Is It Urgent or Is It Important
As leaders we are often faced with situations that are important and/or urgent. But many times, it is difficult to differentiate between what is urgent and what is important. We often confuse the two and thus find it tough to prioritize and act efficiently.
Because urgent tasks come with a deadline, they often take an unconscious and default precedence over what is important. As you scale your team and organization, it is important to know this difference and then further management - upwards and downwards.
Important tasks are critical to the success of the organization. They are typically more strategic and long-term. Whereas, urgent tasks have to be done in a time sensitive manner and are critical for short-term successes or even needed for business continuity.
Managing the Important vs the Urgent
It’s important to know what’s important vs what’s urgent. Most of the time, leaders in an organization should be able to differentiate between the two and lead the team in the right direction.
But what if you are stuck with a leader who isn’t skilled enough to know the difference between the two and considers every task to be urgent? Worse, if they lack the ability to prioritize, they also end up making important tasks into urgent ones.
In such situations, act as a wall between the leader and your team. Help your team by identifying these tasks yourself. You have to manage upwards in this case.
Asking the following questions have helped me in such situations and can also help you make the right decisions:
Why is the task important? Knowing the reason behind what you have to do sets a lot of things straight. Once you know the impact of your actions, you will prioritize them accordingly.
Is this a real deadline? Always ask if the deadline being communicated is the real, absolutely necessary deadline. Easier said than done though. Once you start questioning it, you will realize that it’s not always urgent. This will give a breather to you and your team.
What should be dropped to make space? Remember that there are on-going tasks which might be important as well as urgent. Before picking up something new, get a buy-in from your leaders that existing projects might get delayed or de-prioritized.
Caution: Urgency Ahead!
The final step is to get your team’s buy-in when you use the word urgent, as this is one of the most over-exploited tools that leaders use more often than they should.
As a leader, be careful when you ask your team to stretch for a project. Do it when you really need to. Explain the reasons for why you are asking your team to do the project and give them confidence that you will take care of the cross functional alignment. Be part of the process!
In order for the organization to scale up, drive a culture that’s not dependent on urgent tasks, but functions in a more planned manner. Otherwise, you will always find yourself running on a treadmill. You and your team may end up completing a lot of tasks, but may not really move ahead!
Do you have a culture of urgency at your company? What do you do to differentiate between urgent vs important tasks?
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