is actually just as important as developing the idea or product you deliver.
It’s all about having a conscious approach to ‘how we do things around here’, and how we can do it in a way that will secure future success.
The good thing is that taking time to work on what’s IMPORTANT might give you a massive ROI. The reason is that it will make you extremely fit for handling rapid growth. In one of the companies I co-founded, we focused so much on building a scalable structure and establishing a living strategy that growing from a handful of people to 150 persons in three countries in a few years time was almost without any pain of growing.
And mind you – at the same time we delivered awesome results. So I know it is possible.
You get it? Sure you do, but how do you find time to do what’s important, when everything seems so urgent?
Yes – we know it is hard to find the time to work on the important stuff. But this is really crucial. If you only focus on what’s urgent, it will be difficult (and sometimes even impossible) to be sustainable and successful in the long run. It might work well at first, but somewhere down the line you will meet challenges that are so big that you come to a halt. Don’t let that happen to you.
So – if you can’t find time. You must TAKE the time. And you better do it now. Right away. Because it will probably not become easier.
And don’t forget – the best person to filter what’s important and what’s urgent is YOU. Be aware of what you spend your time on. What can you outsource to other people on your team, and what can be postponed?
And then – a few words about the to-do-list.
I use to-do lists. All the time. They might be mentally or on paper, ‘cause the feeling of “check, check, check” is a really good one. But there is a problem; when I am busy the lists tend to be way too long. So a few years ago I started doing the following when I make my daily, weekly, or monthly to-do lists (personally I prefer lists on paper, but this method can also be used for digital lists):
- Before I start writing I draw a horizontal line across the paper.
- Above the line I put everything I need to do that is really important. And – not surprisingly – under the line I put the things that are urgent. I call the important things ‘above the line’-matters to remind me that they really are important.
- I try to do at least two important things for each urgent matter. When I am on top of my important things, I focus on the urgent things.
Note. When you take a look at the list, you will see that the things that are urgent usually are easier to solve. This might actually be one of the reasons why it is easier to concentrate on the urgent things. Also, since the urgent matters often comes with a dead-line, they seem more important even if they are not. My experience is that the urgent things get done no matter what. But you do not start working on the important stuff after a long day’s work on urgent matters.
I promise you, if you manage to focus more on the important stuff and balance this better – you’re in for a surprise. A positive one. You will start to move forward in a pace you’ve never seen before.
So now – hope you find reading this has been important for you. Keep going!
You might also find this blog post interesting: Why going slow is important to move fast
Lack of time? Oh – we know ALL about that. After working with a few organizations that really needed to find some extra time, we found it. And we have made it all available for you. It’s here.