It is very easy to get trapped into responding to the urgencies of the day or week, while the important things seem to fall through the cracks. This is the classic battle of the urgencies of life verses the important things of life. This is particularly important to the business owner as failure to the get the priority right results in endless fire fighting. This conflict is termed Tyranny of the Urgent.
Credited to Dwight Eisenhower and popularized by Stephen Covey in his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, is a matrix that helps put into perspective “urgent” verses “non urgent” as opposed to “important” verses “non important”. This intersection of these factors creates four boxes – urgent / important; non urgent / important; urgent /important and non-urgent/ non important .
|Important||CRISIS –||QUALITY –|
|Not Important||DECEPTION –||WASTE –|
The first quadrant is the quadrant of Crisis. In the “Urgent / Important” quadrant are the things that result in fire-fighting. For instance, baby’s crying, a kitchen on fire, telephone interruptions, people dropping in unannounced, unscheduled work, last minute changes. While things in this quadrant demand our attention, our time is actually better served in the next quadrant, the quadrant of Quality – “Not urgent / Important”. It is in this quadrant that very important activities are done – planning, thoughtful creative work, training and development and productive collaboration. The third quadrant – “Urgent / Not important – is the quadrant of Deception. These are activities that are required and therefore seem productive but they are really of low value such as mail, meetings, reports, and other routine tasks. The final quadrant is the quadrant of waste. Examples include busy work, phone messages, email, trivial work, and surfing the internet. It is best to avoid the last two quadrants as they are an unproductive use of time.
Business owners must be intentional about their business. Success doesn’t just happen. It takes hard, purposeful work to stay on the road to continuous improvement and enduring success. Conquering the tyranny of the urgent will greatly help you to be intentional about your business.