Urgent Versus Important

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Jun 11

Last week I did a series of interviews with Cali and Jody on setting up a Results Oriented Work Environment. I’ve followed the conversation since then. This morning, Cali and Jody posted some comments from people at work objecting to the idea of not having a schedule. Some of these comments included:

“We need people to be available, in person as necessary, for ongoing issues, and yes at short notice.”

“I find the problem starts when you need to ask a coworker something, and he isn’t in the office that day.”

“[I]n an environment where you need people to be able to offer answers, feedback and decisions on short notice, you need to be able to predict when they’ll be available. Human beings don’t cope exceptionally well with unpredictable situations.”

“In my line of work there are many disciplines working on a project. Timing and scheduling are crucial. There are times when I need a piping designer to make modifications right away; not when they get back from an afternoon movie.”

I did a comment (ok, ok – almost an article) on this post. The comment says this: too much of business is working on what we think is urgent and not working enough on what is important – the results.

Now, I understand there are urgent issues that need addressing. But, most of what is “urgent” – from your manager, your manager’s manager, or your team – is poor planning. The poor planning results in you stopping results-oriented work and moving to work on whatever shiny thing the chicken saw crossing the road.

I had a manager once who was like this. Stream of conscious work assignment where there were interruptions every half hour. Since your first customer is your manager, it isn’t like you can say “no” and survive long. So I started opening my daily schedule for “unplanned” work. One hour a day. Then two. Then three. Finally, four hours a day with nothing planned to do – and most of the rest of the day spent in meetings. And you know what meetings are like.

Did I do stuff? Yes – what my manager wanted me to carry out. Was it results-oriented? Yes – since it was what my manager wanted. Did it support the business? Only if what your manager wants done supports the business.

Do you think I felt fulfilled in my work? Do you think I was working on stuff that would help me in my career?

Urgent versus important.

How much of your work life is working on the urgent?


About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.