Prioritising, and Knowing the Difference Between Urgent and Important



November 9, 2019

how to be more productive at work

When you work in a digital marketing agency handling dozens of clients, every task that you do seems important. There are posts that need to go out, campaigns that need to be started, mails that need to be replied to, content that needs to be created … the list is endless. But what’s worse is that when you have to do all of this at the same time, things can start to get very overwhelming, and the line between what is urgent and what is important blurs to the point where they seem to be the same thing. The fact of the matter, however, is that there is a very clear distinction between what actually is urgent, and what is important. Knowing the difference is the first step to prioritising your tasks and getting your work done in an organised manner, and that will help you improve your focus and be more productive.

The urgent vs important matrix

Here’s a little known fact. Former American President Dwight Eisenhower developed what he called the ‘urgent vs important’ matrix to help separate tasks that he deemed were vital to immediate business operations, from tasks that are aimed at growth and development. The latter are tasks that are important, but will not catastrophically cause the world to end if not completed. Makes sense? So this is what the matrix looks like.


Urgent vs. Important Matrix

Now that you have a clear distinction between what is urgent and what is important, we can begin prioritizing, and stop procrastinating.

Understanding the difference between important and urgent

Sure the matrix above is great, but what does it mean? How do we differentiate between important and urgent? Let’s break it down. A great example of an important task is creating a plan for the week or month ahead. It may even be planning your next social media campaign. It does not have to be done right now, but because it is important, it is something that you can work on in your spare time, or put time aside later to brainstorm and develop. Being important does not mean it has to be done right now.

Urgent tasks, on the other hand, are usually smaller assignments or duties that have the potential to hurt business if not addressed immediately. These include time-sensitive activities, for example, a client is running an online promotion where everything on their e-shop is 50% off for the next 24 hours. If that banner ad or notice does not go up on the website right now, then the whole activity is moot, and you may be left with a very upset client. It’s not the end of the world, but losing a client definitely hurts business. The urgent vs important matrix lists tasks that are both important and urgent. Some might be one but not the other, while some might be neither. But once you understand the difference, you’re a step closer to prioritising your task list.

Has the urgent vs important matrix helped you understand the difference between these two seemingly similar concepts? Do you think it’s going to help you prioritise better? Let us know in the comments below.

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