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Urgent Versus Important: 4 Steps to Setting Meaningful Priorities to Reach Your Goals

Urgent Versus Important: 4 Steps to Setting Meaningful Priorities to Reach Your Goals

Have you ever been overwhelmed by the sheer number of tasks that you need to complete each day/week/month? Do you find it difficult to schedule in your passions? I know that I have struggled with this myself. So many of life’s competing tasks seem both important, and necessary – so how does one decide what to prioritize?

The process below will help distinguish between the urgent and the important. Then you can begin setting meaningful priorities by scheduling what’s important, and streamlining, or eliminating, the urgent. Sound counterintuitive? Read on to learn more.

If you haven’t already, you may want to start by reading Why Making Time is a Myth: What I’m Giving Up To Fit My Goals In – to understand why fitting more in is really about throwing things out.

Four Steps to Setting Meaningful Priorities

STEP 1: DEFINE YOUR GOALS. Before you can make priorities that are helping you meet your goals, first you need to know what those goals are. Complete these phrases to help create and define your goal plan:

  • My goal is_______________
  • Because________________
  • I will measure my success by __________________
  • My timeframe is ___________________
  • I will take these actions to achieve my goal___________

Carry over these actions to step two.

STEP 2: LIST YOUR COMPETING PRIORITIES. Create a master list of all your priorities; don’t worry about the order. Make sure you include the actions needed to reach your goal. This list should also include anything from paying bills, answering emails, and taking your children to the park twice a week, to writing the next chapter of your book, making appointments, exercising, writing a guest post, or creating a new listing for your Etsy shop.

STEP 3: ASSESS THE VALUE. According to Dwight Eisenhower, “What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.” The Eisenhower Matrix is a method that the President used to rank and prioritize tasks on a scale between Important and Urgent.
The Eisenhower Matrix
Rank the priorities / tasks on your list using this scale:

  • 1 = Urgent and Important. These are tasks that must be completed immediately, such as:
    • Care for your sick child
    • Write a report due today
    • Pay your electric bill
  • 2 = Important, but not Urgent. These are your true priorities – the items that are most important to you. Because they are not valued as urgent, they are often pushed to the back burner:
    • Write a blog post twice a week
    • Create new listing for your Etsy shop
    • Complete a chapter of your book
    • Excercise
    • Take your children to the park twice a week
  • 3 = Urgent, but not Important. Tasks in this group are often urgent and may be important to others, but they are not important to you and your goals.
    • Answering certain emails
    • Scheduling appointments
    • Answering phone calls
  • 4 = Not Important, or Urgent
    • Checking Facebook
    • Watching Netflix

After assigning each of the tasks on your list a number based on the scale above, place them in an Eisenhower Matrix (image above).

Guess what? You can sign up and get these free Priority Planner printables. It even comes with a priority-focused to do list.

Free Priority Planner Printable
STEP 4: PRIORITIZE THE IMPORTANT AND DISCARD THE URGENT. Now that you’ve assigned each of your priorities a value, it’s time to take action:

  • #1. Complete Immediately. Urgent and important tasks are non-negotiable – complete immediately and move on.
  • #2. Prioritize and Schedule. These are our true priorities that we should be placing above the urgent obligations in our life. Schedule in these tasks to work toward your goals.
  • #3. Automate, Simplify, Designate or Decline. These items are not important to reaching your goals. Think of ways to automate the process, simplify the requirements, designate to someone else, or simply decline. Yup, I know you want to help others, but sometimes you have to say “No.”
  • #4. Delete. You need to eliminate these tasks as they are neither urgent nor important.

Mahatma Gandhi said “Action expresses priorities.” If you are expending too much effort on the urgent, but not important, you’re essentially saying that those are your priorities. It’s time to take action and do what’s important. Let’s make meaningful priorities to reach our goals.

Click here to receive your free Priority Planner and To Do List printables. Enjoy!

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