Sunday, October 26, 2008

Urgent and Important

People today are overwhelmed with information. It comes to us in many ways because of today’s technology such as email, Instant Messenger (IM), or messages on multiple devices. We hear people ask the rhetorical question “where do I start, what should I do first”. Their rhetorical answer is always, “I do what is most important first.” But do they know what that really is?

Dr Margery Mayer is one of the Principals in 4Views , a consulting group focused on Planning, Process, People and Profit, a group in which I am also a Principal. In addition to having first hand business knowledge as a CEO and COO she is a behavioral scientist with a number of book publications. She has written a thought provoking piece that asks some additional questions about what we do and why? We are publishing it here but feel free to contact her directly to share your thoughts about this subject. It faces all of us.

"If you ask someone the difference between urgent and important generally people will say urgent needs to be addressed now but important is also important, hmmm. Compound that indecision with the fact that technology has blurred the lines between urgent and important. When that mobile device rings or sounds, we pay urgent attention. So let’s start with what is urgent, anyway? The Oxford Dictionary states that urgent means needing immediate attention, action or decision. It also states that important means having the ability to have a great effect. These two words seem to have different meanings, so why when a wireless device sounds do we consider it urgent and needing immediate attention?

It is amazing that even in critical meetings people take calls or check email. Why is the call or message more urgent then what is occurring at the moment? Have we allowed this technology determined our definition of urgency and importance and if so, why?

Perhaps it is because we are always on. Like it or not communication technology means that we are always on whether we use wireless or wired technology. We not only have access to information, but are also expected to be available 24/7 or have read emails or text messages that were recently posted somewhere. In one sense this is good because we can find critical information whenever we need it but it also means our companies know they can contact us any time as well.

How has the always on technology encroached on our work/life balance? Do we know where the line is between work and personal time? Has this been a personal choice or an unstated mandate from the company? What does this mean to the quality of our life and our ability to deliver to expectations? When do we take the time to recharge much like our devices do?"

Are you focused on what is important or are you swayed into handling what is urgent? Clearly urgent and important is number one. Just be careful about how much time gets sidetracked into what is neither urgent nor important. Share your thoughts with Margery.



John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

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