I recently read a blog entitled, “The Why of Urgent vs Important” by Seth Godin http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2017/02/the-why-of-urgent-vs-important.html This particular blog challenged me to think deeply about why I sometimes find myself living in the world of urgent over important and how I can better maintain a balance between the two. Seth shared that dealing with urgent issues makes us feel competent. For me, this competence occurs through the immediate reward to both myself and others. Firstly, I feel competent because the benefits of the work are instantly visible – a task is done prior to a deadline; the house is clean in case somebody stops by (yes, for me this is urgent). Secondly, in a world where relationships are foundational, responding to the urgent needs of others can serve as an immediate deposit in the relationship bank account – a colleague imminently needs a report; my son needs $20 to fill up the car. Although I work in the urgent to support relationships and my own competence, could investing time in the important work help to forge deeper relationships and make deep strides in learning and progress? Certainly!
Living in the ‘urgent’ often involves being reactive. It can be a response to a crisis and may involve putting out fires. There is absolutely a time and a place for urgent work. But, if urgent work is always the priority then how are learning, relationships and progress sustained and nurtured? This is done by investing time in the important work. I have come to realize that the important work really IS the urgent work. Important are the things that lead to deep learning, deeper relationships and growth of an organization . The important work is the work where seeds are planted; recognizing that at the time of planting, the obvious benefits may not be initially visible, but eventually the benefits become plentiful. If we don’t look past putting out fires to investing in the work of growing gardens then there will be nothing to sustain us past urgency.
I am working hard to balance urgent with important by intentionally setting aside time each day for the important work, both in my personal and professional life. For me this means more time learning and reading – for pleasure and growth, more time connecting deeply with the people that are most important in my life and more time focused on wellness and gratitude. What is your important work?