Urgent vs Important

How much time do you spend doing things that are truly “important”? As opposed to things that are merely “urgent”?

The activity that will make an impact, the opportunities to lead that come your way, will rarely be urgent. But if you want to do really meaningful work, whatever your level of authority in your organisation, you have to identify things that are important, and make time for them.

One way to think about this is to use the Eisenhower Matrix.


Looking this picture, where have you spent your time in the last month or so?

For most people the answer is something like: Mostly in 1 and 3, hardly ever in 4, and a little bit in 2.

Doing more leadership (and less management) is usually about finding ways to shift your time from box 3 to box 2. Doing less of the “urgent but not important” and more of the “important but not urgent”.

So how do you do this?

Firstly, just start thinking about things in this way. Look at your to-do list through the lens of this matrix. You could download my simple PDF sheet to print and fill in. Or you can make your own. Or just do it in your head.

Secondly, when you have your tasks organised this way, think about applying the following philosophy.


Block out time to do things that are important but not urgent. Free up the time to do this by delegating things that are urgent but not important.

Thirdly, if you don’t have much to put in your important but not urgent box… schedule some time to think about what should be there.

How are YOU going to make an impact?
What are YOUR unique insights on how your organisation can make progress?
What can YOU do to move things in the right direction?

Thinking about these things will never be urgent. But if you want to lead, there is nothing more important.