The concept of “The Tyranny of the Urgent” has been around for a long time, yet many people get caught up in the urgent every day. Charles E. Hummel wrote the booklet Tyranny of the Urgent in 1967. That was followed by The Time Trap by McKenzie and Co. and then The Seven Habits…. by Covey. Time management is clearly a concept that captures many people’s thinking, especially those who find themselves trapped by urgency.
I’ve seen many companies get caught up in urgency (get it shipped!) without focusing on importance (quality products, on time, complete – the “Perfect Order”). If you focus on what’s urgent, it feels like you’re running a sprint all the time, out of breath, never getting everything done. It’s frustrating and stressful.
The definitions of urgent vs. important actually go back to Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States. He defined urgent as a task that requires immediate attention and is often performed in a hurried, reactive manner. Important is a task that contributes to long-term values and goals and is performed in a responsive mode that leads to new opportunities. Just the sound of “important” feels good.
Clearly, getting away from a narrow focus on urgency and prioritizing importance allows for accelerated growth, profitability and cash flow for your organization. Do you focus on the urgent? Are you trapped in the tyranny? Have you defined what’s important?
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