Do you do what I do? I suspect a lot of us do. With me it’s not just what’s urgent or important, but also what’s on the screen, which window is in the forefront, and what just happened.
It’s like urgent vs. important vs. recent. With a distortion filter for fun, or interesting.
The title of this post comes from basic accounting, handling inventory for accounting purposes as either last in first out (LIFO) or first-in first-out (FIFO). Lately I’ve been doing extreme LIFO. And I’m not sure that’s good.
Urgent vs. Important. It’s a really old paradigm, right? I bet you’ve been aware of it forever. I think most people identity author Steven Covey with bet you’ve heard of the problem of confusing urgency with importance. The video here puts it clearly in just a couple of minutes, so I decided to include it with this post.
But that’s not what really happens with me. I’m grateful for what seems like a problem. I’m involved with a lot of interesting things … my flagship company that I founded, business planning, social media, blogging, and lately I’ve had a kick with video editing. My days are easy to fill.
But damn. Every so often I pull my head up out of the immediate and look at what I’m doing and it’s disorganized, not prioritized, kind of fun but not as productive as it could be. I have no discipline about what’s the next thing I do. It might not be either urgent or important; it might just be there. I do whatever is fun or interesting, or just came in.
Business Insider tipped me on this post from Mark Suster on his Both Sides of the Table (investor and entrepreneur) blog. Especially the drawing below. Notice importance on the vertical, and urgency on the horizontal. At first glance, it seems to me like operating in the upper right quadrant is a good thing. You’re addressing urgent and important problems.
But that’s what makes the post interesting (or more interesting): in fact, if you live in the upper right, you’re suffering from urgency addiction. He’s paraphrasing Steven Covey in the book First Things First as he answers:
You retain less knowledge. You take shortcuts. You make too many trade-offs. You suffer too many internal stresses.
Okay, I guess. I wasn’t entirely convinced, to tell the truth; and Mark himself notes that urgent and important is still pretty attractive. He says:
Actually, people with the “urgency addiction” thrive on the pressure. We rise to the occasion as it stirs our creative juices. There is something about the adrenaline rush of being under time pressure that excites us and teases out our creativity.
Don’t you want to join him there, in that upper right quadrant, when you read that? I do.
But then it turns out, reading even further, that I want to be in the zone of effectiveness. Do you think maybe that’s why they named it that? Here’s how Mark (again, paraphrasing Covey) describes it:
The examples that Covey talks about here are things like exercise and planning. They can’t be rushed. If you can carve out some time during your day to not sit in meetings but instead to dedicate to thinking about the longer-term, strategic initiatives that are important to you then you’ll do bigger things in life.
That sounds really good to me: Exercise and planning, and long-term thinking too. It makes me think twice about urgency addiction. If only there weren’t those urgent important matters to deal with first…
(Image credit: I took it from Mark Suster’s Both Sides of the Table. Click it for the original)