Urgent Life vs Important Life

by @deanyeong | Sign up to weekly newsletter here

Many people might think this is an article about ESBI quadrants by Robert Kiyosaki. Therefore, I am making it clear here in the first place, this is not about ESBI. I am not talking about switching from “Employee” to “Investor”, or “Self Employed” to “Businessman”.

I used to care so much about my position in this ESBI quadrants, but I consider this as life changing event – to switch from one to another, that’s going to overwhelm you if you put too much focus on it. I believe in progress, prefer to take one step at a time, therefore, I am going to share another system here that you can make a change right now, right after you finish reading this article.

A Book I Read When I Was 16

This idea is not originated from me, it is from a book I read when I was 16. I consider myself good in memory; therefore, I still remember the whole idea vividly. Of course, I believe this is a very powerful idea you will never forget too.

Let’s get right to the point, what book is this? It’s The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey. And I am going to talk about the four quadrants of time management.

Our time usually spends on things with two nature, which built up by the axis of Important, and the axis of Urgent. Then it creates four quadrants as shown below:

  • Important & Urgent
  • Important but not Urgent
  • not Important but Urgent
  • not Important & not Urgent

time-quadrants

With that said, who and where you are today is directly related to how you spent your time in the past. Might you spend too much time on certain useless quadrant? Or you are spending too little time on some very critical quadrant.

. . .

Important & urgent: This is the quadrant you should spend your time on because it needs your attention right now and it’s going to create a direct impact on your life and success. Some examples of the task in this quadrant will be customer services & support calls, or intense training before a marathon race.

Important but not urgent: Most people overlook this quadrant. Personally, think we all should spend the most time in this quadrant. Exercise regularly might not be the top priority for most people because it’s not urgent, but it’s too late to start an active lifestyle when they got into diseases like high blood pressure and obesity.

Spend more time in this quadrant so you can have peace of mind with the lesser task in the quadrant above. Set up a customer support or FAQ page on your website so you will have less support/complaint emails to attend to.

Not important but urgent: Imagine you’re in the mind of some important tasks and the phone start ringing – call from John, a casual friend for golf every weekend. Are you going to answer that call? This is an example of not important but urgent task. There are multiple things that need our immediate attention but obviously, they are not important.

Draw a fine line with this quadrant, most of the time, unimportant tasks are not urgent, but we trick ourselves to think reply that greeting email from Alice is urgent. Set up a system to attend these tasks, if they can’t be automated, allocate some time to work on them when you’re done with all the important tasks.

Not important & not urgent: Ignore this. Do your best to avoid any activity in this quadrant – stop browsing Facebook purposeless.

Are You Living an Urgent Life or An Important Life

With an urgent life, you have so many deadlines to meet. You (feel) don’t have enough time to spend, you’re always busy, and you wish you had 48 hours a day. It’s hard for you to adjust when some “surprising incidents” happen, even it will only take up 2 minutes of your day. You’re extremely inflexible with your time.

On the other hand – the important life, you feel productive. Most of the time, you plan for things to happen, you understand the importance of every single thing you are working on. You have priorities for each task on hand. You want to make it the best without chasing on a deadline. And you always have time to reassess yourself.

But…

Unfortunately, we’re not good in differentiating them, and most of us living in both important life and urgent life – switching back and forth in between one and other. I simply illustrate an urgent life and an important life situation above, but most of us live in a mixture of both urgent and important life.

To make it easier for you to justify your current time quadrant, I had prepared a few simple questions for you to assess your priorities. Answer a few question below so you will know should you make a switch:

  1. You prefer to work on deadline base or schedule base?
  2. You usually prefer fast results or quality results?
  3. You usually plan work into timetable or plan the time based on a certain work?

With 3 simple questions above, you will know how you shape your life into the path of urgent or the path of important. If you prefer deadlines, fast results, and fit work into a timeframe, your mindset is more towards an urgent life. If you prefer to schedule, quality results and adjust your time based on the activity, you are more to an important life.

Why I Prefer the Important Life

The reason for this reassessment is to aware of your current position and (hopefully) switch to a better area of life. We all know that we should pick an important life instead on an urgent life, but some of us are used to, and being comfortable with an urgent life.

time-quadrants-focus

Personally, I prefer important life over urgent life, and here are why?

  • Good habits are hard to build in an urgent situation. To break a bad habit and replace them with good one, we need time and consistency. An urgent mindset will get upset or give up easily without seeing a good outcome.
  • So as the above point, great results are hard to achieve I used to care so much about how I look when I started working out, which killed my motivation when the results are not good enough for a set period.
  • Without understanding the importance of the certain work will make a people care too much on the deadline and overlook on the quality, which not just produce a lower par results, but also lead to emotional fluctuation when the results are not good as expected.

These are just a few reasons I prefer important life over urgent life. The main reason why I emphasise this so much is because I am experiencing it for myself when I made the shift, especially on my lifting journey.

So, if you haven’t read The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People yet, I highly recommend you to do so. Besides, here’s another article on the topic of time management written by me, if you’re interested in learning more.

Join the Monday Digest

Self-development & performance improvement for creatives & entrepreneurs. Delivered Every Monday.

No spam, no bs. Unsubscribe anytime.