During my last conference, I had the pleasure of listening to Jack Daly. Daly is a widely-recognized leader in sales development and is known for pulling no punches when telling companies what they are doing wrong. He drove home points about the importance of an organizational culture that believes people are more important than profits, and demanded that employees be told which direction the bus is heading if they're expected to contribute in order to reach the destination.
The thing that resonated with me most was Daly's point about important vs. urgent. He explained that every day, we are bombarded with the things that absolutely, positively must be done: return phone calls, answer emails, check on orders, and on and on. The urgent things that must be done to support a business take priority over other things that are on the To Do list.
But they shouldn't.
It's human nature to get through all of the urgent things that are screaming for our attention, and then say, "Whew! What a day!"... without ever getting to the other things on the list. Those other things, however, are important. Important things like writing thank you notes to employees who went above and beyond or recognizing a supplier that made an extra effort will never get done when you prioritize urgent over important. And yet, it's the important things that often determine future performance - if an employee receives a pat on the back once, isn't he more likely to extend an effort again? Daly's point was that the urgent things will always get done because they're urgent - so do the important things first and then worry about the urgent.
Isn't that a cool reminder for our own lives? I can easily get caught up urgent matters like paying bills and running errands or writing an article that has a screaming deadline... and then I ignore the important things, like playing a board game with the girls or finding a little time to have lunch with a friend. Those things are just as critical to a happy, healthy, successful life and yet, the urgent often becomes the priority.
For the last couple of weeks, I've been asking myself, "Is it urgent or is it important?" in both my professional and personal lives. Try asking yourself the same question. You might be surprised to see your priorities shift.